Some of my relatives lived for decades in the North, in Kano and Bornu. They spoke fluent Hausa. (One relative taught me, at the age of eight, to count in Hausa.) They made planned visits to Anambra only a few times a year, at Christmas and to attend weddings and funerals.
But sometimes, in the wake of violence, they made unplanned visits. I remember the word ‘Maitatsine’ – to my young ears, it had a striking lyricism – and I remember the influx of relatives who had packed a few bags and fled the killings. What struck me about those hasty returns to the East was that my relatives always went back to the North. Until two years ago when my uncle packed up his life of thirty years in Maiduguri and moved to Awka. He was not going back. This time, he felt, was different.
My uncle’s return illustrates a feeling shared by many Nigerians about Boko Haram: a
lack of hope, a lack of confidence in our leadership.
We are experiencing what is, apart from the Biafran war, the most violent period in our nation’s existence. Like many Nigerians, I am distressed about the students murdered in their school, about the people whose bodies were spattered in Nyanya, about the girls abducted in Chibok.
I am furious that politicians are politicizing what should be a collective Nigerian mourning, a shared Nigerian sadness. And I find our president’s actions and non-actions unbelievably surreal.
I do not want a president who, weeks after girls are abducted from a school and days after brave Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest the abductions, merely announces a fact-finding committee to find the girls.
I want President Jonathan to be consumed, utterly consumed, by the state of insecurity in Nigeria.
I want him to make security a priority, and make it seem like a priority.
I want a president consumed by the urgency of now, who rejects the false idea of keeping up appearances while the country is mired in terror and uncertainty.
I want President Jonathan to know – and let Nigerians know that he knows – that we are not made safer by soldiers checking the boots of cars, that to shut down Abuja in order to hold a World Economic Forum is proof of just how deeply insecure the country is. We have a big problem, and I want the president to act as if we do.
I want the president to slice through the muddle of bureaucracy, the morass of ‘how things are done,’ because Boko Haram is unusual and the response to it cannot be business as usual.
I want President Jonathan to communicate with the Nigerian people, to realize that leadership has a strong psychological component: in the face of silence or incoherence, people lose faith.
I want him to humanize the lost and the missing, to insist that their individual stories be told, to show that every Nigerian life is precious in the eyes of the Nigerian state.
The last paragraph is ASKING THE PRESIDENT TO TELL A LIE. You would not need to ask that the lost and the missing be humanized if "every Nigerian life is precious in the eyes of the Nigerian state.".
It's rather obvious that it isn't. Last week saw different articles on foreign platforms and social networks with phrases like "So over 250 girls go missing in Nigeria and apparently no one cares". It's even obvious to the international community.
Still I hope he gets to read this and all other open letters that have been written with regards to Our Girls and Boko Haram as a whole.