It’s been overwhelming on every front. We grapple daily with manmade problems in our part of the world. Sometimes, it appears there is no possible end in sight to this malady in this lifetime. The alleged abduction of over 200 Chibok girls preparing for exams in their school by mindless and unconscionable group of deviants called Boko Haram, and the subsequent management of the sad incident by concerned authorities, say much about our state of “suspended animation” as a people.
The Government: Mixed messages and apparent lack of coordination and incompetence characterized the reaction of government at all levels to this incident that rather required strong leadership, decisiveness and urgency. It was not until about three weeks after the event that it was put on the front burner at the highest level of governance. It is inconceivable that a whole generation of children will be so violated in such brazen manner and it was only met with apparent feeble reaction from the authorities concerned. Indeed, leadership inspires confidence and this seems to be grossly lacking from the local government where Chibok is located to the central government in Abuja. We have seen how nation states respond to disasters and events of even less calamitous proportion as this carnage that has been going on in Nigeria especially in the North East of the country. This deranged and phantom ideological drive pursued by Boko Haram and their sponsors has been allowed to fester for too long. The populace can only look onto government vested with all the resources and powers of the state for succour. The failure of government is underscored by the present situation regarding our abducted children, and subsequent massacre of hundreds of hapless civilians by Boko Haram within the same geographic area shortly after the abduction of the girls. Our security apparatus appears feeble in the face of real change. Securing the lives and property of citizens, which is a primary function of the State, appears to be guaranteed only for a few “elites” whose relevance to any national discourse is their undue access to the wealth of the nation and unfair share of the same, often through corrupt means. Daily complaints, images and videos of either the police or military officers or paramilitary agencies brutalizing and maltreating ordinary citizens are on public display and most time they get away with it. Now that duty calls for real maintenance of law and order, protecting citizens from marauders and protecting the territorial integrity of the nation, all manner of excuses are being served for the abysmal failure so far in curtailing the onslaught of Boko Haram.
Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) and NGOs: CSOs and NGOs could do more than merely staging protests at major cities, mainly Lagos and Abuja, and other state capitals in safe places. Their research department (if any) should be able to present facts and figures about the state of Human Rights abuses and other issues militating against our civilization in this part of the world. Simply “going with the flow” may give them some visibility but does not help the cause of the downtrodden who are under the crushing weight of injustice and abuse, not only from Boko Haram but also from some institutions and agencies of the State. Relevant CSOs and NGOs should do more research, undertake fact finding missions and carry out activities that directly impact victims of crisis of this nature. We all know the noble activities of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and other charity organizations which step into fields of needs to help save real lives and positively impact the course of events. Our CSOs and NGOs in Nigeria concentrate around Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other big cities and talk about “struggle” in the comfort of safe cities, and they appear to seize on any latest trending events, like the Chibot incident, to showcase some façade of relevance. There were no demonstrations on the street until after three weeks of the girls’ abduction. Where were the CSOs and NGOs before the somewhat belated “Bring back our Girls” campaign? That action came about 3 weeks late. With no concrete trace of these girls and with other catastrophic events engaging the attention of the world, soon another topic will replace the current interest. More focus, continuity and follow up on issues should be the modus operandi of CSOs and NGOs as certain events have basic underlying factors, and until such factors are rigorously addressed, we’ll keep going through a revolving door as presently is the case.
Religion: There is nothing that has posed more threat to our existence in the 21st century than religion, religious “leaders”, their extreme views and bigotry followership. We are constantly inundated by the silly notion that all these stark atrocities and criminality are committed in the name of some god by followers who obviously have no faith in the ability of their god to fight for its own integrity. How could the sheer bestiality of beheading fellow human beings, other killings and wanton destruction of lives and property be a mandate of god? Unfortunately, religious “leaders” who claim not to share this warped mindset do not come out clearly in totally condemning in strong term this anomie and to posit what exactly their stand is on such issues. Tacit support and ambiguous comments flow from their places of worship, usually breeding grounds for more deranged extremities who take on their communities that have given them a fair chance for survival otherwise they would not be around to wreck havoc. Whatever people choose to believe in should be within their private purview and should, by no mean, be imposed on other people. Killing in the name of religion or god has become a worldwide scourge and when one takes a closer look, it could be seen that most depraved parts of the world cling to religion and extreme sentiments. One cannot rule out disillusionment, lack of leadership and accountability, and corruption as underlying factors pushing significant population of young ones to the cliff. Religion and religious leaders should rather provide some moral compass for citizens to embrace the essence of our common humanity, charity, compassion and community ethos. Sadly, corruption, egocentric vestiges and vain pursuit of fame and relevance have also engulfed the religious bodies and their leadership, and the followers have become pawns in the fatal chess game that people have been made of, all in the name of god.
International Community: Terrorism knows no border and has no friends or foes. It is a scourge that only seeks to inflict terror, pain, destruction and disorganization and carve a niche to launch from one part of the world to another. It took the international community so long a time to acknowledge the danger posed by Boko Haram not only to Nigeria but also to the entire global village. Suddenly, everyone is talking about Boko Haram and their activities in Nigeria some weeks after the abduction of these girls (and subsequent massacre of hundreds of local population in one fell swoop shortly after the abduction), as if this monster has just evolved from outer space. Thousands of people have been killed since this madness began and property of unquantifiable proportion destroyed with massive displacement of local population and Human Rights abuses, yet there was no obvious coalition of any international effort to stem the tide. Now the world appears to have taken notice of Boko Haram at an advanced stage of this cancer. Summits, offer of intelligence assistance and other measures that should have come earlier (and would have been cheaper in cost) have now been deployed when clearly Boko Haram has been allowed to take an undue advantage of the present situation with over 200 girls and other human shield still in their custody. When politicians with over-bloated sense of entitlement (combined with apparently tepid government) were playing political and religious games with Boko Haram insurgency, the world did not seem to be keen on stepping in to arrest the downhill to perdition and save ordinary citizens who are caught between a rock and a hard place.
All of Us: Often we are so busy trying to care for our immediate families, and sometime amassing personal wealth for generations yet unborn, to reckon that it is only in preserving the common good of the present that the future has any chance for survival. If we ignore our neighbours because we are not directly affected, it is only a matter of time before our own abode is invaded. Looking out for the interest of our neighbours and communities is one of the best and sustainable ways of looking after our own interest. We have not stood up enough to call our “leaders” to account and stand our ground against evil being perpetrated in our communities by people we can clearly identify; people who have conferred on themselves the cloak of “untouchable” because they can perceive our docility; and people who have taken advantage of us because we have failed to appreciate and demand our common heritage in this nation state; and people who have exploited us in the name of god and other divisive elements because we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated into antagonizing our diversity which is the very flavor of humanity. We’ve allowed ourselves to be led into that misguided path of fighting for god when any god should have unlimited ability to fight for itself; we’ve indulged in self delusion that we could solve our problems by simply wishing it away rather than by taking responsibility for our actions, interactions and other activities in building a viable community; we’ve become so dependent on “outside help” that we have failed woefully to account for the relatively vast resources at our disposal.
There is still so much we do not know about the abducted Chibok girls. Basic information like the actual number of missing girls and their identity is still a subject of controversy and contradictions. We do not seem to have any demonstrable capacity for excellence, professionalism and accountability on display in this situation. Chibok is a metaphor for our collective shame.
Dr Uwom Eze is a Consultant Pathologist and expert in Forensic Medicine. He blogs on topical national issues – http://www.uwomeze.blogspot.com