Do black lives matter in Nigeria?

The sheer wickedness of his murder by the police turned George Floyd into a global figure as the world rose in one accord to condemn the inhuman treatment meted to him which resulted in his death. As soon as the video of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis Police Department officer, kneeling on the neck of handcuffed Floyd in the full glare of three of his colleagues, while he begged for his life went viral, it sparked protests that went beyond the borders of Minneapolis and the shores of America. The protests shook the United States to its foundations, forcing the authorities to arraign the four policemen involved in the murder of Floyd more than a week after the crime. Since then, Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” which were first made famous by Eric Garner, who was put into a chokehold by a New York City Police Department officer until he died of asphyxiation in 2014, have become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter protests.

Not surprisingly, Nigerians have joined in the Black Lives Matter protest.

On Tuesday, June 9, some Nigerians under the aegis of Black Lives Matter Movement besieged the American Embassy in Abuja to stage a protest over the killing of Floyd. The protesters, who defied the armed policemen at the embassy, called for an end to racial discrimination, injustice and killing of innocent citizens irrespective of skin colour.

The following day, Wednesday, June 10, in Abuja, the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), in collaboration with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), held a memorial for Floyd. In his speech at the event, Director General of the NCAC, Segun Runsewe, said the essence of the memorial was to demand justice for Floyd and to propagate the message of peace all over the world. In a similar vein, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NIDCOM chairman, said the demand for justice for Floyd should be a collective effort as the DNA of an African runs in every African.

The efforts of these Nigerians deserve commendation because as Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” So, any act of injustice to anyone in any part of the world is an assault on justice in other parts of the world. But if that were the case, why are there no protests or demand for justice for all the killings in Nigeria? Why has there not been any effort by Black Lives Matter Movement or the NCAC or even NIDCOM to demand justice for all the hundreds of thousand that have been killed in the country over the years?

Boko Haram insurgents have been waging war against Nigeria since 2009; thousands have been killed, thousands have been maimed, thousands have been forced into avoidable widowhood, millions have been made orphans and millions have been rendered homeless, yet there has never been a demand for justice for these ones? There has never been any protest calling on the government to put an end to these orgies. Why? Is it that the actions of the insurgents are just or that the maimed do not deserve justice or that the lives of those killed are not important enough to necessitate justice?

Bandits have entrenched themselves in some parts of Northern Nigeria including Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states, stealing, committing murder, rape and arson and generally making life hellish for people whose only crime is their nationality. Yet there has never been a protest calling on the government to stop these senseless killings. Are these protesters unaware of the killings or they do not care or they think those killed by the bandits were justly served?

Herdsmen have been on the rampage in the North Central and parts of the South for a while. These people destroy farmlands, kill men, rape women, abduct people and forcefully take over others’ lands. Yet there has not been any protest by groups in Nigeria impressing it upon the government to put an end to these threats to our nationhood. Is it that the protesters are blind to the nefarious activities of the killer-herdsmen or they think they are above reproach or they consider the lives of the killed Nigerians less important than George Floyd’s?

Despite globalisation, Nigerians should stop being a megaphone for other countries. We should endeavour to draw attention to the inequities and injustice in our own land. We cannot afford to keep ignoring the challenges in our land while amplifying the problems in other countries. The rest of the world joined the Black Lives Matter protest because Americans made it matter. Though Floyd died in an unfortunate circumstance, his death is going to birth a new order as the Minnesota governor has already approved a sweeping police reform. That didn’t happen because a George Floyd was killed, it happened because the people made a demand on the government.

Change does not happen because it is desired; it happens because it is demanded. Killing in any part of Nigeria is a threat to living in other parts of the country. The earlier we understand this, the better for us as a people.



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