Mark Zuckerberg

…before we hang Mark Zuckerberg on the next pole or accuse the international community of being biased and unfair on this issue, I think we ought to ask ourselves if we are really our brother’s keeper first. In fact, how many of our local social media sites ever thought of introducing a Nigerian flag filter just to honour the victims of bomb blast in Nigeria before Facebook came up with the French flag filter? More importantly, do we value lives of fellow Nigerians like we want the world to believe?

The introduction of a French flag filter to mourn the 129 people killed in the recent terrorist attack in Paris, attracted lots of criticisms in the Nigerian public space, mostly from Nigerian Facebook users.

Most Nigerian Facebook users contumaciously refused using the French flag filter, while a Nigerian flag filter was subsequently introduced by Nigerians to communicate their displeasure on the perceived unfair preference for the mourning of a Western tragedy over others routinely happening in other parts of the world by Facebook. Some went further to criticise Mark Zuckerberg for coming up with such a biased idea, only just after the Paris attack while others also asked, why is it that since Boko Haram has been on incessant abduction and killing spree in North-East Nigeria, Facebook has not for once seen any good reason to honour victims of terrorism in Nigeria like they did for the Paris victims?

I quiet agree with the reactions of Nigerian Facebook users, not because I am a Nigerian or a sadist who takes delight in other people’s agonies. Frankly, the lives of the Frenchs shouldn’t be perceived as being more valuable than the lives of Nigerian by Facebook’s Chief Executive simply because the platform enjoys more traffic and patronage from the French. However, the valid argument of Nigerians who criticised Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zukerberg, for being discriminatory and unfair not to have honoured victims of terrorism in Nigeria behooves us to sincerely ask if our protest was out of genuine value for Nigerian lives.

Now, to the crux of this piece which centres on: how much premium do we place on the life of an average Nigerian citizen? This question begs for an answer from Nigerians before we can react on the biased decision of Facebook or the international community, because “charity they say begins at home”.

Let’s first of all consider the manner Nigerians make use of the Facebook and other social media platforms. I noticed that public discourse on social media easily slides into dirty and petty religious or ethnic social media skirmishes. Especially amongst most Nigerian Facebook users who hardly focus on the crux of discuss before veering into sheer provocative and hate speeches without civility. It often comes in comments like these: “Hausas are goats, Boko Haram and pheadophiles” or “Yorubas are very dirty”, “Yorubas are traitors” or “Igbos are criminals”, “Igbos are robbers and baby factory inventors”, etc.

I am sure many of us must have read other caustic remarks that portray Nigerians and Nigeria in bad light on social media. Now, if amongst ourselves on social media, we have the penchant for attacking each other, making life threats, hauling invectives and making unguarded, inciting and degrading remarks about ourselves, do we expect foreigners to treat us better? This minor factor might not justify why Facebook took the Paris attack seriously than other fatal attacks in Nigeria, but the manner we present ourselves matters. Because, we cannot continue to degrade ourselves before the whole world and earn respect from foreigners.

Permit me to cite some instances of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria and the reactions that followed them from our government and the country in general. I would want us to pounder on these and ask if we reacted like people who truly have respect for lives.

Another one like it, was the April 14, 2014 Nyanya bus bomb explosion that killed over eighty people and injured many others. As usual, our president then, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan visited the scene of the incident, vowed to quash Boko Haram and flew to a political rally in Kano barely 24 hours after the incident, where he danced away gleefully.

On February 25, 2014, it was widely reported how fifty-nine boys were slaughtered by Boko Haram at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State. Sadly, while parents of the Buni Yadi boys were still grieving, Nigerians in thousands assembled at the National stadium, Abuja, barely two days after the incidence, shamelessly dancing doromido in the name of a centenary celebration. To worsen the mess, it was aired live on our national television. The excuse for this crass insensitivity and utter display of lack of respect for human lives was that the centenary celebration had been earlier planned and the nation cannot come to an halt because some fifty-nine boys were killed. Ironically, the federal executive council meeting was cancelled in honour of Namadi Sambo’s younger brother who died in an accident along airport road, Abuja in this same Nigeria.

Another one like it, was the April 14, 2014 Nyanya bus bomb explosion that killed over eighty people and injured many others. As usual, our president then, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan visited the scene of the incident, vowed to quash Boko Haram and flew to a political rally in Kano barely 24 hours after the incident, where he danced away gleefully. Although, his public perception was greatly damaged by this singular act but I will not forget to mention the fact that many Nigerians who supported him then, argued that he did that to make a point that Boko Harams were not wining the war. What a justification!

What about the Baga massacre? A series of mass killings carried out by Boko Haram in Baga and its environs, in Borno state, for four straight days. According to Wikipedia, “The exact death toll in Baga and 16 surrounding villages is unknown, with estimates ranging from “dozens” to 2000 or more.” Could we still recall that our government then denied that no incidence of such happened? Paradoxically, same government condemned the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in which 12 people were killed but swept the Baga massacre under the carpet. How better could we have shown the world that the French are better than our people?

For space constraint, I wouldn’t want to delve into the kidnap of over 200 Chibok girls, the dirty politics we played with their lives, the reactions of many doubting Thomases amongst us, the intimidation of the #BringBackOurGirls group and how we poorly responded to the incident as a country.

From these few instances comes the answer to the question I raised earlier, which in my opinion reveals the value of the life of an average Nigerian to our government and the generality of the people, because the people make the government.

So, before we hang Mark Zuckerberg on the next pole or accuse the international community of being biased and unfair on this issue, I think we ought to ask ourselves if we are really our brother’s keeper first. In fact, how many of our local social media sites ever thought of introducing a Nigerian flag filter just to honour the victims of bomb blast in Nigeria before Facebook came up with the French flag filter? More importantly, do we value lives of fellow Nigerians like we want the world to believe?

Do we?

Ahmed Oluwasanjo, ahmedoluwasanjo@gmail.com, writes from Abuja.