Thank You Malala But We’ll Take It From Here By Usman Shamaki
Before I dive into what is undoubtedly going to be a tirade, I would like to tender my sincere and unreserved apologies to Malala Yousafzai as well as those who hold her in high esteem for any perceived slight on theirs and their heroine’s sensitivities for the things I’m about to say. Believe me, I’m one of those who has a tremendous amount of respect for Miss. Yousufzai. If my daughter turns out to be half as courageous as she is, then my quest for joy and pride as a father would have been successful. My tirade is not against her personally but against the attitude of our government and some Nigerians for the way we treat one another with disdain, and then suddenly become well mannered model citizens when foreigners are involved. My grouse is with the extreme and unbridled hypocrisy our government shamelessly flaunts when foreign activists show up or show concern for our problems while harassing our own activists for showing concern over the same issues.
Since the Chibok abduction, a lot of amazing and well meaning Nigerians have put their personal lives on hold and have selflessly worked day and night braving the heat and the cold, sitting through the sun and the rain everyday proclaiming in unison and with absolute conviction words that will forever echo in the hallowed halls of our nation’s history: Bring Back Our Girls.
This is a simple demand that has in no way meant any insult or disrespect to the government. However, considering the lackluster attitude the government has shown and has continued to show, the BBOG campaign has become a stern ticking off which the government rightly deserves.
The message proclaimed by these individuals has been done in a coordinated and peaceful manner with daily sit-outs being conducted at the Unity Fountain in Abuja. Based on any standard in any country in the world, this is regarded as an acceptable form of conducting a peaceful protest or expressing a grievance in a democratic society. However, considering the fact that our government’s definition of a democratically accepted means of conducting a peaceful protest differs sharply with the dictates of common sense and democracy, these law abiding individuals have been harassed and vilified from day one with various nefarious motives being ascribed to the #Bringbackourgirls campaign.
Various spokespersons from the Presidency and other agencies of the government have labeled the BBOG group as a political movement being funded and supported by the opposition to politicise the abduction, a movement of disgruntled politicians aiming to ridicule the government and recently, a franchise. The critics have even gone far as calling them psychological terrorists (whatever that means). Last but not least is my personal favorite, they’ve been described as a security risk by the Police Headquarters which led to their daily sitouts being temporarily banned. Security risk you say, as if the horde of car jackers that have invaded the FCT were providing a well needed public service.
Aside from these cheap shots aimed at quelling the BBOG campaign, the government has resorted to other despicable attempts such as employing the use of pro government protesters and rented thugs to break the spirits of the group. Despite all this, the group stands stronger than ever undaunted in their noble task. The president has on several occasions refused to meet with anyone associated with the BBOG campaign, until now.
Malala Yousafzai arrived Nigeria on the 13th of July, 2014 in a show of solidarity and support for the BBOG campaign and suddenly, the government and its cohorts rolled out the red carpet, stood in line and were acting all prim and proper like good elementary school kids ready to receive her with smiles plastered across their faces. It is interesting to note that some of the fiercest critics of the BBOG campaign were literally falling over themselves for a photo op with Miss. Yousafzai. I was amazed at how quickly their countenance changed from one of criticism and disregard for the BBOG campaign to concern and support in an instant. It was both shameful and surprising. Wasn’t it “bully the protesters” season not long ago? Come on! If you’re going to harass your fellow countrymen for daring to conduct peaceful protests and sitouts, the least you could do is to follow through and do the same with a foreign activist. Why stop now? Keep going, you’re on a roll here!
This kind of attitude isn’t just limited to the government. Even regular individuals act the same way. They treat their fellow countrymen with disdain and disrespect then suddenly become courteous and humane when dealing with foreigners. This is the worst form of discrimination in my opinion as the discrimination is directed against individuals with whom you share a common nationality and history. It’s almost as if we despise each other for being Nigerians.
As glad as I am that Miss. Yousafzai took time off her busy schedule to visit Nigeria and as privileged as I am to have been alive to witness such a visit, I am at odds with her visit because I feel it re-enforces the belief by our government that we as a people are incapable of demanding for the change we deserve by way of activism and peaceful protests, that our government cannot and does not have to do what is right, even when advised by the elders in society until prompted by a 17year old.
This part right here is what gets to me. What kind of leader carries on campaigning and rallying without even a thought of visiting the parents of the abducted children to sympathize with them?! I am African and Nigerian by birth just like our President. Growing up I was taught that the pain of my neighbour is my pain as well. When a calamity befalls a neighbour you don’t just shrug it off and leave for work. You go over and you bear his pains with him. I do not in any way consider his meeting with the parents after a hundred days something to be applauded. It’s downright shameful.
The reality remains that the key to the salvation from our subjugation is in our hands. We can’t place reliance on foreign activists to get what we want. The government needs to realise that our activists should be given just as much recognition and rights as foreign activists. They can’t throw our activists aside and turn around and grant foreign activists the very same requests we’ve been clamouring for after a whole three months!
Miss. Yousafzai, we are eternally grateful for the time and effort you took to visit and stand with us in solidarity. Words are not enough to express how much your visit means to us all, especially the Chibok parents. We realise you have your own battles to fight in ensuring girls in your home country get an education. Thank you so much for the visit but we’ll take it from here. We got this.
As for government and its rented thugs who deem it fit to stifle the voices of reason who are demanding for the return of our daughters and sisters, who receive paltry sums and further subjugate themselves to tattered penury, I say this: You can label us psychological terrorists, you can describe us as security risks, you can call us a franchise but you can’t drown out the truth. We will stand strong and proclaim loudly everyday for as long as it takes Bring Back Our Girls!
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