Crying wolf

We all know the story of the boy who cried “wolf”. The day the wolf finally came, no one believed him, and his sheep were nibbled upon.

This is a part of the problem of the pro-Biafra protesters, something I alluded to here. They’ve spent so much time involved in outright lies, propaganda, and refusal to listen to anyone else, that getting people to listen to them has become difficult, and finding some sympathy, among non-Igbos especially, is nearly impossible.

It is also the problem of the Nigerian state, something I alluded to here. Regardless of who is at the top, Buhari, Jonathan, Yar’Adua, Obasanjo, and going back as far as I remember, the Nigerian state is patently brutal, and dishonest, and its acolytes spend too much of their time baring their fangs at anyone who dares to have a contrary opinion. It makes people look askance at anything they say as well.

An incident happened yesterday, and in my case, I spoke with two people who pass through that route often, and both confirmed, albeit with varying numbers, that they saw bodies. This morning, given that the media has not been keen to report the matter, many doubt that such a thing happened, and the defenders of all things Buhari have seized on that, and gone on the offensive. But public enemy number one reported it, and surprise surprise, there was at least one body, brought by the protesters, to a police station, and the police reacted, by, according to them, firing tear gas.

Given the history of our security services, is it a stretch not to believe that the police just tear gassed these guys and that was that?

So here we are, having played this CD so many times. In Onitsha specifically, it took first a Premium Times investigation, and then an Amnesty International report, both months after, for us to know that indeed more than 100 people had been killed, extra-judicially. This, after repeated denials by the security services. Note also, that when Premium Times released their report, the usual denials and name calling happened.

In our history, the litany of such denials, before the deaths come out to light, is long. Asaba, Onitsha, Ugep, Odi, Baga, Ogaminana, Aba, Zaria, and this list is not nearly exhaustive.

So the question becomes who to believe? Many will want to believe someone, based on their biases. But does that matter? Yes it does.

It matters because each time something stupid like this happens, and no one is brought to book, we harden the resolve of these anointed “enemies of the state”. The problem is, given that Nigeria is in a terminal spiral, when these happen, we are simply setting the stage for the next massacre. And the victim of the next massacre could be me. It could be you.

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Cheta Nwanze

Using big data to understand West Africa one country (or is it region?) at a time.