By Eneruvie Enakoko
Over the last few days, since the terror acts in Paris, France; that left over 120 dead, and the subsequent symbolic Paris Flag idea elevated by Facebook to support and stand with France, which I bought into; many of my fellow citizens through the Phone and on Social Media have questioned me on the wisdom of my path, asking me if the over 120 dead in France are more important than the thousands that have been killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, thus calling into question my character and patriotism for my country.
I have tried to make a few of them that I consider as friends to understand that those of us in Nigeria and around the World showing symbolic acts of support for France are doing so borne out of the belief in our shared humanity, and that such symbolic acts does not in anyway mean that the Paris tragedy takes precedence over Nigeria's Green-White-Green's thousands. And when they persist in their strongly held-views, I made it clear to them that I cannot see how a Nigerian symbolic show of support to the French people over the terror acts on their soil detracts, diminishes or reduces the Nigerian support for his fellow countrymen who have been victims of Boko Haram terror acts; neither do I understand from their queries, how such a simple support from a Nigerian for France over the terror acts there, makes the Nigerian any less a Nigerian or any less a patriot. What happened to our common humanity?
I really do not see the basis for comparison. I went on to tell them that if they truly know me well enough, then I need not remind them of the fact that nobody in my generation and age bracket in the last seven years has so spoken, written and campaigned against the injustices and grave security issues in this country more than I have done. Whether as the then Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Lagos, Nigeria; or as an Independent Journalist and a Media and Technology Consultant, or in my innumerable collaborations with other like-minded groups, I have worked tirelessly for peace, justice and equality in Nigeria. I worked for the security and peace of this country at the heart of the onerous Niger Delta issue, and I have done so, and still doing so in the Boko Haram issue which is an issue that I believe is clearly politically motivated, not to mention the numerous other issues that I have worked on to achieve justice, freedom and equality for Nigerians.
And that regardless of how some may live in denial, I honestly believe I have paid my dues, and I am still paying my dues and playing my part in whichever way I can for my country, and that if everyone of us would sincerely play his or her part, perhaps, Nigeria would have the needed change. So I do not see how my deep involvement in the Freedom and Human Rights Struggle in Nigeria should prevent me or indeed any other Nigerian (Irrespective of whether they are committed to the struggle or not) from giving moral support to the French people or any other people in any part of the globe facing terror acts and other violent attacks, simply because Nigeria is grappling with its own terror acts too.
Having lain down this groundwork, and in the face of such tragic misconception, I deem it critically important to crystallize and state my personal philosophy and Worldview, and why I believe France and every other nation facing terror acts or any other crisis should be supported by all; as well as talk about some of the crucial issues that I believe we should be concentrating our efforts on in Nigeria.
First, I consider myself as not just a Nigerian but a World Citizen; I don't only care deeply about what happens in Nigeria, I am also deeply concerned about whatever happens around other parts of the World. My loyalty is ecumenical rather than sectional; it transcends the narrow confines of Nigeria to the broader concerns of humanity. Therefore, whatever happens in France and elsewhere in the globe concerns me, and I fully believe that Nigerians and other World Citizens must not just be occupied about the provincial concerns of their respective nations, but be equally occupied about the broader concerns of the global community; although I absolutely concede that this is seldom the case, as we saw in the response that followed the terror acts that occurred in Beirut, Lebanon just hours before the Paris attacks; but we must aspire to higher values. We must increasingly aspire to our oneness, our common sense of humanity and purpose. And truly, this is how the God of the Universe has structured the World, for as the Scriptures tell us, "Out of one blood, he has made all Nations of Men to dwell on the face of the earth - Acts 17: 26".
