By Duno Kogbara
MONICA, a Nigerian lady who doesn’t provide her surname and simply describes herself as “a concerned citizen”, has made a video that someone sent me via WhatsApp. I hope it goes viral on the internet.
Monica’s message is uncomplicated and succinct: She wonders why so many Nigerians are passionately supporting the foreign Black Lives Matter, BLM, movement – a reaction to the brutality that evil White police officers inflict on African-Americans – and studiously ignoring police/military brutality on their home turf.
Monica is asking a very good question.
Nigerians in the Diaspora are angrily and sorrowfully carrying placards, alongside anti-racism campaigners of all hues, to protest the murder in broad daylight of George Floyd, a Black resident of Minnesota who was choked to death by a psychotic White cop.
Nigerians in Nigeria are also vociferously expressing outrage. And I totally understand anyone who is taking a stand on this matter.
The terrible footage of Floyd’s very public homicide has been watched over and over and over again on millions of TV, phone, computer and tablet screens across the globe; and I think it is safe to say that those who have seen the footage will never forget it.
Poor George Floyd went to meet his Maker on May 25, my son’s birthday; so my family will always especially remember him.
But I’m with Monica 100 per cent when she says that Nigerians who are mourning Floyd should display at least as much concern for unarmed compatriots who have been killed by our law enforcement personnel.
America, she points out, will solve its police violence problems eventually. But who will solve Nigeria’s police/army violence problems if we don’t wake up and refuse to calmly accept the unacceptable?
According to Monica: “Everyday, a Nigerian man, woman or child is molested, assaulted, tortured or killed.” And the same people who are seeking justice for George Floyd are remaining silent about human rights abuses in their own backyard.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, 1766 people have been killed by security forces in the past year alone.
Monica quite rightly asks why there are no significant protests about these deaths or about the 18 Nigerians who were killed by security personnel during the first two weeks of the COVID-19 lock-down.
Bluntly put, it is somewhat hypocritical to be a BLM warrior who is bothered about what is happening on the other side of the world if you are not equally – or more! – bothered about what is happening in Katsina or Enugu or Port Harcourt or Lagos or Makurdi or wherever.
Monica names a few victims: Solomon Eze, Chibueze Okameme,Tina Ezekwe (who was only 17 years old) and Chima Ikwunado. Then she urges us to try to make a difference and make Nigeria safer for all.
I salute her for drawing our attention to our negligence…and urging us to try to make a difference on our ancestral terrain.
OK, so why are Nigerians so allergic to protesting in Nigeria?
I suppose the answer to this question is obvious: It is safer to make noise about grievances in relatively civilized countries!
America and other Western nations are undoubtedly deeply flawed; and modern day Whites should be thoroughly ashamed of the way their greedy slave-trading, colony-grabbing ancestors carried on.
But the big boys and girls who run the Western world are a lot more democratic and respectful of the rule of law than the big boys and girls who run the show in our own dear native land.
Here, you can be wasted by a vicious, trigger-happy government guy with a gun and nothing will happen. There, you can also be wasted by a vicious, trigger-happy government guy with a gun, but something bad is likely to happen to the perpetrator in today’s Oyinbo climate.
Long story short: Cold-blooded assassinations by soldiers and police officers happen much more often here. And when cold-blooded assassinations do happen there, all hell breaks loose; and the authorities are forced to listen and at least pay lip service to change. And, hell, sometimes they actually deliver change!!!
Nigerians don’t take to the streets to shout about stuff like security personnel infractions because protests go nowhere here.
I blame those who are supposed to protect the general public, but are too busy throwing their hands up in despair or cynically taking care of themselves:
I blame my own profession for not being sufficiently radical. Nigerian journalists (this columnist included) are always befriending and kowtowing to politicians they should be criticising or exposing.
I also blame the judiciary. Nigerian judges are, to put it mildly, a huge disappointment. I’m sure some of them possess integrity, but too many judges are largely interested in lining their pockets by entering into nefarious pacts with wealthy wrongdoers.
Last but not least on this list of those who are not adequately playing their roles as societal custodians are legislators:
Again, let’s not issue a blanket condemnation. Let’s accept that there must be National Assembly and state houses of assembly members who have a sense of shame and duty. But let’s also cut the crap and face the fact that too many “Honourables” and “Distinguisheds” are famed for focusing almost exclusively on financial benefits.
When you cannot rely on any institution to provide a protective safety net, protesting becomes a very risky enterprise indeed.