The Failure of a People, By Hannatu Musawa
It is with great anguish and heavyheartedness I’m penning down this article on the yet to be rescued abducted teenage Chibok girls. As a parent and a Nigerian, a human, it is difficult for one not to feel a profound sense of responsibility in voicing out ones melancholy and distress over the thus far unconvincing developments at all levels in the country, pertaining to the rescue or freedom for the kidnapped Chibok girls.
About a fortnight ago, Nigeria was yet again hit with the dreadful news of the abduction of teenage girls from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, less than 24-hours after the massive dastardly Nyanya bombing that took the lives of over 75 innocent Nigerians who were going about their daily activities in the early hours of the morning.
The girls; about 230 of them and mostly young teenagers were rounded up at gunpoint after alleged militants overpowered a military guard assigned to a boarding school in Chibok. They were preparing for their final school exams.
This has got to be a completely new low for a nation fiercely battling to get one breath of air. Of course, there is no one that has not been deeply disturbed and tortured by this tragic affair. Of course, there have been mumbles here, and mumbles there; the odd statement from this corner, another one from that corner. Private discussions and lamentations at the highest level as to what can and should be done has taken place. There seems to be a great bewilderment and confusion as to what can be done.
But the truth is there is not one Nigerian who has not profusely failed in this instance! We have failed as a people in the most disgusting and pathetic manner. At this point, when I remember the faces of the parents of those little girls and as I sit here writing this piece, haunted by the faces of those girls, there is not one bone in my body that is not ashamed to call myself a Nigerian today!
Why should I sit here in Nigeria and be bombarded by the American disgust with the racist views of an American bigot via the world media because it is important to the history and evolution of America, and not tell America that my own children have just been kidnaped; allegedly violated in the most deplorable manner via the same media. If there is one incidence that should have united us with a single voice, it is the tragedy of the Chibok girls. What have we done so far to tell the world in the most critical manner that the Chibok tragedy is not acceptable?
We speak about this being the government’s responsibility. There is no doubt that it is the responsibility of our government. But for me, as a Nigerian, it goes beyond that, it is my responsibility too. In saner climes, which has not abandoned its conscience, all hands would be on deck, regardless of government inefficiency and security agencies ineptitude, for a concerted effort in ensuring that there is the required amount of pressure on those at the helm of affairs who are responsible for bringing back our girls safely.
Was that not what we did when the issue of the fuel subsidy reared its head? We stood as one and told the government what we were willing to accept and what we would not accept. Is the increase of fuel subsidy more important than the safety of our children now? During the 2011 “occupy Nigeria protest”, irrespective of party affiliation, and religious and ethnic differences, the government was practically shut down and was forced to review the demands of Nigerians. We all stood with one voice, simultaneously replicating such protests nationwide. Why haven’t we, as a people, demonstrated and replicated such unity, cohesiveness, patriotism or just humanity in this instance?
There is a saying in the Hausa language that goes, “the pain of one person’s daughter is the same as the pain of another person’s daughter”. This is true. We may not all be the parents and children in this particular incident, but the truth is that this incident has a direct effect and a very dangerous implication on each and every one of us.
There is not one of us out there; not one, that is not someone’s parent or someone’s child. So, whether we like it or not, this tragedy is each of us and each of us is this tragedy. While we go about our normal daily activities, lamenting about this issue privately, we are setting an extremely dangerous precedent. If we allow this incident to fade away, we continue to break down our inhibitions and just like kidnapping and robbery; we are breathing life into another abomination that has no place in any society. If we turn a blind eye, we are giving this depraved transgression an identity.
There has just not been enough public outcries over the tragedy of the Chibok girls.
Where are the voices of Muslim rights groups? We call ourselves righteous, but where is our voice when it really needs to be heard? Is it only when we are wrongly stereotyped that we lend our voices? Why the silence and pretense that there is not an issue that needs to urgently be addressed amongst us?
Where is the voice of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)? One would expect that they should ordinarily be vociferous in this instance as they have always retrospectively been during other terrorist acts
Where are the women rights groups? Is it only when top female public officials are to be probed for corrupt practices that they lend their voices in crying foul and playing the gender card?
