August 5, 2019

The not-so golden silence of the Nigerian Diaspora

Nigerian Diaspora, Magnafaith

By Magna Faith Krimi

In my comfy suburb of Washington, D.C. where I take care of my three beautiful girls, build my media company and live my dream, I ponder upon horrific anomalies like psychotic school shooters and the 21-year old white man from Allen, a suburb of Dallas Texas in the U.S. suspected to have killed twenty people, and injuring more than a dozen on August 3, 2019. Nigerian Diaspora

You see, on November 5, 2017, a man walked into a small church in a rural Texas town and guns down 25 people and an unborn child. While there are arguments on whether these suspects should be treated as terrorists or not, “the total number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017 decreased by 23 per cent and total deaths due to terrorist  attacks decreased by 27percent, compared to 2016.” “Although terrorist attacks took place in 100 countries in 2017, they were concentrated geographically. Fifty-nine per cent of all attacks took place in five countries (Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Philippines), and 70 per cent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria)” as reported in the Jewish Virtual Library.

I was opportune to work with a team which hosted a delegation of victims of the current insurgency in Nigeria which started in 2009. Mercy Maisamari, one of the ladies in the delegation said: “We have killings of unarmed people in their homes in the middle of the night”. My uncle Gabriel Johnson from Taraba State who is yet to recover from the loss of his nephew Usman, my cousin, said, “the killings have been taking place almost every week for years. With scores of hardworking farm women, men and their helpless children hacked to death in their homes in the middle of the night. Sometimes a dozen church folks get shot to death as they leave church on a Sunday morning, as happened to Mr Wollo Thomas, 46, and his seven-year-old son, Nggewe at 8:50 p.m. They left choir practice in their village chapel in the Bassa Local government area of Plateau State Sunday, July 14. The killers were suspected radical terrorist Fulani herdsmen who have allegedly been cleansing the north-central states of Nigeria for 10 years. 

 According to several Nigerian media outfits, a resident of the community, Bitrus Izah told Zongo Lawrence, the Publicity Secretary of Miango Youth Development Association gunshots were heard, and as they rushed out, they saw two dead bodies of a father and his son. The tragedy has struck the community with numbing regularity.  According to Lawrence, at least 17 persons have been killed this year, often on Thursdays and Sundays.

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Scores of people have been kidnapped on highways and held for weeks while their families scramble to borrow money for ransom. In just one fertile region in central Nigeria where there is an area about as big as the acreage of suburbs between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, more than 400 unarmed men, women and children have been hacked to death by machetes of armed militias shouting and charging into villages before daylight.  While reporters are supposed to cite “herders” in the first reference, followed by “gangsters” or “hoodlums” in the following references. The convention is not to put too much blame on the ethnicity that produced President Muhammadu Buhari, all of his service and intelligence chiefs and the top positions of the army and police forces. These issue amongst others create a narrative among Nigerians in Diaspora, that Nigerian journos are among the timidest and obsequious in the world.

Buhari nonetheless hit back at his timid critics two days after the gruesome beheading by saying his naysayers were not patriotic.  By his lights, those criticizing “isolated cases of insecurity in the country were not patriotic Nigerians,” according to the respected Vanguard News. By his lights, Nigeria is just one of many countries in the world coping with banditry and kidnapping.

And that might be true, except that I helped the living witnesses to genocide tell their grim story to Congress and to reporters and broadcasters for the month of June. From Washington to Dallas I took notes as Rebecca Sharibu, Gloria Puldu, Alheri Magaji, Mercy  Maisamari, and Napoleon Adamu told of witnessing massacres on a hellish scale.  Dubbed the “truth squad,” the five went home at the end of June taking their nightmare with them.

The only problem is, once you have heard these stories, you do not forget. You can choose to be silent just like most everybody else in the diaspora, but more and more you think, “Silence isn’t golden” for the good folks in harm’s way back home.

“If you cannot tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell the truth about other people,”  the fearless Virginia Woolf taught us.  Thank God Nigeria produced some great truth-tellers. Yes, there are truth-tellers, and that is maybe a sign of a political awakening in my beloved country. But my beloved country has a problem with telling the truth about itself. It is a good country. Very good. So good, it should be better.

Magnafaith Krimi, Nigerian Diaspora, is a Nigerian-born independent writer based in the Washington area who writes on culture, women’s issues, and authentic leadership in Africa.