Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oby Ezekwesili: A Beacon of Nigerian Solidarity

Oby Ezekwesili: A Beacon of Nigerian Solidarity
“I don’t know what is with this Ezekwesili woman and this Chibok abduction sef”, Dick – let’s call him that – sitting with his crowd at the table across enjoying their beers, bellowed. “Is she the only Nigerian? Why is she crying more than the bereaved?” he continued, obviously registering his impatience with the woman for being unrelenting and at the fore-front of the #bringbackourgirls campaign. This was last week, just before the girls clocked 100 days in captivity, when Oby was reportedly quizzed and then released afterward on her way out of the country, apparently on account of the campaign. The discussion on Dick’s table was quite interesting as they variously concluded that she was a busy-body, she was being sponsored by opposition against the government of Goodluck Jonathan, she was being sponsored by some foreign interests to smear Nigeria, and many other such conclusions. Tom, the guy with an unusually long neck over a pair of shrunken shoulders, clearly at the mercy of the beer generosity of his far-better-to-do crowd, quipped “if de thing dey pain am like dat mek she go Sambisa go campaign nah! Useless woman.” He then hissed and downed his beer, setting his mug rather loudly on the table. He then belched, as if through some megaphone, and said “that is for her punishment!” All of them at the table burst into raucous laughter.
It was interesting, the beer-parlour analysis, as one of my friend calls it. But, trite as one may be tempted to dismiss the beer-parlour as, those are some of the very places where opinions are formed and, God knows, there are many such joints across this country. It is these kinds of opinions that people come with to the polling units on election days to cast their lots; therefore, we cannot afford to dismiss them.
Their conclusions were rather saddening. I looked at Dick, Tom, and the rest of them on that table; they all are not any better than the Chibok parents. It therefore means that if any of them were a parent to one of those abducted girls, no matter how much they cry, their voices will only be muffled in the personal ambitions of the politicians, the greed of the security people, the lack of objectivity of the Nigerian streets and the fatalism that characterizes the Nigerian population.
The voice of one Oby is far louder than those of probably a thousand ordinary others and, by God, we need more of such big voices to join the Chibok parents in their cry for the Nigerian state to live up to its responsibility. And I believe that getting the state to live up to its responsibility and be seen to be doing that is a legitimate quest, for that is what the generality of the Nigerian people voted and are paying this government to do. Or did Nigerians employ Boko Haram to bomb them and kidnap their fellow citizens? So why should anybody ever think of saying #releaseourgirls to them of whomever else?
Moreover, for those who say that the #bringbackourgirls campaign, which Oby is at the front, is a stunt of the opposition to ridicule the government of Goodluck Jonathan, they clearly are referring to the APC as “the opposition”. Well, such persons may want to go back to March when APC invited Oby to speak at their national summit. They themselves realized they made a mistake in their choice as many of them could not sit still in their seats through her presentation on that day.
It is high time Nigerians learnt to stand for each other. It is high time Nigerians realized that “today it is the Chibok people; tomorrow it could be me”. Oby and her team of campaigners have realized this and have kept the wailing on, inspite of harassment and blackmail. They are far ahead of many of us. She has used her “big voice” in solidarity with people she has never met and with whom she shares no kinship except a common flag and national pledge. We have to not just emulate her but thank her. She has stepped down from her loft to identify with the cries of the lowly.
I wonder if Dick’s and Tom’s children were among those abducted, the way we Nigerians have become, would they not be happy that a Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili is eloquently with them in their seemingly hopeless grief?

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; July 31, 2014

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