A Letter To Critics Of #BringBackOurGirls, By Gimba Kakanda
“A shared nationality, dear critics, is enough reason to be alarmed by the tragedies that have befallen fellow citizens.”
I promise I’ll be brief.
This is because you are notorious for making declarations without bothering to understand what’s been said or done. And by being brief, I wish to reduce the possibility of your succumbing to your nature. I’ll be very brief, I assure you.
Your first error, which seems to have become your guiding principle, is the assumption that activism is the responsibility of a select group. I’m tired of repeating myself, of spelling out what activism is, of restating that “activism is not a profession, it’s an instinctual response to a failed system.”
Activism is the responsibility of every one. There are no membership requirements, since citizenship of a dysfunctional country is the only qualification for, and invitation to, be active against such a system. This is the truth you have not acknowledged, as you sail in the boat of cynicism, in which you fault the campaigns of fellow citizens who have taken to the street to challenge a government you nonetheless have also dismissed as a failure.
You see, there’s nothing wrong with your attempts to change Nigeria from your bedrooms–with tweets, Facebook updates and even sensational Op-Eds and polarising advocacies. But, don’t you think criticising those in the field, patriots who step out of their comfort zones to challenge social and political aberrations, is an indictment of your delusion?
Isn’t that what it is, delusion, to expect a desired change without civic engagement? Even miracles don’t occur without an effort!
If you’re indisposed to take part in a campaign designed to seek good governance and accountability from the establishment, unimpressed by the “methods” deployed by the organisers, why didn’t you come out to show these “ignorant” and “insular” citizens how to organise civic engagements, demonstrating the correct method to adopt in organising an effective protest? It is the absence of your ilk, the know-it-alls, that makes nuisance like us occupy the streets. Don’t you agree? Are you satisfied with the way this country is being run? If you are not, why aren’t you doing something aside from occupying your bed? It’s either you’re dishonest, merely being the intellectual drama queens, certified attention-seeking dissenters or, and this too is a credible suspicion, fire over at your neighbour’s is not a shared problem.
A shared nationality, dear critics, is enough reason to be alarmed by the tragedies that have befallen fellow citizens. It is thus heartbreaking to read your criticism of citizens who rose up, on the news of abductions of schoolgirls in the terrorist-infested northeast, asking the government to #BringBackOurGirls. If these citizens had not risen up to expose the government, the abduction would’ve been dismissed as another of our many collateral damages, like the many before it. This enough-is-enough response to an institutionally confused government has not only embarrassed the government, its unjustifiable incompetence has been clearly spelled with hashtags, and on the placards, by famous global influencers: politicians, religious clerics, musicians, actors, name it. On the strength of this campaign, the President and his colleagues from neighbouring countries were summoned by Paris in the name of a summit.
It is this same activism you consider as “elitist” that inspired Michelle Obama to hold up a placard in solidarity with rattled Nigerians. It’s the same activism you consider as “political” that earned Nigeria offers of military support by real States who love their citizens. It is the same activists you consider as “idle” that have kept the search for the abducted girls a task the government could not afford to give up on simply because, definitely, “America will know!” It’s the activists whose campaigns you dismiss as “needless” that have invigorated the intellectual study and investigations of the capability of the Nigerian military, and introduced lay-citizens to the complexities of terrorism in Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls is run by neither Muslims nor Christians, neither Hausa nor Igbo, neither northerners nor southerners. It is run by Nigerians, stripped of labels ethnic or religious, regional or political, a band of people united by the intensity of their shared grief!
But you critics don’t seem to understand the gravity of silence, which is a sort of complicity with influential citizens in the battering of a defenceless people.
I liken your present security arrangement to my friend’s dogs. He bought the puppies just when he was about to leave the country for his postgraduate studies, and left them to be trained by his mai-guard. On his return, years later, the cute things had grown up, evolved into unfriendly beasts. Still grappling with certain proprietary airs, my friend headed to the cages to play with his old pets. He was lucky to have been saved on time, injured and bloodied by beasts who no longer recognise him.
We undermine the escalating terrorism, because we live in big cities with security outposts here and there; but if we’re not careful, if we don’t pursue this campaign for protection of this country, our presently enjoyed security arrangements will alienate you from your folks just in the way the dogs did my friend uninvolved in their nurturing.
You, cynics, are in danger of becoming strangers in your own country. You have to make the choice today: understand that you’re also an activist, or end up as refugee in your own country.
May God save us from us!
Follow Gimba Kakanda, @gimbakakanda (On Twitter)