By Jide Ajani
The paradox of life! What is not good is very, very bad!Think of this: The manufacturer makes and sells it! The buyer buys but is not going to use it! And the one for whom it is to be used never saw it! What is it?
You will get the answer at the end of the script. Life! Figures may never mean anything in life beyond those that make up dates of birth, anniversaries or other such remembrances. But numbers made up of the same figures take up the garb of seriousness when they are attached to casualties or fatalities under any
circumstance. For instance, the number of those who disappeared aboard a missing plane – 239 – in the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370
In journalism, except you hit the double digits, figures of casualties or any other thing for that matter are to be rendered in alphabetic words – nine, eight, seven, three, one. When the double digits come
in, you write in figures – 75, as in the official number of the dead at the Nyanya bus park bomb explosion in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja; or 129, the figure earlier quoted for the number of girls abducted by members of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which, in English, means, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, and otherwise known as Boko Haram.
Figures, numbers, damned numbers! What do they represent? They represent anguish in this instance.
These numbers represent lives lost or burdened. They represent, by association and multiplicity in terms of those affected, discomfort and discomfiture. They represent sorrow. However, the incremental nature of the number of the dead in terms of attacks appears to make a mockery of lives in Nigeria. At about this time last year, when casualty figures of any Boko Haram induced incidents oscillated between 10 and 15, they made banner headlines. Over time, towards the end of last year, the figure shifted to 20 and above before it could grab attention – headline attention, that is. Today, it appears a very conservative figure of 75dead does not have any psychological impact on Nigeria’s leadership as exemplified by what happened last week. Last Monday morning, after the crocodile tears in some quarters and visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to the Nyanya park and hospital to commiserate with victims and their families,Mr President was in Kano within 24hours to attend a rally; a political rally of no meaningful significance other than the celebration of prostitution by politicians engaged in the shameful act of carpet-crossing pax Nigeriana.
What went wrong?
It was Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924), who, while writing on art, character, growth, guidance, judgment, life, seriousness, spirit and spirituality, posited, “A man is the part he plays among his
fellows. He is not isolated; he cannot be. His life is made up of the relations he bears to others – is made or marred by those relations, guided by them, judged by them, expressed in them. There is nothing
else upon which he can spend his spirit – nothing else that we can see. It is by these he gets his spiritual growth; it is by these we see his character revealed, his purpose, his gifts. A few (men) act as those who have mastered the secrets of a serious art, with deliberate subordination of themselves to the great end and motive…. These have `found themselves’, and have all the ease of a perfect adjustment”.
When Wilson talks about “those who have mastered the secrets of a serious art, with deliberate subordination of themselves to the great end and motive”, he was referring to the greater need for
introspection, deep thinking and a realization that leading a country of over 170million people is not about what the leader merely wants for himself or what catches his fancy but what he has to offer for the general good. That singular incident in Kano blighted the President’s mournful disposition of the day before. Why did Jonathan fall so cheaply for the shenanigans of his party jobbers?
Only one explanation: The ghost of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, simply referred to by historians as Nero, reigns supreme in the land. He is notoriously known to have been fiddling away while over 70% of Rome was burning. Paradoxically, he was also recorded to have been a bit popular but the controversy about that engages the overdrive gear when placed side by side his viciousness and nihilistic disposition. At the Kano rally, it was as if nothing had happened in the last 24hours. What was so important about the Kano rally that Mr. President could not postpone it? What level of deep thinking went into not passing off that event till another time?
What were the leaders of the PDP and Aso Rock thinking of that the loss of 75 Nigerians appeared not to move them? The importance of statistics and numbers dawns on every individual when tragedy hits hard at home, in the family, at the work place or in the neighbourhood. Pray, had any close family member of the leaders of PDP and Aso Rock been victims of the Nyanya blast, would the Kano rally still have held?
Just last Friday, three-days of mourning were declared for the Mexican Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – this was declared by the country’s President. In Nigeria, because we are gradually but strangely being inoculated against the strong effects of losing fellow countrymen to the cold hands of death in the hands of terrorists, the government did not call for days of mourning. What has gone wrong? What is going wrong? Even the statement issued by the ruling party’s megaphone, Olisa Metuh, pointing accusing fingers, was disgusting at best and embarrassingly insensitive to right thinking Nigerians. Then add the ever present All Progressive Congress, APC, leadership that relishes jumping into any fray with pretensions to siding with Nigerians.
What does this say of the crop of leadership in the country?
As if dramatizing a tragic-comical script, the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by Jonathan, was made to look more impotent when terrorists stormed a school in Borno and abducted 129 female students before the dust raised at the Kano rally could settle that same night of last Tuesday. And as if waking up from a slumber, the Presidency then summoned a security-council meeting – after the fact – and after the Kano rally. Worse still, the military authorities, within 24 hours, went to town with the news that it had rescued all but eight of the abducted girls. Then, suddenly, another fact was released damning the first rescue report – only 14 of the girls “escaped on their own steam”. Between January and this April, over 2,000 lives have been lost. Yet, government acts after the fact – this is without prejudice to the episodic gallantry of the members of the armed forces who continue to risk their lives.
It is time for President Jonathan and his handlers to sit back, reflect, think deeply and engage a more proactive and meaningful approach.
The answer to the puzzle is: A coffin! The sizes and the shape of the coffins that would be used to bury the identified bodies from last Monday’s bomb blast were never seen by those to be buried in them just seconds before the bomb went off. It could have been anybody. A governor or a minister may have scheduled a visit to the park that morning. Therefore, government should not continue to dishonor the memories of the dead by acting as if once the victims are not close home, then we can all go about our businesses as if they do not matter. What is not good is very, very BAD.