So two terrorists are seated at a bar deep in conversation. The barman becomes curious about their scheme and decides to ask what the ongoing conversation is all about. “We are planning our next terrorist attack”, one of the miscreants reply. “We expect to kill over two thousand people and a donkey”.
“A donkey? Why kill a donkey?” the barman asks in bewilderment.
“Aha!” says the terrorist, with eyes lighting up as he turns to face his partner. “I told you nobody would care about the two thousand people!”
The first time I heard this joke, I was just as curious as the barman. The mention of a donkey would automatically seize anyone’s attention. It seems like a non-issue until you realise that in fact many of us would ask the same question as the barman. It has gotten to the point that the cold blooded murder of a donkey seems more bizarre than that of thousands of people.
Not that the donkey deserves to die of course. It would be tragic for the owner to lose his dependable asset – if the owner wasn’t one of the unfortunate thousands killed in the attack, that is. A much greater tragedy, and so it should be seen.
Nowadays, we can afford to breathe a lot more easily thanks to the commendable efforts of the anti-terrorist battle. But how much so? The increasing barbaric rampages of Fulani herdsmen on farming communities across Nigeria should leave as much chill in the spine as any terror attack has done before.
People still die by the bunch daily and very little thought or worry is provoked. For many years Nigerians were being butchered, raped, set on fire, shot at, mutilated, and even buried alive. Carnage after carnage, it simply became a normalcy to hear of people being killed en masse in Borno.
Today, there is a new set of victims of the same terror but it seems that at the moment, it is probably not attractive enough to merit the attention of those on the other side of the wall of social comfort. While there is little any of us could do to help, these victims and their families were deprived of the little we could offer to them – our attention.
It begs the question: how many more have to die and to what new low need the inhumane barbarism stoop to in order to warrant our empathy?
The developed world only got to know about the Chibok tragedy because Nigerians refused to remain silent on that particular issue. Both before and after that incident, there were many of such similar cases but nobody showed any concern. Those victims also needed a voice! At the point where the ‘BringBackOurGirls’ campaign was a trending topic, many decided to jump on the western-backed train, demanding the safe return of the innocent schoolgirls.
Today with the whereabouts and well-being of the Chibok girls both still an uncertainty, the busybodies have been separated from the truly concerned. Vigils and solidarity marches are still being held in their honour but the attention of many was watered down at the precise moment the movement stopped making headlines.
Non-commitment ends up being the order of the day when these tragedies occur and in a way, we brought this upon ourselves. How do we expect compassion for the death of our kinsmen when we rarely voice out condemnation of the killings occurring in other communities? Death is a certainty, dying is normal. Murder however, is not and therefore should be condemned with firmness no matter the identity of the culprit or victim.
Southern numbness follows the murder of a norther at the hands of another just as the mass killings pre and post-elections in Port-Harcourt goes unnoticed in the north. After all ‘it is them who are killing each other’. It is only when the Muslim kills the Christian or the southerner kills a northerner there is an issue. We will dine with this menace for as long as we fail to value lives irrespective of their social divide.
Anybody could be the victim. In the peak of the Boko Haram terror, the southerners could only mumble and provoke arguments through religious and ethnic pettiness instead of offering voices of solidarity with the victims of these regions. When the terror began to spill southwards, they could no longer afford to remain silent since the battle was slowly making its way to their front doors.
We cannot afford to build mental barriers between ourselves and victims of inhumanity, especially not if they are our fellow compatriots. When the evil ones are through with them, we are obviously next.
On the other side of that wall, they need our help. They are counting on our united voice of condemnation and our firm demand for justice for the lives of Nigerians lost to blood mongers. If we are one people, it means we feel what they feel. If we are one people, it means that on the other side of that wall, they’re still killing us.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me”