1 year
Can Our Lives Matter Too Please?
By Odera N. Okakpu
I have always admired the Wests sense of togetherness on issues. Through hashtags, words and symbolic signs of solidarity. I have always wondered about the image of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of the west. Since moving back to America this year I have been intrigued at the recognition I have gotten for being Nigerian American, the astonishing number of Nigerian bred celebrities making it big here and the infusion of Nigerian culture and characters in shows on TV.

In April 2014, 234 girls were kidnapped from a tiny, dusty village in North Eastern Nigeria. For days, the then president refused to comment on the “alleged” attack, based on information reaching him through advisors that the reports were fake. Until celebrities, and even the former FLOTUS began to make demands via the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. We watched from Nigeria as foreigners cried, it could have been our daughters, meanwhile those just 2000 kilometers away still debated on whether it was a political conspiracy or not. Some would say President Jonathans reaction or lack thereof to this gross tragedy cost him his re-election. I always wondered what impression the West had of us during that time and it meant a lot to me that the world could mourn a loss and take a stand with us.

            Since then President Buhari has been elected on the premise he was the change we sought after for the advancement of our nation. The same year Boko Haram rose to take the title of deadliest terror group, Nigeria’s president promised to put an end to the killings. Ironically new terror groups have sprung. The deadliest so far being the Fulani herdsmen. The killings perpetuated by them this year alone has them threatening to take over as deadliest terror group in this region over Boko Haram and even al Shabaab. More terror groups and militias have risen up down south as well. And the President has promised to deal with them all. Most recently over 800 people were slaughtered in Southern Kaduna, and it took a while for the President to speak up.

The agony I have gone through as a Nigerian has been deep, but as an American also, seeing the way citizens, black, white and blue came together to support the Black Lives Movement and even the Women’s March stirred something in me. Asides for the actual tragedies Nigeria suffers at the hands of terrorists, there is an even greater tragedy and inhumanity the average Nigerian must endure and that is unreliable leaders. Our politician’s refuse to comment on sensitive topics, go around handling matters like dictators. We have politicians that steal money meant to help us as a developing nation, use that money to build houses in Dubai, UK and the US, all while the masses grovel. We have senate members that behave like pure animals and barely legislate the way they are meant.

            The government sent military assistance to Gambia urgently. The president took a vacation just after the army at home dropped a bomb on civilians. Everyday Nigerians are weighed down more and more by the burden of hardship. The indignation at starting up the program to pay 1 million Nigerians 5000 Naira is like turning a blind eye to the fact that 5000 naira no longer holds the value it once did.  It is almost becoming blatant that we are expected to fend for ourselves. So much is being said about the issues plaguing the country but we fail to see more action taken to prove to the common man, that even if he doesn’t get 5000 Naira a month from his government, his life matters too.

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Scripted by Velkro