I was intrigued to see the football fans singing “La Marseillaise”, while exiting from the Stadia Nationale in Paris after the ISIS inspired suicide bombers detonated their hardware, killing three bystanders on Friday November 13, 2015. An estimated 127 others were murdered in other parts of the city. A few days later, the French National soccer team aka Les bleu, after an initial understandable reluctance, were to play the British team, the three Lions. It was agreed by the organisers of the match that both sets of fans, English and French, would sing “La Marseillaise” together in unison before the match. The two teams interlaced arms over shoulders as the song was belted out from the terraces. I can imagine that many English fans were not comfortable with the French language. Statistics shows that more French people speak English than vice versa, and it was going to be a big ask for the English fans, more used to singing about the defeat of the French Napoleon by the English Wellington in the battle of Waterloo at matches pitching these two countries. The Standard newspaper ran pages of translation of the song in English, as well as sponsoring YouTube teaching clips on line.
I took the opportunity to educate myself. The song came about during the French revolution after the storming of the Bastille in 1792. The Bastille was the main prison yard in Paris where the poor oppressed were incarcerated by the rich connected, much like our own Kirikiri. The prisoners were set free and King Louis the XVI was incarcerated together with his trophy wife, Mary Antoinette. Soon some foreign armies massed at the borders hoping to set the King free, but some volunteers from the coastal city of Marseilles, called La Fedéres, marched for 26 days whilst singing this song now known as “La Marseillais”. Because obviously this was the song of the men from Marseilles, who ultimately saved the revolution, a song now adopted as the French National anthem! (much to the consternation of some who would prefer softer, less gore-ish lyrics).
Paris is again under threat. Maiduguri is under threat. Madagali, Kano, Jimeta are all under threat. Abuja is under threat. So are Lagos, New York and London. Bamako was attacked recently. Every Church on Sunday is on edge with barricades everywhere. The world is under threat, the threat of an undeclared third world war, as was so perceptively put by Pope Francis II. The threat of extremist Jihadism, a euphemism for bloodthirsty mindless murder in the name of religion.
And no words could have been more appropriate than the words of this song.
Look at the English translation and the French original, for the sake of Francophiles who would otherwise be upset!:
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts
To arms citizens
Form your battalions
Let impure blood
Water our furrows
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons
Just substitute the words tyranny and soldiers for Boko Haram or ISIS or Al- Quaeda or Daesh or Al Shabab, any of them would do. And you will see that this is a song that should be taught to all school children and citizens of the world. These blood-thirsty hordes are already in our midst, cutting the throats of our sons and wives. They produce videos competing for the prize of the most debauched. They are already in our midst and the only language they understand is superior force. Not reason, not amnesty, not negotiation. For we battle not with normal human beings, but with beings under the thralls of demonic possession.
Femi Dokun-Babalola wrote from Abuja.