The Paris attacks have come and gone, leaving in their wake a trail of blood—hundreds dead, hundreds more injured, and many more traumatized by the sad incident. Days after the attacks in Paris, bombs went off in the Nigerian cities of Kano and Yola. This time, the murderous Boko Haram group, in line with their oath of allegiance to the demonic ISIL, chose to continue their reign of terror with attacks on “soft targets” in public places.
There are lots of commentaries on the Parisian attacks, the world’s response to it, and attacks in other countries. This article will simply look at some lessons to be learnt from these recent attacks.
Firstly, let’s look at the culture of politicizing sad events in Nigeria. This is the second time Paris is being attacked this year, yet, we did not hear of the French opposition castigating the government. Rather, everyone joined the train to combat a common enemy. In the past Nigerian administration, the main opposition took it upon themselves to criticize the government at the slightest opportunity presented by Boko Haram. Every bombing was viewed through the lens of a government that was “clueless” and had no knowledge in security matters.
This idea of scoring political points during terror attacks meant that instead of facing Boko Haram, the APC and the PDP spent more time exchanging vitriol. So far, now that power has changed hands, the PDP has not picked up the APC’s pre-election mantle. We hope that bombings would no longer be politicized. Criticism is good when it is constructive. However, criticism for the sake of criticism or party affiliation is inimical to progress, and should be avoided.
A second lesson to be learnt is that of gestures. The words, actions or inactions of a country’s leaders in times of crisis, go a long way to calm the population or worsen their fears. Within hours of the Paris attacks, after the French President was evacuated from the Stade de France where he had been watching a football game, he visited the Bataclan Theatre and gave a speech from there. This visit to the attacks’ epicentre instilled confidence in the French public. Seeing their President at the disaster site would surely have made the French public confident that their government was on top of the situation.
This compares to Nigeria’s former President dancing at a political rally a day after a deadly bombing incident, or the current president worried about being seen as shy around women at a time when a Nigerian city was reeling from the aftermath of a suicide bomb. Presidents have been known to cut short foreign trips and return home due to disasters occurring back home. However, in Nigeria, a different set of rules operates. Nigerian leaders are yet to learn the importance of gestures.
A third lesson is the role of the media. The French government did not try to limit media access to the attacked areas nor prevent live coverage of the aftermath. It also did not try to doctor the casualty figure. In Nigeria, however, the media is not as free as it should be during crises. This exacerbates the already existing lethargy among Nigerian media organisations. The French media played a huge role in informing the public and driving public sympathy. This is something that the Nigerian media needs to learn. The media has the power to make Nigerians feel so bad that they are ready to assist the government in any feasible way.
There are more lessons to be learnt—the role of emergency health services in reducing the casualty figure, the role of well-trained security operatives in handling an emergency, and the role of public goodwill in helping victims. These lessons, if noted and absorbed by Nigerians, will be of great help in the fight against Boko Haram. We don’t need a Presidential Committee to propose these lessons, and a white paper to summarize the proposal. All we need is sincerity—simple sincerity.
Image Credit: georgemillerstudios.com