Saturday 5 July 2014

The Middle East Is Not Our Concern!

Israel Versus Palentine
Image: Lobe Log
The long-standing feud between Israel and Palestine has been raising feathers in some Nigerian quarters. This fight has been going on for years and years on end: Israel takes Palestinian lands, Palestine attacks Israel, Israel carries out reprisal attacks, vice versa…and the circle of violence continues! Anyone who has been following the news knows that these two people are bitter enemies, something that probably dates back to their shared history and possibly, ancestry. So, it was no surprise that when three Israeli teenagers were killed by Palestinian forces, Israel sprang into action and retaliated (and are still retaliating).

What is worrisome is not the fact that as usual, most of the Middle Eastern nations are calling out Israel for their brutal force. No... that is not it. What is surprising is that some Nigerians have joined in on the fight. One would ask... why wasn't any alarm raised when Palestine forces held those boys captive? Why was there no collective demand that the boys be returned home? Were those boys less human because they were Israelis?

This is a reminder of what is happening in Nigeria. When churches were burnt and Christians killed by the dreaded militant sect in Nigeria's North, many Muslim clerics did not openly condemn the act. The moment Muslims started dying from similar violence, there was a shift in the atmosphere in the country. Clerics couldn't wait to get on radio, TVs, blogs, newspapers and social media to decry the death of 'Nigerians'. Like their counterparts, many Christian leaders didn’t openly condemn the killings of Muslims. The question then is: are Nigerian lives only important when they share your faith? Or culture? Or tribe?

Why am I bothered about this? Simple! Any fight where Israel is seen as the aggressor always translates to a fight against Muslims in general, and when Israel is perceived to be the victim, Christians quickly jump to their defense. This is why a fight happening all the way in the Middle East is affecting us here in Nigeria.

It is especially funny because both these nations do not give a hoot about us or our existence.

Rather than getting agitated over what is happening all the way in Israel and Palestine, why don't we get worried about our own country's woes?! Why don't we worry about the fact that many of our communities are riddled with conflicts that has such high human and property cost?

First Respondents at the site of the Nyanya Bomb Blast in Abuja.
Date: April 14, 2014.
Image: The Trent Online Newspaper
For what it is worth, Nigeria is insecure! That cannot be overemphasized! Bombs are going off from Maiduguri to Osun, making stop overs at Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe (reportedly), Kaduna, Kano and Abuja. Most people wonder what will happen to them in that busy marketplace, that crowded motor park, that congested traffic or that busy shopping mall. People from Maiduguri go out ready to die! They make peace with their family members, loved ones and friends and most especially with God. They know that a bomb can rip them apart as they step out. They don't even bother to make long term plans. Is that a way to live?! 

As if that is not enough, our military keeps telling us they have defeated the sect when all we see is an escalation of the insurgency. We have 219 girls1 waiting to be rescued from the hands of their abductors! What is the fate of these girls? Are they treated well? Have some of them being abused, or killed? Why aren’t we more worried about this? But here we are…waiting on a security that shouldn't let Stockholm Syndrome set in. We should be worried that our security forces are going on rampages, burning BRT buses in Lagos, attacking their General Commanding Officers and telling the nation they have locations of the kidnapped girls when they obviously don't!

And everyone who says the Boko Haram insurgency is a Northern issue must have been shocked when a bomb went off in Osun or at the ones that didn't go off in Enugu because they were caught just in time. Even if that is in no way related to Boko Haram, what about the insurgency seen via kidnappings and ritual killings? Wouldn't that be considered insurgency too? One thing makes Edo, Port Harcourt, Warri, Cross Rivers and now Kogi similar; kidnappings. Prominent citizens as well as the everyday Joe suffer at the hand of kidnapping kingpins and ritualists. Oh! It is not secluded to these places; we have Lagos, Oyo and most recently, Kwara. You hear of human parts been found in ritualists dens all over the country. If the North has her issues, the South, East, West and South-South also do! Did I mention the cult clashes? The farmers and herders’ conflicts that seem to only get bigger by the day? The prevalence of bandits and all-round increasing crime rates?

