February 19, 2018

Boko Haram, bombs and backpacks by Viola Okolie

Boko Haram, bombs and backpacks by Viola Okolie

Sometimes, you try to force yourself into a happy mood but situations rush at you and threaten to overwhelm you.

Nigeria depresses one sometimes. You try and try to find a reason to stay cheerful, a reason to laugh, a reason to keep on keeping on, but situation and events just keep piling up on each other and melancholy wraps its arms around you like a familiar blanket, tightening its embrace until it threatens to squeeze life itself out of you with the very cloying familiarity of it.

Take Monday the 10th of November for instance, a day that had started like any other but just before we had a chance to step out the door, the day took a sharp nosedive with the news of another bomb going off,  in a school this time, while the students were at assembly, waiting for the Principal to make some address or the other.

I listened to the rather emotionless tone of the OAP as she reeled out the events: students gather, assembly almost over, bomb goes off, survivors scatter in various directions, the smoke clears, bits and pieces of human beings who a few seconds earlier, had no inkling their remains would be strewn over a wide radius… and then she added, footwear left behind in the confusion, and I laughed.

It was a mirthless laughter though. It was one imagining why that little bit of useless information was necessary in the reportage of an event that would devastate so many. Parents who had waved their young children off to school, perhaps hurried them to round off their meals and chores…

Do not forget your homework, 

ensure you give the bursar the money I gave you and explain that the balance of your fees would be paid afterwards,

come straight home from school today and help me prepare for tomorrow’s business,

hold your brother’s hand while crossing the road,

make sure you do not fight at school today,

try not to dirty your clothes so we do not wash them again until midweek…

And suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I was forced to associate Yobe and the death of 48 innocent children and the injuring of 79 others, with shoes and bathroom slippers abandoned by those who were in a hurry to die? Or a hurry to escape death? And for those who survived,  there would be massive “thanksgiving”.

“Thank God I survived, God delivered me from the blast”. And what of the ones who were not so fortunate? Did God forsake them? Or did He suddenly decide they were less important, less instrumental to His purpose on earth than those who did? Or perhaps in some form of twisted logic like the one I heard while expressing my frustration at the news of the death of Dr. Myles Munroe, the Christian motivational speaker alongside his wife, daughter and 6 associates; these ones had to die because they were saints on earth and were needed to perform some sort of function in God’s end-time army?

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I am at a loss. Perhaps a bit frustrated to think that while the insurgent rats engage in their favorite pastime of detonating bombs in areas where unsuspecting Nigerians are going about their daily routine – places like banks, churches, markets and schools – they are indeed working in tandem with God to build up an end-time army. Twisted and convoluted logic.

It is frustrating I tell you.

I have described myself in recent times as a Christian Skeptic. I know what I believe in, but I find that there is a lot of white noise standing between myself and that belief. I had long attributed that to my disgust with our modern day preachers in their flashy suits and worldly accoutrements,  who encourage you to eschew a modest life and give ALL you have as cheerfully as you can, even if that would be the ruin of you; who would look the other way while their congregation steals, kills and destroys in other to participate in the world olympics of giving bountifully and cheerfully. Who would ride in flashy cars and jets and live luxurious lives while their congregations languish in poverty while hoping to inhabit golden mansions above.

But I find that frustration turned inwards these days – at myself and all religious Nigerians, who would moan and cry at a perceived injustice and yet, leave it for God. Who would keep quiet and condone atrocities, afraid to speak and offend God. Who would bottle up confusions and questions and mouth platitudes – empty words that sometimes hurt more than they comfort and yet, we bear them with all equanimity. Afraid to ask questions and anger God. Well, He did ask me to come and reason with Him in the bible.

So Baba God, consider this say na me, your wayward pikin dey come reason with you. Baba God, why do these terrorists achieve their aims and leave individuals, families, homes and the nation devastated? Where is the God of Elisha? Can you send down that fire now? Where is the God that parted the Red Sea? Can you send down rushing waves to drown out the Haram-ites? Revealer of Secrets – reveal to us who is behind these bombings, expose such an individual and bring him or her to swift justice.

The might you gave to David to slay Goliath with a pebble, can you extend it to the Nigerian troops? The ones who are armed with dinner forks to face insurgents armed with real live angels of death? Can we march around Sambisa 7 times and get it to fall down flat? Too many questions, too few answers….

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I am sorry today, I would not look at this from the perspective of the partisans who either accuse the opposition of detonating bombs in order to destabilise the present administration, or who suddenly begin to bleat after every bomb blast – The President should cancel his rally,  not commission the new stadium, cancel his declaration, pick up a gun and go kill an insurgent himself, end Boko Haram now, no not now – that would be genocide, etc…. The second set irritates me the more because their clamour thinly masks the fact that the timing of these bombs are too coincidental for comfort, extremely so. Matter of fact, I have suggested that if the opposition party would stand back and listen to the noise they make about Boko Haram and their exploits, they would realise how indicting of them it sounds, and just please “shut up for Africa”!

No, today my heart bleeds for the victims. Not just the ones who have passed on, but also you and I. These bombs do not discriminate. They find their targets and strike with deadly precision. The ones who die are barely the victims, like we like to tell ourselves, they have gone to a better place. The real victims are you and I, still bickering over politicians,  trying hard to make every bomb blast an issue to score cheap political points with while ignoring the agonies faced by the bereaved, survivors, victims and walking wounded; mouthing empty platitudes and making it seem like God (and not the bleeding insurgents) is to blame for the deaths, mocking our troops when they turn tail and run in the presence of superior fire power, typing insults into our gadgets yet ignoring calls and entreaties to enlist or volunteer with the military and get to engage with a real life insurgent.

We do all these forgetting that Boko Haram and their bombs are like Lagos Lotto – E fit be you o!

Tenkiu.

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