#Yolablast: For who do we aspire to reflect our people’s death?

Only six days have passed since ISIS (Da’esh) blew up 43 people in Beirut and five days since they killed 130 people in Paris and now the loose affiliate of Nigerian terrorists known as Boko Haram, a group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS, has killed 32 people in a bombing at a market in the north eastern Nigerian city of Yola.

Sadly this was to be expected. Our military increased its vigilance after ISIS mentioned Nigeria in their statement on the Paris attacks.

After Paris, we rushed to sympathize on social media and then we rushed to judge those sympathizing by saying “What about us? We have terrorism too! Why doesn’t Facebook make a flag for us? Why don’t world leaders stand in solidarity with Nigeria? Why are buildings worldwide not lit up in green white and green?”

Well what about us? Yes we have #yolablast on social media and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and brave first responders were on the scene. Yes President Buhari  issued a statement through his Twitter account:Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.58.27 AM

But that’s it so far. Our radio and newspapers and social media have not been awash in shock and sympathy. Our celebrities have not shed tears at their concerts. Our flags are not at half mast. Today’s headlines and top stories are about corruption. Corruption is undoubtedly a problem for us and it may have cost us dearly in the fight against Boko Haram but that pales in comparison to the immediate loss of a human life and the harm done to the already stressed social fabric of our nation.

Within hours of the Paris attacks, French President Francoise Hollande was on his way to the Bataclan, the concert venue where the majority of people were killed. He went despite fact that his security services did not know whether or not there were still more attackers at large.  How long will it take President Buhari to make it to Yola – 12 hours, 24 hours, two weeks? It is true that a president can do very little in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy like this, but the presence of the top leadership, the call to attention and to action speaks volumes about how a country views itself, how it values its citizens, and how then the rest of the world should treat us.

Yola is not a major cosmopolitan center like Paris, but it is a major state capital with a population of 340,000. An open air market is not a hip concert venue or swanky restaurant, but it is central to the Nigerian way of life. The world might not be able to relate to the “exotic” conditions you find in a northern Nigerian town where people sleep, eat, work, make love, have children, worship together, laugh and dance, as they do elsewhere on this planet, but we as Nigerians can because we come from cities, towns and villages just like Yola. If we want to have the world stand in solidarity with us we need to show that we care about ourselves.

When the Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah in his prologue to Two Thousand Seasons wrote “for who do we aspire to reflect our own people’s death? For whose entertainment shall we sing our agony?” he  spoke of the insane desire Africans have for the western world to commemorate the grief brought by centuries of colonialism when we don’t tell our stories to ourselves.  He asks how we can expect the world to care if we do not make our own grief our mission?

For too long we have been nonchalant about the lives lost from Boko Haram’s direct violence and by the displacement and economic turmouil they have caused. If we want it to stop then we have to make it an issue. If we want the wider world to stand with us then we Nigerians need to stand with each other and make known our feelings of grief. We need to make it known that it is unacceptable to feel this way in our own country. Otherwise we will do this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

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