By Tony Ogunlowo In his acclaimed publication ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’ published…
By Kunle Adebajo
Today is not a good Friday. This is for no other reason than that, on this day, exactly three years ago, terror like no other struck the small village of Chibok. 276 young, innocent students – all girls – were abducted from their hostels by members of the dreaded sect, Boko-Haram. In the dead of the night, their school was burnt down, their belongings were destroyed, and their freedom and dignity got trapped under the grips of oppression. It was barely two weeks away from April Fools’ Day, but this was no joke. Till today, 195 of these innocents remain, at best, in captivity.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria, in times like this, have a habit of saying, “omo eni ku san ju omo eni ni lo” – it is better for one’s child to be dead than for that child simply not to be found. The Yorubas understand that it is easier for a person to come to terms with an irredeemable situation than for them to recover from terribly prolonged misery. They understand that nothing can be worse than a drive around the roundabout of hopeful hopelessness.
It is under this condition of prolonged misery that 195 – or double – parents have laboured for not one, not two, but three solid years. For three years, they have bitterly protested without yield. For three years, their heartbeats have changed gear from the usual to the unusual. For three years, the colour in their lives and the pleasantness of their meals have been stolen without hope of remedy. Like Vladimir and Estragon, for three years, they have more or less been waiting for Godot.
Dr. Martin Luther King once famously remarked that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. At another time, he said that ‘our lives begin to end the day we keep silent about things that matter’. It is thus surprising to see that many Nigerians are not only going about their lives as if the event of April 14 2014 never was, they are agitating for those dedicated to justice to quit, forget and just move on. As Mrs Aisha Yesufu, the BBOG group convener, noted, “many people have said 24 of them were rescued and that we should go back, but we have 195 reasons to keep marching.”
Three years ago, they came for the Northern child and many kept quiet. Distant people from across the globe were more vocal against the king-sized injustice. When they do come for the Southern daughters or the Eastern sons, if they do come, no doubt the key to padlocks shutting our lips will be miraculously found. But we need not wait till then. With our words and actions, we can make sure ‘then’ never arrives.
The climax of this tragic chronicle does not even lie in the apathy from the Nigerian people, but in the fumbling of the government in whose hands rest the mandate of protection, of lives and of property. The government is weak, its will is feeble, and its zeal misplaced. This fact has been demonstrated over and over that, for the scientist, it may in fact qualify not only as theory but as law.
The drafters of the Nigerian Constitution were certainly not drunk when they wrote within its second chapter that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Security of lives is not a matter for a session of AOB (Any Other Business). It is a primary agendum, which must be addressed before any other for without tranquillity of mind, the motions of the limbs are bound for vanity.
After the tragic incident which occurred during the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the administration remained silent for several weeks under the ridiculous pretence, as was later revealed, of fear of not compromising details of investigation. Besides that deafening silence, the unresolved Dasuki loot of funds destined for security is another fact attesting that our failures are a result of our poor choices not of our stars. The fault indeed lies nowhere but with us.
In saner climes, the life of each and every citizen is important, regardless of status or amount of titles. Even though he travels to the other end of the planet, a citizen of such lands can rest assured that his government has got his back. But not here, though we claim communalism as our core value, each man is on his own. Each man is his own government. Unless you are the mother of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or an ex-minister like Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, the reverse of your misfortune may never be a priority.
For instance, we all know, sadly, that the 2012 diplomatic face-off between Nigeria and South Africa due to alleged fake yellow cards would have never been a big deal but for the Senator who was on board. For those who know our leaders all too well, it was never about the one hundred and twenty four Nigerians on that South African Airways aircraft. It was about that one senator whose parachute of dignity was too precious to be pierced.
And until we advance into a nation where all lives matter, be they from up there or down here, be they rich or poor, be they Hausa or Yoruba, development and respect will continue to dodge us like a leprous limb. I do not know if the Chibok girls will ever return, but if we learn nothing from the vacuum they have since left behind, then their abduction by Boko-Haram is much better than the abduction from our minds, of sympathy, of sanity and of solidarity. This mental abduction was the hole in the wall whence Boko-Haram elements crept into the sacred institution of the school to wreak havoc. It is the hole for which reason the three-year wound has refused to heal. And, if we refuse to rather err on the lane of caution, this same hole might be our grave as a people.
Kunle Adebajo writes as a Media Intern for Brain Builders International, a youth-focused organisation working on youth empowerment, good governance and civic responsibilities.