There has been a series of sad reportage in the past weeks stemming from Boko Haram killings- the media was strangely silent about them until news filtered out. There was also little ‘anger’ from the people directed towards the officials at the helm of national affairs entrusted with keeping national security after word got out of these events. But what is more difficult to stomach is when the people in a country decide to ignore unfortunate incidents, near or far away, and they continue with their lives as if things are normal and as they should be. Where is our humanity?
People die every day and the government is hardly blamed for any single life lost. Countries do witness natural disasters, as was the case recently with the United States where a campfire in California killed hundreds of people and rendered thousands homeless. In this case, the U.S government, which is primarily charged with the security and safety of the citizens ensured that it did its best to keep the people safe and provide temporary or permanent relief. That is how disaster response in a proper country is run.
Let us bring the experience back home. Comparatively, there were cases of flooding reported in several corners of the country, especially in Delta State, this past rainy season. Without insurance, the citizens were seen left to their fate and deal with their own chagrin – not even a relief from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) or other relevant government institutions. Yet no one asked questions.
It appears that the Federal Government is not only caught between the crossfires of boldly announcing any unfortunate national incident and their political image, they also seem to be at their wits end in successfully winning the war against Boko Haram or effectively tackling a national issue.
Relatively, it may be true after all that in a largely suppressed society, a people tend to go silent and succumb to control when their voices are no more being hearkened to. So many Nigerians have since lost their anger against evil; they have lost critique of all acts of corruption/impunity, and in turn, may have lost their humanity too. Picture this: A crowd gathers to summarily burn an alleged thief because if handed over to the police, they will set him free after paying a huge bail anyway. A people circumventing the justice system because they have allowed a rot to fester deep enough and no longer trust the police to do its work. There are many negative connotations for governance and the society if the people just look on and don’t force the system to run efficiently.
A throwback to about 23 years ago, during the Abacha junta, when the people did not only normalise the excruciating tragedies of that era, they also collectively lost their voices against it. It was largely because the majority of the population did not speak against such evil that the voices of the few who did criticize it did not matter much. You can as well guess what our fate would still have been today if Abacha had not died mysteriously; perhaps we would still have been enduring the painful living until now. How much pain do a people have to stomach before they demand, en masse, for good governance?
Evidently, Nigerians have mastered this art of normalisation so much that we were once voted the happiest people on earth in the midst of poverty. Yes, a people should remain happy generally; but I repeat, not so much as to lose their agency in the national polity- their voice.
The last thing citizens should lose is their doggedness at ensuring their voice is heard in matters of national or local importance. Such a tendency, if it keeps growing, is a threat not only to the sanity of the people but also to long-lasting peace and prosperity. Wole Soyinka once aptly wrote that “the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny”. The people must also ensure they are ever ready to offer their selfless best when called to serve. That is the crux of patriotism.
Therefore, the people must wake up and assume the office of their citizenship- taking the bull by the horns whenever necessary, and guiding by critiquing the government and its actions as they deem fit.