Opinion: The Gaza we know lies within

by Ejike Alphonsus Kanife

Of course we understand that out of fear of both Boko Haram and the JTF, citizens in Maiduguri, Potiskum et al dare not be seen talking to the media, but what then is the use of the Internet if not for circumstances like this?

I’d have loved to say funny how the Gaza conflict in the middle east between Israel and Palestine suddenly shifted the focus of many Nigerians from the war front here to the one happening thousands of kilometres away, except that it is really not funny at all. I was in this very lively debate where a friend brought up this issue and I found out it is true, I myself was a victim.

Nigerians have knowingly or not, reasonably or not pitched their psychographic tents and placed their sympathies on one side of the conflict in Gaza or another. While some of my fellow debaters opined that it was so because of the freshness of the conflict there and the degree of inhumanity the Gazans are subjected to that made it a more interesting situation and that as soon as the conflict loses its novelty and becomes stale, focus will shift elsewhere (elsewhere where?), others argue that the Nigerian situation is one which we Nigerians if not the world have gotten used to, thus no need to waste further attention on it.

Whatever the opinions are, two facts remain; the conflict has indeed snatched our attention from the war at home which holds direr consequences for us to one several thousand kilometres away which would have little if any impact on us, and no matter how far away we turn our attention, the crises back home, the marauding situation here would still remain, still rampaging while waiting for us to come back from our psychographic journey. Yet, I won’t totally blame Nigerians for this shift in interest. I’d blame the mainstream media.

Some days ago, I was watching the Gaza story on CNN and Anderson Cooper was live from Gaza, ducking and darting furtive glances because right behind him, rockets were falling and thick clouds of smoke and debris billowed, just behind him. My friend who was watching with me was like “man, get out of there before these Israelis mistake you for Hamas or something and blow you to smithereens.” In my own mind I was thinking how many times have I watched Nigerian reporter reporting from in the thick of Boko Haram versus military Joint Task Force shoot outs?

We hear of some atrocities committed by the task force; they have been accused of attacking and shooting dead innocent citizens, sheiks and imams claiming they were members of Boko Haram in Maiduguri, they have been accused of conspiring with certain aggressors in Jos, etcetera. How many media, radio or TV or print have made an effort to determine the veracity of these claims? Apart from questioning the spokesperson of the JTF who would invariably acquit his men of any wrongdoing and even reaffirm their claims, how many media have gone the extra length to uncover evidences to support or dismiss such claims?

In the same vein, when I followed the Arab Spring at Al Jazeera online and recently this war in Gaza, I had a grasp of how these guys do their thing and I think the media in Nigeria could borrow a leaf here. The Al Jazeeras and CNNs usually open an online thread on their own websites as well as hashtags on twitter which allows for people in the places where the news is happening, where the bombs are dropping, where crimes against humanity are committed to give reports straight from the heat of action.

Of course we understand that out of fear of both Boko Haram and the JTF, citizens in Maiduguri, Potiskum et al dare not be seen talking to the media, but what then is the use of the Internet if not for circumstances like this? This would not only raise the likelihood of the truth behind several stories to be revealed but would also make for a more captivating experience for the audience who would first-hand information from people who are in the thick of things and thus would be very likely to understand fully their plight as well as provoke their sympathies and their voices.

The very few instances the social media came to the rescue like the Aluu 4 case, we saw how the video going viral elicited shock and outrage nationwide and how that led to the arrest of the perpetrators. Mob actions like that happen every time but go unnoticed but not that particular instance. Pardon me but our mainstream media in Nigeria don’t include this kind of simple devices on their retinue. The media in Nigeria are content with straight news and commentaries. Very few of them have functioning bureaux. Very few of them could source their own news and go the whole length in discovering the truth behind happenings through investigative reporting. It’s time our mainstream media started acting like they really understand that they owe us the truth and not just reporting what is new. If our own media can’t sustain the relevance of the crises at home, our people with our characteristic I-don’t- care attitude would abandon it for what they perceive as more relevant ones abroad.

Yes, while the humanitarian situation in Gaza deserves the outcry and sympathy it has elicited nationwide and even worldwide (thanks to foreign media), it still doesn’t make the crises in Nigeria any less critical. Nigeria is also at war ladies and gentlemen and what makes our case more damning is that we’re at war with our very own selves. Maiduguri, Potiskum, Damaturu, Mubi and the whole of the North-east are under attack by both Boko Haram and the Joint Military Task Force and people are dying in their numbers. What makes the Gaza situation any more serious?

The South East is at war with kidnappers and brigands who kidnap and even ‘adultnap’ without restraint. It has become so terrible that these set of aggressors even kidnap barely delivered babies, fresh from mothers’ wombs, who ever heard of such a thing?

Nigeria is at war with her own police and security outfits who accidentally discharge their weapons at will; who create artificial hold ups with their roadblocks on our highways for trailers with failed brakes to crash into; who conspire with, arm and sometimes operate with robbers to inflict losses on the people they should be protecting etc.

Nigeria is at war with PHCN whose activities have plunged the nation into a sea of perpetual darkness. PHCN who made sure most of our children are born into physical darkness. Nigeria is at war with NNPC whose officials sell our crude to themselves at giveaway prices. Who make sure multi-nationals steal our oil; who short-change us time and again without mercy.

Our country is at war with politicians and oil thieves who have combined well like Messi and Iniesta to visit heavy losses to the treasury and inflict poverty upon the citizenry who die in their numbers out of sheer frustrating unemployment, no or poor primary health care (malaria still kills), road accidents, armed robbery attack, church and mosque attack, hunger – it’s crazy the kind of things we die of, yet we don’t realise we’re at war?

Ask the Biafran war veterans if the situation now is very different from the situation during the war.

Worst of all, Nigeria is at war with its own masses who had found it extremely difficult even after decades of their existence to co-exist in peace, to fight for justice and freedom and to rise up against their elected servants who chose instead to act as masters and have turned they themselves into slaves.

Nigeria is at war with citizens who torture and torch fellow citizens to death. Elderly citizens who rape little girls and youthful citizens who gang-rape their peers.

This war leaves scores of thousands dead every year and many more utterly frustrated and suicidal. Nigeria is fighting many wars on many fronts and we need to focus our collective attentions and efforts on the raging battles everyday if we would stand the slightest chance of overcoming.

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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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