By Muyiwa Adetiba
Two young people solemnised their union in the ancient city of Kano last weekend. I rejoice with them and wish them a blissful marital life. It is always a joy to watch the power of love at play especially when it crosses boundaries and social strata. The love of Fatima and Idris may not have crossed the social or religious divide, but it does cross geographical and ethnic divides. In doing so, it will not only bring two big families together, it can help in creating a better understanding of different cultures. The marriage is one more reason our political leaders, many of whom witnessed the ceremony, should strive for a just but united country.
Age and living in Nigeria might have made me cynical about many things. But not about love. I am still a romantic when it comes to Cupid. I believe in the power of love and Cupid’s ability to pierce through layers of colour, tribe, age and position. Those layers are after all, physical. True love where you find it, is of the soul; spiritual. Unfortunately, the physical often beclouds and taints the spiritual. I hope these two new lovers will bare their souls—not just their bodies—to each other and learn to down play external distractions.
That said, I do not begrudge the young couple’s desire to have the wedding of their dreams. That’s what most young people want. But they should have been more sensitive to their environment and the mood of the nation and scaled things down. They are privileged kids no doubt—‘uptown babies who don’t cry because they don’t know what suffering is like,’ to quote a Bob Marley song—but that should not inure them to the realities on the ground. A hundred and ten girls were kidnapped in the country. Some UN workers were killed. Both less than two weeks to the wedding.
The nation is in mourning and rightly so! People are also seething in anger at our helplessness. These girls, all of whom are younger than the couple, have just had their lives taken away from them; figuratively if not literally. They may never meet the men of their choice let alone have a marriage of their dreams. They may never experience the fantasy and intimacy of honeymoon. Of a more dire consequence is that many of them, even if they become free, may never be able to go back to school and enjoy the liberated life which education brings. They will therefore be consigned to a life of drudgery and poverty. They will, if only we can see far, become liabilities rather than assets to the nation. And not just them.
The entire zone because only a foolhardy parent and a foolhardy child will venture to school and risk the trauma of abduction. Some may not survive this ordeal. Those who survive will be scarred for life. All because of the accidents of birth; social and geographical. All because of the incompetence of some of those seated, laughing and backslapping, at the wedding ceremony. Surely these call for sombre moments and a sombre ceremony? The parents of those girls deserve the joys of wedding ceremonies too. We should show more sensitivity.
What happened in Dapchi was not only a national tragedy, it was an embarrassment and a shame to all of us. After all, it is said that ‘shame on them if someone does something untoward to you the first time. Shame on you if you allow them to do it to you the second time.’ So, shame on all of us for allowing this to happen again.
And so soon. We budget over a trillion Naira a year for security. Yet a ragtag bunch of terrorists could stroll into our school and take over a hundred female students away seemingly without a trace. And for the second time in four years. It befuddles the mind that they could travel hundreds of kilometres in a war zone without meeting a single checkpoint whereas one could barely go 20 kilometres on any expressway in the south without meeting a checkpoint. It confounds that such a basic ‘modus operandi’ could not have been anticipated and checkmated.
What happened in Dapchi was simply a failure of intelligence across institutions. In a country where competence is the sole parameter for occupying sensitive positions, where the best man is picked for a job irrespective of religion or ethnicity, heads would have rolled. In fact, self and professional pride would not have let them stay a day longer. In a country where responsibilities of office are more important than the accoutrements of office, many people would have offered—or been made to offer—themselves as sacrifice to assuage the nation of this embarrassment.
But not in Nigeria. There are no consequences for incompetence; no backlash for dereliction of duty; no punishment for ineptitude as long as your face fits the sentiments—whatever those are—of your employers. So we continue to fumble and wobble. We continue to wallow in mediocrity. We continue to slide backwards.
Back to the wedding. In the Yoruba culture where I and the groom’s father come from, ceremonies are known to be deferred or scaled down whenever there is a tragedy in the family or the community. I have a friend who has been having New Year parties on the third week of January for as long as I can remember. But he couldn’t do it this year because a close friend of his died in November. Another had to drastically scale down a 70th birthday party which he had been looking forward to for a while because one of those on the planning committee, a bosom friend, died suddenly.
This is how we show respect to the sensitivities of the bereaved. That is who we are. We mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We don’t rejoice in the open when our neighbour is mourning. I have been told the wedding was indeed scaled down. But how scaled down was it with 22 governors and several federal legislators attending? One major plank of political leadership is security. Our politicians have failed us in that regard. But are they remorseful? Not from the pictures I saw. For them, its politics as usual. It is electioneering time after all.
Sometimes, I think our politicians underestimate the anger in the country. Otherwise they will not continue to take the electorate for granted believing that the usual palliatives and lies which they dish out during election years will always perform the magic. Times are changing but our politicians are still trapped in their insensitive and selfish past. I pray they get a shocker soon.