As I write this, the place our politicians and their accomplices used to refer to as “the northeast” in their scheming for power and measurements of their influences in the power game, the very place the nation’s implicit commander-in-chief once referred to as “fringes”, as against the “mainstream” territories of his and his colleagues’ residences, is becoming the sovereign entity of the terrorising Boko Haram in what still seems like a nightmare to the affected, a propaganda to the unsympathetic distant observers, and a conspiracy to the denialists.
But while this is ongoing, while innocent citizens of this slaughterhouse that is being paraded as the giant of Africa by self-ridiculing PR firms on the payroll of the Federal Government or some other ironic patron, are being killed, we’re occupied by our hatred of one another and facts and realities, as we highlight and debate the politics, instead of the lives, of the people of northeastern Nigeria.
While we’re at this, their towns and villages are exposed to continuous threats and attacks, with survivors not only psychologically traumatised, but forsaken in their expectations of reassuring counterterrorism arrangements to convince them that they’re indeed subjects of a big nation, being “monitored” from Abuja.
With every word uttered or written by analysts of the militant sect, with every insult hurled at reporters of the ongoing carnages, the truth remains that talk is cheap. We’ve been going berserk in our comfort zones as we theorise the reality in the landlocked region, and even though we’re sincerely upset, our anger is inconsequential unless it challenges us to overcome our differences, harmonise our thoughts and then ally to proffer solutions to a tragedy that does not discriminate along the lines of our earned identities. An explosion, we all know, consumes both the Muslim and the Christian, both the Hausa and the Igbo, both the northerner and the southerner, everybody within the perimeter of its blast. This is a fact, it will happen even as we talk, if the terrorists act.
The question to ask ourselves now is: beyond writing profound obituaries and professing solidarity online, what are we, private citizens of a nation at crossroads, to do? This is no longer the time for boring intellectual or political discourses of the reality consuming the most insecure of the nation’s citizens day in, day out, bit by bit, fringe by fringe, and now from taking over and declaring as constituencies of what may seem like an imaginary caliphate, villages to villages, it has escalated to local government councils to local government councils being taken over.
This is no longer the time to debate the statistics of unnamed and faceless and unknown innocent citizens whose deaths are being registered as “collateral damage”, their honour denied. Rather, this is the time to come together and complement on the efforts of the military and, especially, demand to know how our huge security votes are spent. We must question the President, now demanding a loan to fight terrorism, while our troops in the northeast are still set to “tactical maneuvering” mode.
These past days, I tried to avoid commentaries on the escalating insurgency, because we’ve been talking for too long without really understanding one another, only stringing invectives together to dismiss or deconstruct dissenting views or form dangerous conspiracy theories that only complicate our security challenges.
Some of us, however, instead of adding our voices to solution-finding struggles, are only interested in the politics of the narratives, thus forming divisive political groups to support politicians who do not even know that part of being an aspiring leader is sensitivity to the failings of the society and of the incumbent leaders. Unrelenting political activism, that should be the responsibility of the opposition in a dysfunctional country.
But how many of our politicians, especially those now aspiring to lead, have actually been there for the displaced citizens? They don’t even know the locations of the IDP camps, so thus “engaged” in their pursuits of the voting citizens, potential voters, whose stomachs they seek to rehabilitate, ignoring the starving refugees who, to them, are now electorally useless.
We live in a country where private citizens strutted to bear arms for the defence of Palestine. I believe that the anger of those “Nigerian-Palestinians”, and that of many others, is needed now in our counterterrorism. This is the only country in which we don’t need a visa to exist, to which we don’t need a visa to visit, of which we’re citizens with no strings attached. So if the military is short of personnel, I’m sure there are many willing citizens available for training and deployment. If the government can’t protect us, there’s no shame in allowing private citizens to form armed community defence corps. Nobody deserves to die without a fight – in self-defence – or an attempt to be defended by the authority.
Now as Mubi, a commercial live-wire of Adamawa State, falls, and our troops are reportedly fleeing, there’s no better proof that the Nigerian citizens are on their own. Even the UN is still “speaking grammar” over our dilemma, as though the all-knowing America, which has once offered to help us, doesn’t even know that yet.
Despite being a kindergarten student of International Relations, I’m still forced to ask: what does the African Union really do? Before its eyes, NATO destroyed Gaddafi, destabilised Libya; before its eyes, foreign powers mess up its member countries, uprooting renegade leaders and installing governments just as bad; before its very eyes ragtag armies of perverted insurgents gather guts to topple governments of its member countries…
As these happen, the representatives of Arab League, the United Nations and the European Union have formed a coalition against ISIS, while the African Union still pretends that Boko Haram is not a continental threat. And the President of this burning Nigeria even went to a steadier Burkina Faso of rationally angry citizens to “keep peace”, a needless showoff, to deceive the world – that Africa is indeed in charge of its mess, and rising. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda