Je Suis Charlie ou Non?! Face-Shaping Nigeria’s Conversation on Self-Identity and Nationhood, (Un-)Mournable Bodies and Solidarity…
Oladapo Ajayi: With all sense of redponsibility, if I see any Je suis Charlie on Nigerian wall, na mad koboko you go chop. I don’t know how we get excited to mourn for others when our first, middle name as a nation in the past five years is mourning itself. A nation that lost over 20,000 citizens to terror. When are we going to say Je suis Chibok, Je suis Borno,… Je suis reality not follow follow…
Ahjot Naija: You are wrong, Dapo. The world stood with us during Chibok and we said our “Je suis Charlie” in our own way. Have you forgotten the hashtag for the girls? Nigerians are not unaware of their troubles, they will but not make them sympathize less with France. The world is with France in this painful moment and so also is Nigeria. Nigeria is Charlie in solidarity with France against the force of evil.
Esther Osaade: Thank you Ahjot Naija! I was about to write exactly the contents in your comment up there coupled with the fact that I just left Paris few days ago. What if I have been involved? We all need to get this straight, ‘Je suis Charlie’ is an outcry against terrorism and I’m sure nobody, no nation wants to be terrorized. Freedom of speech is our fundamental human right. Thank you once again Ahjot!
Esther Osaade : Mr Dapo, you are wrong sir! During the “Chibok girls”, I personally saw your Asian and German friends including your professors with the ‘bring back our girls’ hashtag. Why do you forget so soon? As a member of the United Nations, terrorism against one, is terrorism against all.
Oladapo Ajayi: Well, Ahjot and Esther, for one I am not preaching hatred , and I am not talking about a particular scenario but a state of mind which is quick to embrace Western news, phenomenon et al. for records and I stand to be corrected #BringBackOurGirls campaign gathered momentum until Mitchel Obama raised it; even our president was still in the state of denial then. Sorry to digress, but just like the death of Pastor Myles Munroe of the United states(sic!), it is my opinion based on observation that it is more funky and cool for a vast population of Nigerian on social media to solidarize with France on ‘Charlie’ than the Baga massacre which is said to be the biggest in the history of Boko Haram attack. If I may ask, why are there no hashtags for Baga, Is 12 death greater than hundreds bodies that litters (sic!) the streets of Baga and loss of a town in our own country. Somehow, you may not be guilty of my observation but be sure I am only pointing at ideological reality and state of Nigerians that have voices especially on social media. In view of that I insist Je suis Baga, let the foreign media make some true noise about the death of Nigerians too and let Nigerians shows how worthy life of any of our citizens means to us.
Esther Osaade: Dapo, I insist that you are still very wrong. Recent happenings in France have got nothing to do with embracing Western news quickly, and going by what you typed up there, you are not talking about a particular scenario. If this is the case, I’d announce to you that your publication was reared at the very wrong time. You talk about embracing Western news as if you are residing in the Middle East. I’m in the middle of this and I know what the real situation looks like; I just left Paris. This is my main challenge with Black people, you like to blame everything both negative and positive on Western media. If you are not inciting hatred, you should have not published this post at this particular time. How could you even dare to say “let the foreign media make some noise about the death of Nigerians too” as if they don’t. Whether 16 lives or 200, life matters and threat to any should be a concern of many. If I was to be white, I would have interpreted your post as hatred for my people. We can’t scream “help West, Africa is fighting terrorism!” while we try to not offer them our solidarity when they face the same problems as if threats to their lives don’t count. It is good to promote emancipation of “your black people”, but do it the right way that hate and discrimination might not linger for too long. #JeSuisCharlie
Oladapo Ajayi: I seem not to be communicating and it makes it frustrating. I am not anti-west. I only wish for a different attitude from Nigerians wherever we are while Charlie fell alongside 12 in France, our towns and villages fell again to Boko Haram leaving over 2000 dead ‘official number’ and our popular response to both incidence as directly affected people is Je suis Charlie. Please don’t accuse me of inciting hate towards any group, especially as a black man. I think you want to quote me out of context and leave out my point somehow. My observation is about reception and reaction, national identities and values
Ahjot Naija: Dapo, check the comments. You mentioned *hate* first. If at all, you threw the notion of hatred up first, nobody accused you of that. While it is good you want a change of selfperception plus reality check, your primary message missed the point. The time could not be more wrong. Eje ngbona lowo bayi! That exactly is what Esther Osaade corrected, and I did too. The message could have been passed not by wanting to koboko-beat etc Nigerians for standing with the world etc. You dont joke the bereaved to underline a point, however important. Nigeria mourns her death, also the loss in Baga! Her own way! It is that simple. Btw, your choice of bigger/wider foreign media cover for balance of life-worth may actually be another false way to identity. You probably need a reality check too. Checkmate!
