Paris Attacks: The Nigerian Charade

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In what seemed like a confirmation of all the conspiracy theory surrounding the “ominous” Friday the 13th (which is widely regarded as Black Friday, an unlucky day according to Western superstition), French nationals and the rest of the world witnessed deadly multiple attacks on the Bataclan Music Center, (where incidentally, the band named “Eagles of Death Metal” were performing) as well as the La Belle Equippe restaurant and the Le Carillion bar cafe. It was undoubtedly a weekend that the French would never forget as they were hit with the double tragedy of horrific terror attacks and a high-speed train derailment in Eckwersheim on Saturday too. Friday’s carnage was one attack too many as it was the second time in less than a year that Paris would be rocked by terrorist attacks following the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo shooting in January.

To say the world practically stood still for France would not be an overstatement as monumental structures around Europe and the Americas such as the One World Trade Center in New York, the San Francisco City Hall, the Wembley Empire State building, Jerusalem’s Old City walls and Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janierio were lit in red, white and blue in solidarity with France. Several world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities have also spoken up in condemnation of the dastardly act of violence and pledging their support to the city of love in these trying times, with the G20 group of the world’s most powerful countries agreeing to step up border controls and air security. Social media was certainly not left out of the espirit de corps movement. The “Pray For Paris” hashtag trended for several hours on twitter, while many Facebook profile pictures were branded with the colours of the French flag.

Down here in Nigeria, many social media users were not left out of the apparent show of oneness with France. A good number of people put up the “Pray For Paris” symbol as their display pictures, and adopted the colours of the French flag on their Facebook and Twitter profiles too. It appeared to be a classic case of following the bandwagon as we are always wont to do in this part of the world. As I read through many messages expressing sympathy with France, I couldn’t help but wonder why we are always quick to mourn, and in some cases cry more than the bereaved each time tragedy strikes anywhere in the western world, while we have become virtually immune to the hundreds of deaths that have resulted through the onslaught of the deadly Boko Haram sect in our backyard. How many times have we branded our social media profiles with the green and white colours of Nigeria in an attempt to stand with the families and friends of the often faceless ordinary citizens who lose their lives daily in the hands of insurgents, or even our fallen soldiers who have paid the ultimate price while fighting to keep the civilian majority alive?

We may argue that at the moment, France as a country is the one facing the heat, and it is only humane to mourn with those who mourn, after all we all share a common humanity with blood running through our veins regardless of race, religion or creed. And I agree. But it is worthy of note that just a day before the unfortunate Paris attacks, Beirut was bombed! A situation that left 43 dead, and 239 injured. However, I cannot recall the media giving as much publicity to the Beirut incident as have been done in the case of Paris. Even Facebook has been criticised for its decision to implement its safety check feature for the attacks in Paris, but not for the bomb blasts in Beirut, a situation that they have tried to rectify by activating the same safety check feature for last night’s bombing in Yola.

Terrorism anywhere in the world and in all forms is absolutely reprehensible, and I agree that the rest of world should sympathize and empathize with any country or region of the world experiencing any acts of terror. I am gutted by the massacre that occurred in Paris, but I also find myself as equally upset, if not more so when 147 University undergraduates are senselessly murdered in Kenya, or about 50 promising boys in Yobe are killed in their dormitories just because they dared to get an education! All I am trying to say is that all victims lives matter! The innocent souls bombed in Raqqa, Syria, murdered in Palestine, or Nigeria’s North East, as well as those killed in Paris deserve to be mourned in the same way. A western life isn’t more valuable than a Middle Eastern or African life. Any soul lost anywhere on the face of the earth especially in such tragic circumstances should affect us in the same manner.

