Ebuka Obi-Uchendu: Are Nigerians heartless or just tired? (YNaija Frontpage)

I had always been worried that we were losing our moral fiber and were starting to grow insensitive to the rising terror in our midst. We just need to realize that being tired of complaining is no longer an option.

On Easter Sunday, I was on the phone with a distant cousin.  We wanted to attend The AY Show as most people in Lagos had also planned to. It was a holiday after all and better still, the next day was work free. He had wanted to find out if I had extra tickets to the show so he could bring his wife along. Somewhere during our talk about me coming over for Sunday rice and leaving for the show from his house, I mentioned the bomb blasts that had just occurred in Kaduna. My cousin goes; “Eyaah. How many die for there?” I replied; “I think over 20 sha. We never still sure.” Then he said; “Na wa o! When this thing go end? Anyway shey you still dey show my side, so that I go know whether to put drinks for fridge.” I answered; “I never sure but I go call you before I come.”

After I dropped the phone, it hit me. My cousin and I had just talked about a shocking and very disturbing (less than 4 hours old) incident in my country, and the talk didn’t go beyond a 30 second cliché show of sympathy before we moved on to the ‘more important’ rice and chicken talk. That is what Nigeria and Nigerians have become.

At that point I needed to be sure that this was a rare occasion with my cousin and me. I needed to know that a majority of Nigerians actually were more sensitive to the issue than we had just displayed in that phone conversation. I couldn’t do a ‘vox pop’ on the streets instantly so I went on social media to get a feel of what Nigerians were saying and doing. I did catch a few people talking about the unfortunate blasts (which were strangely predicted by the US Embassy while issuing travel warnings to their citizens, yet nothing was done to prevent it. But that’s talk for another day). But the day was mostly dominated by conversation about the title race in the English Premier League and how it suddenly seemed like Manchester United would take it all. There was also a lot of talk about the fact that D’banj had officially changed his name to Daniel Banjo. The Kaduna talk rarely came up.

Radio, another good medium for getting an idea of what people are thinking at any given time, was not any different. Besides the mention of the deaths on the headline news, it seemed like just any other day, with music being played and listeners calling in to talk Easter and everything around it.

I had always been worried that we were losing our moral fiber and were starting to grow insensitive to the rising terror in our midst. The signs had always been there but for some reason; this just seemed like it had happened too fast and gone too far. The one question I keep asking but can’t seem to find an acceptable answer to is; “How did we get here?”

We as Nigerians have always known that one of our biggest problems is a lack of persistence when pushing for a cause. We are used to saying “God dey” and moving on, somehow hoping that things would sort themselves out magically. Interestingly, we are very aware that we love to complain without acting, so much so that we even complain about the fact that all we do is complain. So without a doubt, we actually know what our problem is. Why then is it so hard to tackle? What will it take for us to actually believe in something and pursue it, or not believe in something and make sure it is quashed?

The events of 8 April, 2012 in Kaduna were very sad for me. But what was even worse came from the general public. The momentary feeling of shock, then disgust, followed by sympathy for the victims and then anger at the terrorists and government, has become the routine. It lasts a few minutes or hours at the most and then we are back to normal. That is exactly why we are where we are. The ease, with which we resign to fate and conclude that we are helpless, is exactly why more will continue to die amongst us.

Life is the ultimate asset any human has. The fact that it is being taken away with all of us Nigerians just sitting by and watching is a shame on all of us. I don’t expect us to grind our activities to a complete halt but we definitely can do better than we are at the moment. We need to shed the belief that ‘what doesn’t directly affect me doesn’t concern me’. We need to show signs that we want to be better because right now, we are not. Nobody can force you to grieve. Neither can anyone make you move to Kaduna and carry placards. But the fact remains that what we are doing now, isn’t our best. We need to regain a hold of our moral fiber before the decay is complete. I don’t believe we are heartless as a people. We just need to realize that being tired of complaining is no longer an option.

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (13)

  1. It's not Nigerian. It's human. Possibly evolutionary. Humans react with strong interest to new or different circumstances (useful in keeping us alive). But repeat incidents or continued exposure leads to a sort of "zoning out" or "numbness" as the abnormal becomes the new normal. Common example is exposure to say a horrid smell or even your own perfume – give it time and it fades into the background but newcomers will react, often to your puzzlement. We are this way to allow us to continue functioning even under adverse conditions. This applies to the physical but has emotional parallels. Equivalents such as moving on, internalising,zoning out, etc.

    Then there's the "in-built selfishness" that makes us not so concerned with incidents far field – think about it, there's only so much you can do at any time that there is a tendency to focus on near and present dangers, or pleasures.

    What I'm trying to say is, there is a conscious need to bring yourself to care. To think about the impact of things happening to other people in other places that might not necessarily concern you now. Unfortunately most people are too busy trying to get through each day to bother with more than the perfunctory "ey yah" reactions. They are not necessarily heartless. Just human.

  2. Do we REALLY know what needs to be done? And how willing are we to do what needs to be done? How much faith do we have that we can make a difference,individually and/or collectively? Yes, it is true that we are blase about the state of affairs, but how can we as you said,"…regain a hold of our moral fiber before the decay is complete"?

    We can't. We can not because there is no decaying moral fiber. You can not lose what you never had. We've had growth without development and now, all the cracks in the foundation are showing up, threatening to destroy us. We don't think right, feel right or act right and honestly, we never did. How on earth do we expect things to go right?

