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Tuesday, November 17, 2015


a picture is worth a thousand words

The Friday 13th November 2015 multiple terror strikes in Paris and the resultant shows of solidarity with the French people all over the world on social media and elsewhere ignited a hot debate on social media in Nigeria.

While one group believed those changing their profile pictures on Facebook in Nigeria are hypocrites since terror attacks are a virtual daily affair in Nigeria and people do not change their profile pictures because of the terror attacks, another group felt they did nothing wrong by aligning themselves with the fight against terrorism through the change of their profile pictures.

This is of course not the first time this kind of debate will take place on social media in Nigeria. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack also in France early in the year, a lot of people showed their solidarity by using the #IAmCharlie hashtag on Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms.

Nigerian social media users are not the only ones engaged in the debate about the supposed hypocrisy of people showing their solidarity to the French people in the wake of the Friday the 13th’s terror attacks in France. People in the Middle East are also talking and protesting the apparently skewed coverage of terror attacks by Western media outfits like the CNN and BBC especially because a terror attack in Beirut at around the same time as those in France went unreported.

While it cannot be said that either of the two groups is wrong, it is a fact that the Western media downplays some news items while inundating us with everything that should or should not be known about others even while those they decide to downplay are equally if not even more important than some of those they decide to play to the hilt.

Much as we down here may want to be patriotic and feel for all those killed daily by boko haram (and others who hide under boko haram to carry out dastardly attacks), it may be a bit hard for us and the reasons are simple. Down here in Nigeria, the thousands of people whose lives have been cut brutally short by boko haram are mostly faceless and nameless. Our press, both those in the print and electronic media, perhaps does not know how to engage in investigative journalism. Perhaps they do but the cost is too prohibitive both in terms of finances and the danger to those who may seek to engage in it.

And because all we hear and read about almost daily is numbers of those killed without anybody making any serious attempt to find and interview family members of those killed or even to get pictures of them, a majority of us have, like people who work in the morgue, become “de-sensitised” to the killings carried out daily right in our backyard. I doubt very seriously that in spite of media outcry and global awareness about the Chibok girls and the on-going countdown of how many days the girls have been missing, we can find up to twenty Nigerians (outside of their former teachers and parents) who know the name of just ten of those girls.

If we don’t know the names of the girls, or have any idea how many of them dreamed of being doctors or engineers or astronauts, if we were never made to see what their lives really were before their abductions, how can we really feel a part of the pains their family and close friends have felt over the months they have been in captivity (assuming they are not the ones being used to carry out suicide bombings)?

This is however not the same for any news of terror attacks that the Western media choose to play up. For instance, it is almost certain that in the coming several days at the very least, a lot of people will get acquainted with the families and friends of most, if not all of the people that were killed and injured in the multiple terror attacks in France. We would almost certainly get to know where they grew up and what dreams they had that were cut short by the evil terror strikes. And we would get to see their faces so often that we would be forgiven if we swear we had seen them before.

It is in the light of the exposure given to tragedies like the November 13th one in France by the Western media including Facebook that encourages people to show support by changing their profile pictures that a lot of people changed their profile pictures. Those who did, I believe, would just as willingly change their profile pictures to show solidarity to those experiencing attacks in Nigeria if they are made to see that those killed are more than just numbers and were in fact people like them with dreams and aspirations even if those dreams were no more than just to wake up and go back to sleep at night peacefully every day.

Our journalists in Nigeria and indeed in Africa need to let the world know and keep its attention of the world on what goes on in this country and continent. With social media, this is not quite as difficult as it may seem.

Do we need to pray for France? Most certainly! And just as importantly, ne ween to pray for humanity and we need to pray for Nigeria to see the last of the insurgents and every single sponsor they have.