I remember thinking “thank God this is not us” when I would see car and suicide bombings in the news as a child. How the story has changed today! Besides a reputation for online fraud, Nigeria is now also known for religious unrest with associated massacres and bombings, the fear of which is so great that the Independence Day celebration was shifted from the open square to the apparently impenetrable fortress that is Aso Rock, the location of the Presidential Complex.As usual, the everyday citizens that are exposed to the everyday risks that now include the threat of bombs are left to fend for themselves. Going to church is a problem, staying at home gives no protection, staying in school could get you killed, being Christian or Muslim or even atheist doesn’t matter. Now traveling is also a risk and I’m not talking about the risk of accidents on the roads. A car bomb went off at a motor park killing many and wounding many more. Many who made it alive to the hospitals went out in body bags. Seventeen days later, another car bomb exploded in the same place, meaning that there were no security measures employed even at the same bus station. It seems some security operatives in Nigeria believe that bomb attacks obey the same laws as lightning.
To pour salt on the wounds on the Nigerian people, over 200 teenage girls were abducted in a town called Chibok in northern Nigeria. The first official response came from the Nigerian military, which reported that 100 girls were abducted and had been rescued. It then proceeded to retract the statement. Let me say that again: the Nigerian military reported that it had found the girls but proceeded to retract the statement.
I cannot imagine how it must feel that for a sibling, parent, friend to have a loved one go out and never return due to bombing, massacres, kidnappings in a time of peace in the country’s capital. No one I know was injured in the bomb or kidnapped and while I am grateful and thankful, I feel guilty and ashamed for feeling relieved that the people close to me are safe while so many others who are also my family are going through pain that I cannot imagine. At this point, it is clear that Boko Haram are practicing a “pick-and-choose” form of religion, which is more commonly seen with Christians (Leviticus anyone?) since the rules of Jihad explicitly prohibit harming women, children, the elderly as well as attacking people in places of worship, rules that the group have broken many, many times. Although some Islāmic scholars have attempted to reinterpret these rules as applying to Muslims only, many of the people injured, killed, kidnapped are Muslims themselves.
What are the Nigerian leaders doing? Apparently President Goodluck Jonathan was dancing a political rally. An official statement to announce the formation of a fact-finding committee was released two weeks after the incident and he finally decided to ask for help from other countries after Boko Haram admitted that two of the girls have died, twenty are ill and plans are underway to sell these girls. And this is the man who may lead the country for another term. The US is one country that has sent some people with some expertise in terrorism/kidnapping to the country and while many are glad especially the families of those kidnapped, others wonder if there really wasn’t anything the giant of Africa could do before throwing her hands in the air and calling it quits.
The First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience, known for her public attacks on English grammar, held an unconstitutional and controversial public hearing during which she appeared to cross-examine the principal of the school, cried some fake tears and made plans to stage a protest at the Borno State governor’s office (the state where Chibok is located), the idea of which is beyond ridiculous, seeing as the current head of the country, the man who can make more changes than the governor ever can, rests in the palm of her hand. Her video and iconic statement “Diaris God” (There is [a] God) have made her a yet again a national source of mirth, spawning many reaction videos and a trending twitter hashtag. An interesting, and, dare I say, very credible, interpretation of the hearing came to me via a good friend: Dame Patience Jonathan did not organise the hearing to get to the bottom of the kidnapping, she did so because she felt the entire incident to be a plot against her husband. At that point, she did not believe that any students had been kidnapped. Her tears weren’t for the kidnapped children but for the plot that her “enemies” had woven for her husband. Her cries of “Diaris God” were directed at God, who would judge these enemies.
What people always forget is that the Nigerian leaders is very disconnected from the suffering of the people and do not care what happens to them. The only places that have experienced some increased security are naturally, airports, where security forces have been stationed all over ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa starting this week as well as to protect the ruling class of course. What the news reports fail to include is that people have been made to park up to two kilometres or more away and trek the remaining distance under the merciless tropical sun. Friends have told me of people wheeling their parents in their wheelchairs and dragging suitcases this distance just to make it there.
However, it does seem that Nigerians are finally getting tired. There was a protest at the National Assembly in the rain during which men, women, children took their grievances to the leaders to do something. Nigerians also came out in droves to donate blood to the people injured in the bomb attacks. If there is one thing though about Nigerians, their resilience and will to carry on are legendary. I just wish there were leaders less interested in breaking this will and more keen to help the country realise its potential on the ground.