#ParisAttacks: Matters Arising

Parisians were welcomed into this year with a deadly attack on popular satirist, Charlie Hebdo’s offices. This attack was followed by attacks on a Jewish shop and some public spaces. As the year ends, they have received an early wicked present—a horrendous mass attack.

Some persons have described this attack as France’s 9/11. The scale of the pain is unimaginable. Over 120 lives rudely terminated, and over three hundred injured persons. The power of AK47 rifles and suicide bombs was brought to bear on peaceful Parisians enjoying a Friday evening. It’s an atrocity that will surely be a reference for a long time—arguably the most deadly terrorist attack on European soil.

Expectedly, words of support and encouragement have flowed in from all around the world, with sympathizers cutting across every social strata, religious and political affiliation. As they did after the Charlie Hebdo incident and other attacks, global leaders have been united in their outpourings of condemnation.

While many weep, and condolences are offered, for some others, it is a time for celebration. After the attacks, several Twitter accounts sympathetic to the callous ISIL were reported to be in celebratory mood. Why wouldn’t they celebrate? Their colleagues had succeeded in sending infidels to hell, and gone on to receive numerous fecund virgins in paradise. Later, the too-evil-to-feel-shame ISIL released a statement claiming responsibility for the despicable attacks.

The French President, Francois Hollande has declared these attacks “an act of war” by ISIL. As the leader of the mourning country, all eyes are on him, expecting retribution for the demons. Some persons expect increased security, intelligence gathering and immigration control as some fallouts from these sad coordinated attacks. While the French revenge plan is awaited, support continues to pour out via #ParisAttacks, #PrayForParis, and other hashtags.

Nigerians have not been left out of the sympathy mood. Many Nigerians joined millions around the world on Twitter and Facebook to condemn the attacks. Thanks to Facebook’s conspicuous prompting, many have changed their profile pictures, using a filter that overlays the French red, white and blue colours in solidarity with their francophone comrades.

This show of support has triggered a form of backlash from some Nigerians who feel that those changing their profile pictures or using #PrayForParis are hypocrites. These ones point to Boko Haram attacks and argue that Nigerians do not show solidarity when fellow Nigerians are killed, but are quick to commiserate with foreigners. This has made them guilty of the egregious crime of hypocrisy.

In my view, the anti-foreign-support activists have missed a vital point. It is true that some Nigerians love “feeling among”, joining whatever appears trendy. However, before they are castigated, one needs to check why a Nigerian would do for Parisians what he/she would not do for a fellow Nigerian.

The simple reason is the media. Compare media coverage of attacks in Western countries to that of Nigeria. Whereas the Parisian attacks quickly became a “breaking news” topic for TV and internet platforms, media coverage in Nigeria is non-existent or severely limited at best. The TV coverage by Western media evokes a sense of pity. Very few persons would see the horrors on TV and not feel empathy. However, in Nigeria, news of attacks come a day or two later, and would have been censored by the government, reducing the casualty figure.

In Nigeria, news of attacks boil down to a newspaper or TV or radio news-time headline—hardly enough to trigger sympathy among many Nigerians. Nigerians have gradually being desensitized to Boko Haram attacks as they have become “too common”. Repeated attacks cannot provoke the same response as rare attacks. This is in addition to the tribalistic mindset of some Nigerians that makes them insensitive to attacks not in their region.

The offended Nigerians would have to forgive those who expressed solidarity for the French. Don’t blame them—blame the system. I have a feeling that some of those expressing reservations about the display of solidarity actually feel empathy for those mourning in France. Their anger may stem from a feeling that some Nigerians are acting more French than Nigerian, or should I say, “More catholic than the Pope”.

Let me end with a friend’s post on Facebook, “Saying Nigerians are hypocrites to #prayforParis is like saying #alllivesmatter when there is a #blacklivesmatter awareness going on. If you can read this and don’t get my point, then I’m sorry”.

Image Credit: think0.deviantart.com

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