I couldn’t bring myself to brand my social media profile with the colours of the French flag, not because I didn’t care about what had happened in Paris, but because I had never thought to grieve for the countless souls who have met their untimely death, no thanks to Islamic insurgents in similar manner. I felt it smacked of hypocrisy. The Chibok girls have been missing for almost 600 days now, yet we are content to go about our daily businesses without giving a thought to what their parents must be going through. I was privileged to be at a function last week where I saw the some of the parents of these girls, and I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me they must have seen better days. And just when we thought we had gotten a reprieve from the incessant wave of suicide bombings that had become rife in the North East, just yesterday over 30 people were killed, and not less than 80 injured in yet another heart wrenching untimely harvest of innocent souls in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The unfortunate incident happened last night, but even as I write this, the news is yet to trend on any social media platform, just as I suspected. Over 2,000 Nigerians have died in Boko Haram attacks this year alone. Yet, some would argue that those who criticized others for “standing with Paris” are at best being petty and jealous of the attention paid to the city of love, and at worst monsters who have no shred of humanity in them. It’s absolutely laughable! What happened to the age old maxim- “Charity begins at home?” Why are we quick to wail and display our “humanity” when other countries are involved, but have no qualms about turning a blind eye to the deadly filth in our home? A clear case of insecurity, and mental slavery if you asked me.

As long as we continue to despise our own problems, while being quick to “align” with those of others, simply because they have a different skin colour, or belong to the first world then we can be sure that we will remain relegated to the background in the committee of nations. We must begin to appreciate and demonstrate love to ourselves first. It is the bitter truth.

8 Replies to “Paris Attacks: The Nigerian Charade”

  1. Wow! You’ve spoken my mind here. All you’ve said and the examples of other places where these attacks happen were all in mind. All this points out that we like to go for what is good for the news but I’ve come to realise that what isn’t news worthy is actually what counts and makes the big difference. I hope others come to this realisation and stop being hypocritical.

  2. I had been thinking along these same lines and could also not bring myself to #Pray for Paris or update status, pictures etc with the Eiffel Tower peace sign or the Tricolore for the same reasons you outline. Less than 10 of my 100+ contacts on BBM also didn’t make reference to the Paris attacks possibly because they too came to the same realization.

    Without a doubt what happened in Paris last Friday was an absolute tragedy and sent a chilling message to the World that those ‘Dogs of War’ aim to hit where it will hurt the most.

    Contemplating the apparent apathy by most Nigerians for the attacks of Boko Haram in the North it suddenly hit me last night.
    On Channels there was a Breaking News Bulletin about the Yola blasts on the ticker at the bottom of the screen BUT they kept on talking about football and discussing some other sports related drivel.
    In the same situation international news media break away from whatever broadcast and even if there are no visuals the news anchor comes on TV with a grave voice and then the incessant cycle of breaking news with history of the attackers, speculation, conspiracy theories, visuals of the crime scene and citizens themselves take to social media to “report” what they may or may not have seen. Soon the whole world is caught up in the throes of #Pray for anywhere except Nigeria, Yemen, Baghdad, Yola etc and are rendered immobile for hours watching season journalists weave a tale of woe, devastation, sensationalism and at times rhetoric.

    There is no excuse for indifference by the Nigerian people but I’m assuming a lot of people feel removed from the situation because they cannot relate and they cannot relate because there are no human faces to place on the bomb victims. Except when the president goes to visit them in hospital and I sit there thinking OKAY but you haven’t told us you will bring an end to Boko Haram. You haven’t come on TV with your own grave teary eyed face to tell us Nigerian lives matter. In fact you say nothing and the news anchor conveying your contrived message almost seems gleeful to be the one reading Mr. President’s statement. You have given us nothing to hope for.
    I don’t believe the army half the time they say they have killed or apprehended BH leaders or suspects

    A lot of people have seen Paris in movies. The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognizable monuments and so relatable even to a person who has never been to Paris. AND there is the bandwagon effect and herd mentality of let me join this “movement” to show me too I know Paris.

    But Yola might as well be a gutter in Yemen for all most southerners in Nigeria care.
    They’ve never been there. Never met anyone from Yola.
    And it is the Nigerian way to get so used to things that we become insensitive.
    I could go on but will spare you

    I always say the news covers politics
    Nigerian news is cspan
    No human interest stories

    1. Thank you so much for this angle Lola. It’s definitely true that many can’t really relate when it comes to these attacks here in Nigeria, because usually the media just reels out figures of the dead, and so they appear to be just numbers instead of our brothers and sisters. I guess the lesson in all of these is that we need to tell our own stories properly and put a human face to things.

  3. Seriously, we are indeed at perilous times, Nigerians are superficial
    in nature,in Nigeria there is no value for human lives, people don’t care about what happens to the other person as long as they are Ok.It is only God that can save us all. We can only pray for the victims , may their soul rest in perfect peace. (Amen).

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