Folarin Oluwatosin: Well I think there’s a bit of a mix up here or maybe I understood Dapo’s post a little differently. For me the killings in Nigeria have now been so underrated that we now see it in numbers. We see and hear things like 76 people killed in a suicide bomb attack and we are like oh another 76 not bearing in mind the fact that these figures are actually human beings; and this happens like every day in 3 or 4 different places. When about 47 boys were murdered (not sure of the figures) there was no flag flown in half mast for their loss, when the Chibok girls were abducted it took 18 days for our government to believe they had actually been taken not to talk of take action. Just yesterday I heard again about a young soldier who had fallen to this unnecessary killings, and I know personally, other soldiers who are still there fighting maybe to the death; trust me I hold my breath everyday hoping I wont hear bad news from them in that area. Now I do not totally blame the govt. as I know it is a collective thing but we are a bit too lackadaisical about things in Nigeria (as we have the attitude of “if it’s not touching me then it may not be too important”). I watched on TV as the whole state was turned down in search of the people responsible for the killings in Paris and I believe this was possible because the people cooperated in letting this happen (this was an action between the Government and the People). Pls don’t get me wrong Esther And Ahjot Naija, I am not condemning Nigerians for posting #je suis Charlie# on their walls, as I have a sister who is also a journalist and who attends such meetings often (when it happened all I could think of was if it had happened here in Naija, it just could have been her shot) so I feel their pain I wish this never happened, but I also want Nigerians to know that what is happening in Nigeria is not a story, neither is it a nightmare, it’s a reality and it’s greater than the numbers we see on TV.
Esther Osaade: Thank you very much Tosin, for your contribution. I appreciate your communicating skill. That is how it is meant to be. This country cares about its citizens which should of course be the duty of every nation but the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Have you forgotten recently in Nigeria, some young soldiers were being persecuted for refusing to go into battle with the insurgent Boko haram? This soldiers refused because they were unarmed. Nigeria boasts of the most vibrant economy in Africa yet matters of security is thrown in the dust. For some nations, threat to one is threat to all but check out Nigeria’s approach to life threatening situations; “if a government official or his immediate family is not affected, it is none of the government’s business” (Lagos state excluded following its actions and response to Ebola). Take a look at Cameroon, with their little finances, they provide arms for their forces, their fallen soldiers are treated like heroes and bodies of their deceased are attended to with respect.
Let’s conduct a quick analysis of Nigeria’s mannerism. Soldiers = unarmed, infiltrated by perpetrators of terrorism. Armed forces = uniform forces. Government = dysfunctional. Protests = ineffective. Media = biased. Fallen soldiers = forgotten. Citizens’ carcasses = left on the streets for days even months.
Now we want to blame anything and everything on the West. Is it the West that is ruling Nigeria? Is it the West that is embezzling petroleum money? Is the west responsible for equipping your forces with the necessary ammunition? Is it the West that effected the fallen standard of education in the country that some of us have come here to further our education?
In the West, only five people can stage a protest against any wrong and they would be attended to, but look at the Chibok girls protests, GEJ actually tried to curtail them by sending the military amongst them. Did you know that a friend of mine who is an activist was threatened by some Jonathanians because of her criticism on the Chibok girls. They even told her that they know her house in Nigeria and they know who her husband is all because she exercised her right to freedom of speech.
To answer your other question, insurgency and killings in Nigeria are of course no stories and everyone in his right frame of mind is aware of that. Whether 1, 5, 10, 200, or 2000 lives, life is life and therefore should be protected. News on the recent attacks in Paris was disseminated as rapidly as a fire outbreak because there is a people that cares and there is a functional government who refuses to shy away from his responsibilities. The misunderstanding in this publication of Dapo’s is wrong timing and the way he communicated his feelings. If I posted #JeSuisCharlie on my wall, it is not because I don’t care about Nigeria, but because I care about both Nigeria and the freedom of speech and the press.
Just to add to all I’ve said, do you know that because of my contribution to this post, I have been insulted by a non-violent Muslim extremist who is myopic in his mind and thinks everything is about religion. Further, if we recalled, earliest attacks of Boko haram in the north gained approval of northern clerics. They didn’t do anything about it because they never thought it would escalate to this degree, now everyone is affected and the government is mute. We all have to remember that the earlier we voice our disapproval of violence the better. It is no longer a question of religion but a factor of freedom and unity amongst our people. #JeSuisCharlie represents solidarity which is what is lacking among Nigerians.
Editor’s Note: This piece is a Facebook conversation triggered by the first paragraph. It was originally posted on Oladapo’s wall. Decision to publish it as blogpost is an attempt to give access to a wider readership and in continuation of discussion to clear plus objectivize controversies this attack on our common humanity and quest for freedom has generated thus far. The ensuing comments and responses are opinion of the writers. They do not necessarily represent AhjotNaijaBlog editorial policy.