    I'm not trying to be pessimistic,just honest. As long as we shy away from the truth because it's difficult to accept, things will continue to get worse and we will learn to tolerate more evil. We do not think beyond a comfortable level, we do not strive to be better individuals (and I'm not talking about bettering our socio-economic lots), we accept mediocrity in every area and we expect things to just fall into place? The white man can and will only do so much for us. We have to start using our brains in the little things. We have to start checking our true motives, examining ourselves and facing up to the fact that we ARE heartless, dishonest, cowardly and lazy (Yes, including me!). That's where it begins. It's painful to accept these nasty truths but there's hope.

    At the very least,we can then begin to change and develop a moral fiber indeed. Otherwise, all efforts towards finding a solution to our "value crisis" (for lack of a better expression at the moment) can be likened to giving a falling building a fresh coat of paint.

    P.s. Mr Obi-Uchendu, did you leave me some rice and chicken?

  3. We're not heartless. When the bombings started, we were all glued to our TV sets in disbelief…. And then it happened again and again and again… Casualties are just mere numbers now, some don't even make the news anymore. I would say that we are NUMB but not heartless.

    Our govt can do nothin, even BH instructed the FG not to celebrate independence day @ eagle square last year and they obeyed.

    It is now a case of every man for himself. Yorubas say 'eni to kan l'omo' meaning its only the people involved in the matter that know the pain. As long as our loved ones are safe, all we can say is 'eeya'and 'o ma se o'

  4. Ebuka thank you for this piece. Our attitude to this evil seeking to destroy our country is too perfunctory, had it emanated from the leadership we probably would have shrugged it off but coming from the citizens themselves it is a highly worrisome & dangerous trend. May God help us.

  5. @Rosanwo Why the epistle? Nawa for u oh. Ah! Ah!! U for just kukuma publish ur own article abi book nah.

  6. Ebuka has just spoken my mind with this article, we seem to have adjusted to the whole bombings. Its like waiting for the next one to go off and we can get going with our lives.

    Before the commentators all go out for Mayowa, I would want them to take a deep breath to reflect on what he has said. The truth is that a lot of people in the South dont care about who kills who in the North as long as their relatives are safe. I recall when the BH leader was killed via police extra judicial killings. Some activists complained about the killing as being wrong but the majority in the South did not react.

    Have you ever wondered why the mainstream press which is largely domiciled in the South does not give adequate report of what goes on in the North? Do you wonder why a lot of people in the South think BH kills only Christians and people from the South? Once I tweeted about the number of attacks in the North which has resulted in the deaths of Christians and Muslims from the North, a lot of people from the South claimed to have never heard about such attacks and they found it hard to believe. When the killings in the North started in small pockets, a lot of people from the South did not react cos they were not affected as they claim.

    Sad as it may be, the reality is that a lot dont really care anymore, how did we get here? What do we need to do for a change? A lot of conversations go on in our backyards where people from the South openly express their displeasure about the killings in the North but end it up with statements like " well they are killing one another, what can I do"

    Why is there always a rage of outcry when churches are attacked, why dont we get the same expression when mosques are attacked or northerners are killed.

    Until we show same concern for every Nigerian killed regardless of their ethnic group or religion, sadly we will never be united.

    Mayowa has stated the obvious, its is a sad trend that we are towing this path. Let us not act like everyone really cares or else we may not be able to apply the right panacea to our challenges.

    How do you even expect people who have lost faith in the system compounded with their economic depression to be really concerned about other people. The same could have applied to the people from the North if we had a reversal role, human beings for who they are, will never be perfect.

    Do we truly have a national identity or we are forced to accept what we have because any alternative thought may not be in the interest of the ruling elites?

    1. Do we truly have a national identity or we are forced to accept what we have because any alternative thought may not be in the interest of the ruling elites?

      Rosanwo, thank you for that question!

  7. First and foremost I think the end part of Mayowa's comment is ridiculously shallow and myopic. Nigeria is more than a "space". Whatever is done in the north affects human beings first before they are northerners or southerners. It's this type of nonchalance and poor grip on socio-political issues that the "author is speaking about in the first place.

    We haven't become heartless as people – at least I don't think so. What has happened is that these things happen too frequently and to always focus on them would leave one disillusioned and bereft of hope; not to mention being afraid. That's what it is "Perhaps if I don't focus on it, it'll go away." Type thought.

  8. it's a dangerous trend. Adaptability of humans. It's a defence mechanism. To answer your question we (at least most of us) are not heartless. We are doing this to remain sane. It shouldn't come to this anyway.

  9. Its unfortunate really, I'll say Nigerians are tired! Tired of a government that has failed to provide the most basic neccesity- security, a government that has very little regards for the lives of its citizens. It's a case of every man/woman for himself and as long as your relatives/friends are not involved, people have simply stopped caring..

  10. It is saddening the way and manner most Nigerians attend to issues that ordinarily should cause for grief and sober reflection. The BH tin unfortunately has become one dat 'we are used to', nevertheless, we ought to give it serious attention. When it first started, it got lots of prominence, but now ….. Like ur cousin said, God dey!

  11. I was actually contemplating whether or not to comment on this article until the end. As someone who is from Maiduguri, the epicenter of Boko Haram’s activities, I’ve numerously encountered such. I’m guilty of such too. It is when you lose someone u know that the tragedy becomes personal.
    Nonetheless, the comment by Mayowa about the infestation not coming to the South is myopic and stupid. In case Mayowa doesn’t know, whatever happens in one corner of Nigeria is felt by all. Upgrade your thinking

  12. The belief "God Dey" will always stck with us no matter where we are. I wouldn't blame your cousin almost every Nigerian is bothered about his or her space. Whatever they do to themselves in the north, the "infestation" should nt contanminate the south(pun)!

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