Ololade Ajekigbe: Paris Attacks; The Nigerian Charade

In what seemed like a confirmation of all the conspiracy theory surrounding the “ominous” Friday the 13th (which is widely regarded as Black Friday, an unlucky day according to Western superstition), French nationals and the rest of the world witnessed deadly multiple attacks on the Bataclan Music Center, (where ironically, the band named Eagles of Death Metal were playing) as well as the La Belle Equippe restaurant and the Le Carillion bar cafe. It was undoubtedly a weekend that the French would never forget as they were hit with the double tragedy of horrific terror attacks and a high-speed train derailment in Eckwersheim on Saturday too. Friday’s carnage was one attack too many as it was the second time in less than a year that Paris would be rocked by  terrorist attacks following the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo shooting in January.

To say the world practically stood still for France would not be an overstatement as monumental structures around Europe and the Americas such as the One World Trade Center in New York, the San Francisco City Hall, the Wembley Empire State building, Jerusalem’s Old City walls and Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janierio were lit in red, white and blue in solidarity with France. Several world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities have also spoken up in condemnation of the dastardly act of violence and pledging their support to the city of love in these trying times, with the G20 group of the world’s most powerful countries agreeing to step up border controls and air security. Social media was certainly not left out of the espirit de corps movement. The “Pray For Paris” hashtag trended for several hours on twitter, while many Facebook profile pictures were branded with the colours of the French flag.

Down here in Nigeria, many social media users were not left out of the apparent show of oneness with France. A good number of people put up the “Pray For Paris” symbol as their display pictures, and adopted the colours of the French flag on their Facebook and Twitter profiles too. It appeared to be a classic case of following the bandwagon as we are always wont to do in this part of the world. As I read through many messages expressing sympathy with France, I couldn’t help but wonder why we are always quick to mourn, and in some cases cry more than the bereaved each time tragedy strikes anywhere in the western world, while we have become virtually immune to the hundreds of deaths that have resulted through the onslaught of the deadly Boko Haram sect in our backyard. How many times have we branded our social media profiles with the green and white colours of Nigeria in an attempt to stand with the families and friends of the often faceless ordinary citizens who lose their lives daily in the hands of insurgents, or even our fallen soldiers who have paid the ultimate price while fighting to keep the civilian majority alive?

We may argue that at the moment, France as a country is the one facing the heat, and it is only humane to mourn with those who mourn, after all we all share a common humanity with blood running through our veins regardless of race, religion or creed. And I agree. But it is worthy of note that just a day before the unfortunate Paris attacks, Beirut was bombed! A situation that left 43 dead, and 239 injured. However, I cannot recall the media giving as much publicity to the Beirut incident as have been done in the case of Paris. Even Facebook has been criticised for its decision to implement its safety check feature for the attacks in Paris, but not for the bomb blasts in Beirut, a situation that they have tried to rectify by activating the same safety check feature for last night’s bombing in Yola.

Terrorism anywhere in the world and in all forms is absolutely reprehensible, and I agree that the rest of world should sympathize and empathize with any country or region of the world experiencing any acts of terror. I am absolutely gutted by the massacre that occurred in Paris, but I also find myself as equally upset, if not more so when 147 University undergraduates are senselessly murdered in Kenya, or about 50 promising boys in Yobe are killed in their dormitories just because they dared to get an education! All I am trying to say is that all victims lives matter! The innocent souls bombed in Raqqa, Syria, murdered in Palestine, or Nigeria’s North East, as well as those killed in Paris deserve to be mourned in the same way. A western life isn’t more valuable than a Middle Eastern or African life. Any soul lost anywhere on the face of the earth especially in such tragic circumstances should affect us in the same manner.

I couldn’t bring myself to brand my social media profile with the colours of the French flag, not because I didn’t care about what had happened in Paris, but because I had never thought to grieve for the countless souls who have met their untimely death, no thanks to Islamic insurgents in similar manner. I felt it smirked of hypocrisy. The Chibok girls have been missing for almost 600 days now, yet we are content to go about our daily businesses without giving a thought to what their parents must be going through. I was privileged to be at a function last week where I saw the some of the parents of these girls, and I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me they must have seen better days. And just when we thought we had gotten a reprieve from the incessant wave of suicide bombings that had become rife in the North East, just yesterday over 30 people were killed, and not less than 80 injured in yet another heart wrenching untimely harvest of innocent souls in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The unfortunate incident happened last night, but even as I write this, the news is yet to trend on any social media platform, just as I suspected. Over 2,000 Nigerians have died in Boko Haram attacks this year alone. Yet, some would argue that those who criticized others for “standing with Paris” are at best being petty and jealous of the attention paid to the city of love, and at worst monsters who have no shred of humanity in them. It’s absolutely laughable! What happened to the age old maxim- “Charity begins at home?” Why are we quick to wail and display our “humanity” when other countries are involved, but have no qualms about turning a blind eye to the deadly filth in our home? A clear case of insecurity, and mental slavery if you asked me.

As long as we continue to despise our own problems, while being quick to “align” with those of others, simply because they have a different skin colour, or belong to the first world then we can be sure that we will remain relegated to the background in the committee of nations. We must begin to appreciate and demonstrate love to ourselves first. It is the bitter truth.

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