Where are the voices of women groups in the North? Is it only in cases such as the banning of Hijab’s in public schools in Lagos that they muster or elicit public outcry?
Where is the voice of the National Association of Nigerian Students? Are our girls in Chibok not also Nigerian students?
Where are the voice of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its sister body ASUP, should they be only concerned with “saving the University system” and increments of their remunerations?
Where are the myriad of Civil Society/Pressure Groups across the length and breadth of the country? Are they not supposed to be engaging and compelling the government on a regular basis in ensuring that they resolutely bring back our girls safely?
Where is the voice of our regional elders? Is it only on matters concerning resource control that they are interested in?
Where is the voice of the National Assembly? A special round-the-clock-committee should have been set-up solely for our missing girls, liaising with the executive and security outfits, vociferously championing and canvassing for the safe return of our missing girls.
Where is the voice of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)? Is it only when it involves the increment in P.M.S or subsidy removal that they become more active and activists?
Where is the voice of columnist of the various media houses we have in the country? As I write this, I feel like a hypocrite because it has taken me over two weeks to speak out, despite the fact that I am a mother myself. I have the audacity to spew my venom and criticize others in my weekly column, but I didn’t have the courage or the benevolence to speak out loudly before now.
Other columnists and bloggers can write as if there was no tomorrow but have failed to bring enough moving and arousing articles and op-eds capable of enkindling emotions amongst Nigerians, demanding for the safe rescue of our girls.
Where is the voice of our traditional rulers? Where are the voices of the plethora of NGOs scattered across the country? Where are the voices of Nigerians in the Diaspora? Where is the voice of the Nigerian? These are voices needed now more than ever before.
There must be a consorted and unending effort to safely bring back our girls. Point blank and period!
Rather than snippets of protests, there needs to be a synchronized and simultaneous peaceful protest nationwide, demanding for prompt action in bringing back our girls safely.
As we continue to exist, we must all remember that these abducted girls could be any of our daughters. She could be your sister, your niece, your cousin or your grand-daughter. She could be a distant relative of yours or a friend of your child. Anyone of us could be undergoing the pains and sorrow actual parents and guardians of the Chibok girls are going through right now.
If you have done nothing, look to your conscience and earnestly ask yourself, why you have not attempted to or be involved in a collective cohesive nationwide effort and public outcry for the safe rescue and return of these girls in even the smallest way.
We should all be ashamed and disgusted with ourselves. And as for the media; for the past 2-weeks after the abductions, the media has not been able to whip-up enough public sentiments and vociferation against the abduction and government’s incompetence in ensuring or assuring us that our girls would be rescued and brought back safely.
From print and visual, the media should concentrate on major developments pertaining to rescue efforts the government has failed to carry-out so far. What should be on our screens, papers and websites consistently should be the call to rescue our girls from the hands of these dastardly vagabonds. Round-the-clock programmes and forums should be organized and designed, solely discussing and sensitizing the populace on possible peaceful steps and measures to take as a people, so as to ensure that the government is compelled to bring our girls back safely.
It’s obvious that the lackluster response from all of the above comes down to fear. The action of this rabid collective is something that we have never seen before. Nobody is willing to be identified as the loudest and leading voice. While it is understandable, it is also unacceptable. There must be a voice. And that voice must be one voice; the voice of humanity, the voice of unity and the voice that will again speak out to say “enough is enough!”
The voice should find its courage and involve a committed citizenry — every man, woman, and child, every religious and traditional ruler, political parties and politicians, civil servants, professionals and entrepreneurs, religious institutions, civil society groups, nongovernmental organizations, elder statesmen and former leaders — in a vociferous concerted effort, regardless of religious or ethnic differences and political party affiliation, compelling and demanding that the government and our security apparatus should do all it takes to bring safely back home our girls.
As I pray for the return of our girls and I offer my voice, my pen and myself for this cause, I bow my head in utter self-disgust and shame and admit that I have failed those little girls and their parents… And so have YOU!