Second, aside the fact that France and its allies are at the moment supporting our country’s efforts to combat Boko Haram, we must not in a hurry forget how the World stood with Nigeria when the Chibok School Girls were abducted by Boko Haram, even as there were those in Nigeria who sincerely believed and they still do that the abduction was a hoax, a ruse and a part of the grand campaign to destroy the previous government politically. And we know that it was because someone created the Twitter hashtag, #Bringbackourgirls, that eventually made the World (Including France and notable World Leaders) to pick up that hashtag and make it famous. Who then questioned why they supported Nigeria, even as some in this country questioned why the Chibok Girls should be singled out among many thousands that have previously been killed?
The point here is that the World stood with Nigeria in that dark part of our recent history, and that might not have been possible had somebody not popularized the Campaign with that hashtag and photo of #Bringbackourgirls, in the same way that the idea of the symbolic act and show of support for France was furthered by Facebook. And I believe that if others have been coming up with such smart ideas as this following such tragic occurrences in their various countries, the World would pick it up too and stand with them.
Let us as Nigerians resist the temptation of uncoordinated and knee-jerk reactions in times like this, as some Nigerians are now doing with the sudden Green-White-Green Symbol to show solidarity with Nigeria because someone else came up with the idea of that of France, or as some in other parts of the World are doing with the complaints that this World Leader or that World Leader didn’t respond to the attacks in their countries the way they are responding to that of France. It would make better sense to me if someone had thought up of that idea earlier so that we won't be seen by the World as copycats and those that fall into the trap of knee-jerk reactions in "Others moments of grief". Still, I supported and even shared one of such Green-White-Green Symbol of our flag, initiated by someone I consider a brother, on my Facebook timeline regardless of the motive because I believe we should support any good for our nation.
Third, the vexed issue of Boko Haram has assumed the proportions it is now because of the political undertones therein; it has been heavily politicized to the point where it is now a monstrous octopus. Those who in recent times advocated Amnesty for Boko Haram are those in Government today. They used it as a Campaign Tool then, and even opposed the previous Government characterization of the acts of Boko Haram as Treasonable acts; yet they won the election, and they are now in Government today, and are even denying their numerous Campaign Promises now. Just last Saturday, I was on "Inspiration fm" Talk Radio Programme in Ibadan, Oyo State by Phone, discussing the new Ministerial Appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari; and there were those who were vehemently opposed to me because I said the Minister from Oyo State, Adebayo Shittu was not fit to be a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because he had said during the Senate Confirmation Hearings that he cannot comment on Boko Haram because he does not want to die yet, and that he still has a family to care for.
Yet, the Nigerian Senate saw nothing wrong with that statement and still went ahead to confirm his Nomination; and the President and his Party saw nothing wrong with it either, and the Man is now the substantive Minister of Communication. So, what would he be doing as Minister if he cannot talk about Boko Haram because of fear for his life and family? If he cannot talk about Boko Haram; what about the gallant Nigerian troops and the brave Regional Coalition that are on the front-lines waging the battle against Boko Haram? Don't they too have families to cater for, or are their lives not worth anything? What about those of us, including countless smart Nigerian Journalists who speak, write and campaign against Boko Haram daily? Don't we also have families, and are our lives not equally important? Today the economy is clearly down and on a visible recession, and fuel scarcity and queues are back on our national life; another dark cloud that characterized our nation, all as a result of a lack of a clear-cut policy of this Government. The anticorruption war is gradually developing cold feet also. These are the crucial issues that I believe we as Nigerians should be concentrating our energies on, and not whether any of us show simple symbolic acts of support for France or not.
In the final analysis, I restate my full conviction that Nigeria will not change from the parlous state it is in now, if we as Nigerians don’t re-examine our attitudes and change our approach to issues. Pointing fingers and labelling one another as "Wailing Wailers" or "Hailing Hailers" is appalling and totally reprehensible; and as an acquaintance said on Facebook, it actually makes us to lose our objectivity to see things as they truly are. We must therefore, frankly de-emphasize our ethnic and religious fault-lines; reject the temptations of selfishness and self-centredness, and candidly admit the need to urgently restructure this country, for true compassion as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggar needs restructuring. And we shall overcome!