‘What we know for Sure’

By Amma Ogan

I am borrowing this title from Oprah Winfrey. In an interview published by The Boston Globe Winfrey told the story of how the name of her now famous column came to be. During a 1998 interview the late film critic Gene Siskel asked her: “What do you know for sure?”

“I’ve asked and been asked an awful lot of questions over the years,” Winfrey said,” but I have to say, the man managed to stop me in my tracks.”

In the last month events have swept thick and fast with horror tales and blockbusters opening every day. Escape from Mubi. Exodus to Niger.The Agony of Yobe.Nightmare in Potiskum.Northeast Badlands. No Deliverance. Abuja Holiday.Cowards’ Valley.Invasion of the State Snatchers.The Brides of Boko Haram. Cry Mayhem, and if you want Nollywood, Wind of Sorrow. Because hope springs eternal, because they simply cannot give up, some are praying that they may yet, one day, option the screenplay for, Not Without our Daughters. But na prayer we go chop? Act and pray. Surely those who took on the fight to prevent Ebola spreading in Nigeria did both?

Back to Winfrey and away from, e go just be like cinema: buffeted as we are by pain and loss we have to stop in our tracks and consider the question, what do we know for sure? It is now seven months and counting. There was no truce. There were no grounds for swallowing this bait. There are no international organisations looking for the girls. The girls are not sitting in Sambisa Forest. We have no known addresses for their ‘husbands’ homes’. The Nigerian army is not sure where they are. Abductions are continuing, and Boko Haram is gaining territory.

One can backtrack down another road and replay the running documentary, one of those now ubiquitous TV series that examines the making of a new movie in a ploy to boost attendance, basically another form of advertising. It involves hiring PR firms to manage the presentation, rework the approach, stem the bad publicity, turn the story around. Meanwhile the title of the new movie is still a work in progress. The theme maybe called, The Abuja Candidate with a prequel, Campaigning While Naija Burns, though some from a rival studio may want to rename it, The Leadership Vanishes.

Let’s call the studio working this supposed to be blockbuster Electionwood and hand it to them for coming up with new angles and avoiding the most obvious: which is give the people the ending they want to see. The rival studio, waiting in the wings does not inspire much hope for a better picture. Actors are dropping agents like they were contaminants, running from one set to another, no sense of direction, making believe they have escaped from a virus they already have. But blaming others for your failures is never a way out and creating illusions is only a shortcut to the inevitable. Can there be a more successful campaign strategy than finding the Chibok Girls and beating back Boko Haram?

This news website led with a headline on Tuesday 11th November: ” Nigeria Blasts America, Says US Has Let Nigeria Down in War Against Boko Haram.” Ironic choice of phrase that; is it America we should be blasting, and with words?

Nigeria rose up to the challenge on Ebola. It harnessed the resources available within and had the professional dedication and competence to do what was necessary to stem an epidemic that could have laid waste to the country. And it must maintain vigilance. How many people did it take? The number is not the issue; the professionalism, patriotism, will, selflessness and concern for the greater good were the components of the engine that drove this machine.

We must simply do the same with Boko Haram and its root causes. One thing we know for sure: THIS WILL NOT STOP ITSELF.

Amma Ogan is on the editorial board of Premium Times, an online publication


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