And before we forget, most polytechnics and colleges of education have been on strike for over one year. Millions of citizens of the country sitting at home because the state says they must pass through an education to have a job. The number of young people becoming redundant in the society is alarming and should worry us. They cannot go to school and they cannot get jobs. Oh! The drama!

And the one that takes it home: corruption! Our elected and appointed leaders are busy milking the country dry while wringing the necks of the average person. We have serving ministers disbursing public fund for personal use, acquiring luxury that shows how easy it is to spend money 'earned' illicitly. All this while the average person grows in his resentment of the status quo and the greener grass on the other side that mocks his poverty. The cross carpeting of politicians from parties they hailed as the holy grail to parties they rained all manner of libel against is not something that can be easily forgotten! Who in the hell would have thought that Femi Fani Kayode would be singing the government's tune? Who would have thought the new Emir of Kano would withdraw his suit against the Federal Government after all the drama they played? Who would have thought that Shekarau would be a serving minister under President Goodluck Jonathan or that we will have to invite the US of A to come help us in our security issues? What is worse is that this corruption is seen in all spheres of national activity: from the new born baby who somehow understands the power that comes with money, to the preschooler whose adept lies confound adults, to kids who cheat in exams and tests, and even to the Student Union Government (SUG) president who does bogus projects so he can buy a car in school and then to the government worker who does absolutely nothing in the office and still steals to top off his salary.

Us Versus Them: The Biggest Recipe of Hatred
Image: The Buckley Club
These problems do not stop there. There is the deep-seated hatred between Nigerians: first on tribal grounds, then on religious ones. The Fulani person (as long as he is perceived as a herder) is hated by almost all tribes in the North...if not the entire country! The Tiv person hates the Idoma person and their feeling is reciprocated with the same fervor. Even among the Idomas, the person from Otukpo doesn't care much for the person from Otukpa. The Igbira person cannot tolerate the Igala person, even though they live in the same state. People from Southern Kaduna loathe people from Northern Kaduna and vice versa. But no matter the tribal difference, the major dividing factor always is religion. Muslims and Christians in Nigeria hate themselves, though they put on a facade of peaceful coexistence. If you want to have a taste of how deeply ingrained the hatred is, go to any of the social media religious group pages and see how hatred is spread. If a person talks about the Qur’an in a way that is disrespectful to a Muslim, be sure that there will be violence. And if a group of Christians are supposedly attacked by people they deem as 'Muslims', the reprisal attacks from Christian corners makes you wonder if they ever opened their Bibles beyond the cover page.

While it is easy to go on and on about the many problems of Nigeria, it is also prudent to note that we have too much drama going on in this nation to be worrying about whether Israel is going beyond bounds in their reprisal attacks. Don't get me wrong. I care that those three boys were taken, probably dehumanized, viciously killed, and that the parents of those boys will live half-baked lives till they die. I also care that Palestinians are been killed in the coordinated attacks wrought by the Israelis in what can be described as dehumanizing wickedness. Even better, I understand that Israel is as guilty of many human rights abuses as Palestine is: maybe even more so. But truth is, I'm more worried about the state of Nigeria and where we are heading. Label me selfish but Nigeria is the only nation I've got. I don't have another citizenship. If Nigeria goes to war (like she is wanting to do), it is people like me and the average Joe who will suffer. I don't want us fueling our hatred with what is happening in other countries that do not give one rat's poop about what happens to us. 

More young people need to worry about the nation and us. I remember drawing my life plan when I was nine. If this nation deteriorates, I won't get to live my plan. Heck, my life now is far from what I drew up, but at least, it is on track. It will stop being on track if this nation doesn't exist. I don't want to achieve my dreams in Rwanda (though I have read that it is a beautiful country) or France (though it is the world center of chocolate and good cuisine). I want to do all I can in Nigeria, for Nigeria is my only home!

So...what is happening in the Middle East is not our concern. Can we focus on Nigeria now?

1: When this post was written, there were 219 Chibok Girls in captivity. 98 of the kidnapped schoolgirls are still being held by Boko Haram and their whereabouts are unknown. 

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