Buni Yadi: One Year After the Massacre

By Usman Shamaki —

On February 25, 2014, 59 young boys were gruesomely murdered at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, Nigeria. During the attack, 24 buildings in the school were also burned down. The attack bore the usual marks of Boko Haram. No strict investigation followed. It was swept under the large carpet of convenience reserved for violent crimes since the start of the insurgency.

On that day, flags did not fly at half-mast; there was not a minute’s silence from the government as is customary. In fact, the most significant (for want of a better expression) recognition they got from the government or any of its functionaries was when the special adviser to the president on new media, Reno Omokri, was implicated in a scandal that erupted when he drafted an article under the pseudonym “Wendell Simlin”, in which he wrongly accused the former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, of having a hand in the massacre as a reprisal for his removal. But for the constant reminder of the #BringBackOurGirls group which flooded social media sites with news of the horrible crime, it may have just slipped into the repository of forgotten national tragedies.

For the grief-stricken parents of these children, how on earth can anyone look them in the eye and tell them to be patient with the tragedy that has befallen them, especially when the government, aside from its being derelict in its primary duty of securing the lives of these young boys, has literally added insult to injury by not according them the usual honor bestowed upon citizens of a country who lose their lives in such terrible circumstances? How do you tell them this shall pass? There are no words to describe how hurt and let-down the parents of those poor boys are and how disgusted they must feel at a government that has let them down.

At what point do they begin to be patient? Losing a child is bad enough but to be deemed not worthy of any words of kindness or recognition by your government would, no doubt, leave you scarred.

Yesterday, I furiously flipped through news channels on TV and news sites on the internet to see if there would be any reference to the anniversary of the massacre. I was disappointed. Knowing my country very well and the attitude towards the lives of those deemed too insignificant to matter, I felt angry and gullible at my expectation that there would be any reference to the tragedy or a memorial ceremony to honor the victims. The highest recognition and honor given to these boys was by the #BringBackOurGirls group members who held a special session where Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili and other members called their parents to offer words of support and sympathy. No word from the president or anyone else in government!

That is how low human life has sunk in Nigeria. For your life or indeed your death to matter, you must belong to a particular class of individuals. This fact was well proven when the vice president’s brother lost his life in a car crash. The weekly Federal Executive Council meeting was cancelled in his honor.

As for the Buni Yadi boys, there was no such recognition. Honestly, this level of disregard for the life of the common Nigerian is what makes me feel convinced sometimes that George Orwell might have been referring to Nigeria when he wrote Animal Farm, though he did not know it at the time.

In November 2013, the roof of the Zolitude Shopping Center in Latvia collapsed and resulted in the deaths of 54 people and injuries to 41 others. This led to the resignation of the Latvian prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis. Considering the remoteness of the cause or responsibility for the tragedy from the prime minister, Nigerians may be forgiven for thinking he was hasty in his decision to resign from office. Not so. His decision to resign is a portrayal of the importance responsible leaders place on the lives of their citizens. I wouldn’t expect the president to resign for the Buni Yadi massacre (as proper as that would have been) but at least some expression of remorse or sympathy would be much appreciated.

Earlier this month when the terrorist organization, the Islamic State, released a video in which a Jordanian air force pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, was burned to death, it prompted the King of Jordan to not only cut short his trip to the United States; King Abdullah, a trained pilot, led airstrikes against the Islamic State HIMSELF. That is true and inspiring leadership! Being there for your people when they need you the most, NOT detaching yourself from them during their times of need, and visiting them only when elections are around the corner.

We as citizens cannot be absolved of our collective callousness towards the plight of each other. If the leadership is insensitive towards the plight of the common man, should the common man be insensitive towards the plight of another in the same situation and social standing? Most people shrugged off the news of the massacre with the same level of complacency with which the Chibok abduction was greeted.

That is how polarized and desensitized we have become towards the suffering of our fellow countrymen. Before we sympathize, we first identify with the affected individuals on the basis of religion, ethnicity, language, dialect, locality, and, in some cases, political affiliations. Our ability to bond and grieve as one people has been decimated. We must realize that our shared identity as citizens of one country is the greatest engine of progress we can ever hope to have. Without this realization we’re no better than elementary school kids bickering over a seesaw in the playground.

To the parents of the slain young boys of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, others that have lost loved ones to this insanity, the families of our slain soldiers, no words are enough to convey sympathy for your loss. May God grant the souls of your dearly departed rest and may He ease your pain and bestow upon you the strength to bear the loss. The punishment of God comes slowly; it will be visited upon those that have caused you such pain in this world and the next.

To the various individuals, charities and humanitarian organizations working tirelessly to provide internally displaced people with much-needed relief materials, may you receive bountiful rewards for your selfless generosity and expression of compassion towards the plight of others.

To the #BringBackOurGirls group all over the world who remind us every day to honor our common humanity, we are grateful to you for speaking up for those whose voices have been suppressed.

Nigeria shall not fail! Nigeria shall not falter! Nigeria shall overcome this!

— Shamaki, a lawyer, writes from Kaduna.


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