We are Zamfara - By: Chika Unigwe | Dailytrust

We are Zamfara

Last week, about 200 people (CNN is reporting 58) were killed by local terrorists in Zamfara and about 10,000 people displaced from their homes in attacks that lasted two or three days depending on whom you’re listening to. According to a Reuters report, “(in) the middle of the week, hundreds of armed bandits on motorbikes rode into 10 villages in the districts of Anka and Bukkuyum, firing indiscriminately, looting and burning homes.” Apparently, these were reprisal attacks in response to military air strikes by the government against the bandits.

The news of the attacks in Zamfara -to my knowledge – got less coverage than whatever Femi Fani-Kayode or Reno Omokri  have to say on any given day on whatever topic that they are pontificating about. Not even on Twitter where hashtags are for any incident was anyone interested in it – it didn’t  cause more than a slight ripple. And it seemed to have caused less outrage than the news of some actor “stealing” someone else’s spouse did. Okay oooo.

Why am I shocked sef? Shebi it was in this same Naija, not that long ago, that parents took their families to watch criminals being executed. A regular outing with food and drinks with a side of front row seats to watch criminals being gunned down. Is it not in this same Naija that public lynching of (alleged) criminals happens? Is it not in this same Naija that videos of gruesome deaths are shared on WhatsApp and Twitter? And every day, do we not read (allegations) of folks killing and mutilating others for money-making rituals? And are these pictures of mutilated bodies not gleefully shared? I read Ijoma Mangold’s memoir, The German Crocodile last year, and one of the striking passages for me was where he described, on his first (and to date only) visit to Nigeria, the car he was in passed by a body on the road and the driver did not stop to see what was wrong. Ijoma, a visitor to Naija was of course, horrified. What’s my point? My point is that maybe we have grown immune to the sight of dead bodies and that in turn has made us immune to any tragedy that involves death.  And that is why we treat the news of lives lost like routine casualties of everyday living. We’re just grateful to have been spared and we carry on as normal. Someone once said in conversation that living in Nigeria is like living in a war zone. I don’t think this person is right but things like this happen and I’m tempted to believe that we are close enough.

Security continues to be a problem all over Nigeria, so that what people in other parts of the world see as ordinary activities are fraught with dangers for us. Travelling within some states for example.  Going to job interviews even. And what is inconceivable in normal, stable countries has become our norm: abductions and attacks to name a few. So when an attack happens, it is almost expected and when people die in it, they are merely unfortunate victims of what has been anticipated (which begs the question why our authorities seem incapable of anticipating and stopping these attacks before they happen or intervening on time when they do happen) and so outrage is mostly muted. Maybe we have developed some sort of thick skin, a general bad-news fatigue.

I was discussing this with a friend and in particular, this recent Zamfara  case, and he pointed out that the response to the incident is further complicated by a certain polarization that appears to have grown in Naija. Outrage is saved for whether or not your person is in power. And whether or not the victims are from your part of the country or not.  Scrolling through Twitter, I can see what he means. And it is sad. I believe in holding leaders accountable whether or not we voted for them, and being a product of a unity school, I am a believer in the notion of a Nigeria that is all of ours. Beyond that, we all belong to the human community. Ubuntu. I am because you are. What diminishes one, diminishes all. So whether folks are killed in Paris or in Enugu, I hope that my response to both would be the same. Something dies in us when we no longer recognise the humanity of others simply because we differ from them in some way.

President Buhari called the attacks “an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces…” Well, one can only hope that these acts of desperation are stopped before more innocent lives are lost, and that security all over Nigeria improves. No citizen should have to live under the real threat of they or their loved ones being abducted (or killed).

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