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NTA, Nigerians and the Delusion of Grandeur

Initially published in February 13, 2013, the relevance of this makes me repost it.

Moonchild's Temple

SaveWatching ‘Africa’s largest TV network’ is like watching yourself lick your balls in the mirror. It sucks. That is why Nigerians, supposed proud owners of this unwieldy beast called the NTA, do not bother. They, like most humans of appreciable self esteem, do not fancy mirrors that project their hideous warts and hairy moles in 3D.

 Seriously, understanding Nigeria’s problem is not rocket science. And you don’t have to read Chinua Achebe’s seminal piece, The Trouble with Nigeria to figure it out. If you still have the heart to examine what the trouble is with the ‘Giant of Africa’ all you need to do is subject yourself to the torture of watching the NTA. Not in lethal dose, just enough to shed light on things. Consider it, if you like, a sort of purgatory for sins done against your country, say handing out that N20 note to the policeman at…

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Things Politics Make Nigerians Do

Street-Hawking

Last week, a hawker ran after me in traffic, persistently singing high praise of the bread he was holding in my face, something I had no intention of buying.

“It is fresh, sir. And it is so sweet, you can even perceive the aroma, can’t you? If you eat this bread, tomorrow you will look for me and dash me something,” he said smiling.

I smiled. “The way you praise this bread, one would think Jonathan baked it.”

I have never seen a man lose his smile that quickly. Frowning, he hissed, said, “God Forbid!” turned and walked away, disregarding my laughter and my calls for him to return.

Yesterday, in traffic yet again, I took interest in some pieces of micro-fiber cloths a hawker was selling. He wanted five hundred, I offered three. He said no. Apparently, the sun had beaten the smile out of his face. We weren’t going to agree, I sensed.

So I said, “You know, Buhari will soon be president, things should be different now.”

He stopped. His spontaneous smile clearly had roots in his heart. You could see that in his eyes. “You have made me very happy,” he said. “That is not the price but I will sell it to you at that rate.”

I went home thinking what the people of this country will be like after February 14.

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Baga, Paris and Our Traumatized Sensibilities

Satelite image

Satellite image of the destruction in Baga.

The last few weeks have been traumatic. From the outrageous under-reported massacre in Baga, Northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram reportedly killed about 2,000 people, to the disturbing killings in Paris and the massive manhunt and hostage crisis that followed.

In the midst of these ordeals, I read a Facebook post by an enraged Nigerian  demanding that all his Muslim friends make known, on his Facebook wall, their stand on the Charlie Hedbo killings or face some ambiguous consequence. Needless to say, the comments that followed, mostly from non-Muslims, were hate-filled anti-Muslim rants.

The irony is that this person seems completely oblivious to the massacre of 2, 000 of his compatriots by the Boko Haram. Not even reports of corpses decaying in the open nor the resultant humanitarian crisis were strong enough to outrage him, and many other Nigerians, as much as the killings in Paris, which were, in their own right, horrific.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who in the midst of touring the country campaigning for re-election, found time to commiserate with the French, never took the trouble to acknowledge the killings in Baga, at least not yet.

He devoted time instead to criticize his main challenger’s cabinet composition when was a military Head of State in the 1980s and claiming there had been an assassination attempt on him four years ago by his kinsmen, who he was  incredibly quick to exonerate at the time of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja. This acknowledgment of one terrorist attack and not the other, even if it is in his country, is not only baffling but telling.

Our sensibilities, delicate as they are, have been steadily assaulted by the constant news of brutish violence, not only in Baga and other parts of Nigeria, but in Paris, Baghdad, Bangui and elsewhere. We cower from this barrage by burying ourselves in the little bubbles of comfort  we have built for ourselves, from where we engage with the world through inane social media rants and follow them up with selfies that show us at our best. From these bubbles, we look to Paris, New York and Hollywood to escape our trauma-inducing reality.

When such outrage, that amounts to a quarter of what is happening in our backyard, happens in these places we let our minds escape to, and is given comprehensive coverage in the news, relegating the even more atrocious events in Nigeria to the news bar and brief news flashes, we are thoroughly incensed.

Even the local media has underreported the Baga massacre. For one, the North-East, where Boko Haram is holding sway, is a difficult region to report from due to the precarious security situation and destroyed communication installations, and the Nigerian Military has garnered a notoriously mud-spattered reputation for its information handling and dissemination.

After all, this is the same military that had erroneously claimed that all but a few of the abducted school girls of Chibok had been rescued. The girls remain in captivity over 9 months after. There was an even bigger gaffe when the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh pompously announced that a cease-fire deal had been reached with Boko Haram. The terrorists proved how ludicrous the claims were by overrunning his hometown 48 hours later, expanding further the “caliphate” of brutality they had carved out of swaths of North-east Nigeria.

The ceaseless stream of bad news from this region has resulted in a bad news overload and a mental shutdown so as to avoid it. So even though such news may make it to the front pages of local newspapers, many people would happily flip to the fashion or sport pages, because the capacity to process these gory news, accompanied by reports of thieving government officials ostentatiously flaunting stolen wealth and collapsing infrastructures, has suffered major damage.

We are as tired of the president’s inane “condemnation of these heinous crimes” as much as the president is of issuing such statements without the requisite commitment to bring the criminals to justice. The fiasco over the failed prosecution of Aminu Ogwuche over the Nyanya bombing that killed over a hundred people in April last year, the same day the Chibok Abductions occurred, is demonstrative. The case was thrown out by an Abuja court for, of all things in the world, “lack of diligent prosecution.”

So President Goodluck Jonathan carries on with business as usual, as if significant territories he had sworn to protect have not been lost to terrorists who kill hundreds daily, and goes to his campaign rallies whitewashed with the most spurious claims of assassination attempts, an improved economy and a fight against corruption that no one, save the president and his henchmen, can bear testimony to, marry off his niece with attendant profligacy, the same way he did his step-daughter at about the time of the Chibok abductions, and not even acknowledge the sad tragedy of the mass killings in Baga.

The reality is this: traumatized by decades of systematic and self-inflicted abuse, we have grown inured to shock, even if it breaks us more, and have consequently lost the capacity to be decisively outraged. We all need therapy.

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