The past few have seen an escalation in the tragic onslaught on non combatants in the North Eastern corner of Nigeria. In its violent campaign against soft targets, insurgents have continued to unleash a portent mix of blood, tears and gore in their wake. The numbers of the casualties are mind boggling; it leaves one befuddled that these are not logs of wood that are being announced as such but human beings with life, family, invested emotions and filial connections. The communities of Bama, Izge, Madagari and Buni Yadi will never forget the month of February 2014.
The first sign of our national tragedy fatigue came to fore in the wake of the killing of the 59 students at FGC Buni Yadi, it was the same week that Nigeria was celebrating the centenary, the President’s media chat and his subsequent address to the nation largely bothered on other sundry issues and not the tragedy that had befallen whole communities and families in the North East corner.
These national tragedies have become so common that people hardly get outraged at the numbers, they just move on. Perhaps `Nigeria is the only country in the world where children will die and the nation will carry on as if nothing happened, at least we are witnesses to the global reactions when similar tragedies happened in places like Columbine in the state of Colarado and Utoya in Norway.
If we can’t mourn the dead because we have become indifferent to scores dying, then we should spare more than a thought to the survivors –orphans and widows who are in search of basics like clothing, food and rebuilding their communities.
The people of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa need help with supplies; their state governments and NEMA are overwhelmed by the humanitarian crisis that has evolved. Once more we have outsourced our sympathy and humanitarian intervention in the face of the crisis, scores of Nigerians have crossed the border in Niger Republic where they have taken refuge in temporary camps. The Nigerien authorities had announced that there are no plans to expand the facility; this they explained was to discourage more people from coming into the camps beyond the capacity of what the country can handle.
It has become imperative that Nigerians must rise above ethno-religious sentiments in the ongoing slaughter of fellow citizens; we must begin to see beyond the nose of our petty biases, to see our collective humanity and understand that it could have been any of us, or any of our family members or friends. Largely for some it is a case of Northerners, killing Northerners and as such the crisis shouldn’t elicit any empathy or sympathy from them. What should be tantamount in the minds of all is our collective humanity. At the end of the day, that is what we share. We shouldn’t wait for the carnage caused by the insurgents to affect our ethnic group or members of our faith before we show our indignation to such tragedies.
If the Nigerian state fails to show empathy to the dead, we as citizens must rise up and bring succor to the survivors and mourn the dead. The trend of this tragedy fatigue must be curtailed or else if these continue, our humanity will degenerate to a state never before envisaged since the Rwandan genocide. Martin Niemoller’s famous poem First they came is lesson to those of us that have neither risen our voice nor shown any empathy, should remember we are not special nor have protection from any super powers, we all leave under the same skies. We should be outraged today for we do not know what tomorrow holds. To paraphrase Niemoller’s poem when they came for them I did speak out, when they came for me there was no one left to speak for me. In the end no matter what happens we must not get used to these deaths; we must continue to find ways to solve this season of funerals before it consumes us all.
Alkasim Abdulkadir is a multi-media journalist, he has worked as a Producer for BBC Media Action and as a news contributor for CNN, Aljazeera, France 24 and Guardian UK. He is Contributing Editor at The Trent.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.