The people of Taraba state may have elected a female governor this weekend. Still waiting to see if INEC ratifies the elections but I’ll jump the gun anyways and say congratulations to Governor- Elect Hajia Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan. The Nigerian blogs are on fire because many Nigerians are excited to finally have an elected female governor? For those who don’t know, Taraba state is in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, bordered by Plateau and Benue State on the West and on the east by Cameroon. Taraba state is also one of the states where Boko Haram has been active. It is fitting that the people of Taraba state by electing a female governor gave an electoral middle-finger to and shut up Boko Haram as well as those who through their stereotypes and ignorance minimize the roles of women. Potential governor-elect Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan is not a political novice riding the coat-tails of a father or a husband, she is a former senator and a lawyer. She has a history of reaching across religious lines which is important in Nigeria.
Some Nigerian men have been posting stupid nonsense about “tokenism.” Curiously, many of these men are from the southern part of Nigeria and likely do not know anything about potential Governor-elect Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan or Taraba state. They do not understand how the people of Taraba state could potentially elect the most qualified candidate. In their evaluation a woman could never be the most qualified candidate. These good educated men continue to create barriers for women in Nigeria hiding behind their words and spewing misinformation, and sexism. But this is a time for celebration and there is work to be done. The people of Taraba state spoke out loud and clearly. Even if the INEC ratified data shows that she lost, Taraba state still won as a woman competed fairly. Congratulations to them. Hopefully the rest of the nation can catch up soon.
I must confess that I am a forgiving person. Being born in Nigeria, I was taught to forgive people as soon as they apologized. If they prostrated themselves and said “e pele” and “e ma bi nu”, it was quite criminal not to forgive. Ironically it seems that forgiveness in the Nigerian collective is inversely proportional to the crime. A petty thief is easy dispatched by a mob for stealing a phone or recharge card. A government banker who steals millions from pension funds is, our son, the future senator, worthy of protection at any cost. An election is not seen as an opportunity to reward or punish a corrupt official, but as a chance to ride in private jets and collect ‘free’ bags of rice, chicken, shoes, or recharge cards. People mortgage their futures for petty gifts. People love to pray for change but will those with valid PVCs please raise their hands? Elections offer the opportunity to kick out officials who fail to deliver and replace them with someone else. That’s the main power of any democracy. If elected officials know that there is no consequence to their incompetence and neglect what incentive do they have to do better?
So here I am sitting through another talk listening to studies about tropical diseases good science from all the world including some impressive science from the continent. I will not say much about the scientists but let’s get to the funders. It is interesting that in almost every nation from small islands to big subcontinents, rich people set up institutes and foundations to do good research. Conspicuously absent from the list of donors are billionaires from the country with a third of most of the NTDs. I would like to say, put your $$ forward, but I guess to each their own.
There are videos circulating the internet showing Chadian soldiers and Nigeria soldiers with (suspected / captured) Boko Haram fighters, I refuse to watch these videos but I have Facebook friends who have posted before and after screenshots and the pictures are brutal. Killing combatants during a fire-fight is one thing, but going out of your way to brutally torture and kill a captured enemy is extrajudicial murder. Yes Boko Haram is brutal and they have killed over 13,000 in just Nigeria alone. Yes many of these Boko Haram extremists are willing to die for their cause as evidence from their affinity for suicide bombings and missions. But I refuse to celebrate the torture or death of another human not even a suspected Boko Haram warrior. More baffling to me is that some of these Boko Haram warriors look like children who should be in school not actively involved in killing or getting killed. An unanswered question remains how do we stop this cycle of violence of misguided / ignorant / fanatic / militarized / extremist fighters? Our tears are not yet dry from mourning the dead at the hands of Boko Haram. The Chibok girls are still missing so we continue to chant #bringbackourgirls. Boko Haram continues to kill and fight a brutal war against innocent villagers and the numbers of the internally displaced and refugees continues to grow. Boko Haram has to be stopped and it is a brutal war, but in the quest to stop Boko Haram the soldiers should not become worse than them. I fear that based on these videos than it may be too late for some of the soldiers.
Look away and wash your hands after all you are not guilty of any action, just apathy and silence. So what can we do to stop the injustice. 1) Get rid of leaders who have no empathy especially those that dance when kids are being murdered under their watch. 2) Admit that each life matters not just your family or tribe but each child needs to be cherished and protected. 3) Next time an idiot blames a victim of genocide bitch-slap the idiot with some knowledge especially if the idiot is your religious or political leader. 4) Raise your voice in unison with others that give a damn, mobilize for action and shout “enough is enough”. 5) Learn from the past, say and mean it “not on my watch”. 6) Use your time, talent and or treasure to seek change 7) Genocide is not acceptable , not in Nigeria, not in Uganda, not in Central African Republic, not anywhere in Africa and definitely not anywhere. 8) Otherwise look away and wash your hands but please remember to shut up with your bogus conspiracy theories.
No one cries for me, my short life not even worthy of a hashtag or footnote as leaders and future leaders rally for electoral votes. I am not Charlie, just a nameless faceless child burned to a crisp and left like trash in the charred remains of my town. No one cries for me, not even the mother who took time to wash my hair and plait it in perfect rows, her burned body lies besides the hundreds of relatives friends and enemies equal in agony and death. No one cries for me, no one cries for us, we remain faceless roasted flesh, unholy sacrifices on the altar of Boko Haram. Cry for me and Baga Nigeria. Raise dirges and ululate for the children kidnapped (or sold) and strapped with bombs, unwilling messengers of death. Look at my body as you pray and do something, say something, change something. Was my life in vain?