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Published On: Mon, Aug 4th, 2014

Why can’t Nigerians handle the truth?

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By Ayisha Osori

How long do we intend to continue this way? No. Not talking about the bombs going off daily, the endless body countand the absolute precariousness of a life in Nigeria – just talking about our allergy to the truth about almost any situation conceivable. There is no calamity, tragedy, travesty of justice, or emergency for which there isn’t a counter narrative. Nothing is real and truth has become absolutely relative to who is telling it and why.

Some 276 girls abducted from their school, situated in a place under a state of emergency? Not true – it is political. People know where the girls are. In fact, all but 8 of them have been rescued. 6 young Nigerians in the prime of their life, gunned down in cold blood in the nation’s capital by members of the Nigerian Police Force? They were armed robbers who fired at the police first. Soldiers on rampage, sore about the accidental death of a colleague, burn several BRT buses in Lagos in full glare of citizens and recording devices? Not true. Hoodlums did the deed, dressed in army uniform. 7 young men gunned down by soldiers one night in Apo as they slept and prepared for sleep in the uncompleted building of a Nigerian made wealthy and powerful by virtue of public service? Yes, but they were members of Boko Haram and they fired first. No, they were not squatters; we have incontrovertible evidence of their links to terrorists by virtue of what part of the country we think they came from.

Since 1979, on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, all over the world, people rally to mark Al-Quds Day in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Last Friday was no different with processions in Canada, the United Kingdom…and Zaria. Only in Zaria did the day end with a body count of 35 and the leader of the Shi’ites in Nigeria, Sheik El-ZakZaky, losing 3 sons to bullets of soldiers in the Nigerian Army. According to him one was shot when the initial violence broke out while the other two were part of a group arrested by the soldiers, taken to their barracks and killed. The counter story is that shots were fired at the soldiers from within the procession and so the soldiers fired back. No explanation yet on the group of living persons who were arrested and are now reportedly dead.

We understand the tension the soldiers in our Army live under – particularly as they fight insurgents in the worst type of guerrilla warfare imaginable. We understand that our soldiers are stretched to breaking point – occupying over 30 states within the Federation, as well as guarding very important people and fighting a war. We hear they are underfed, under equipped and under paid. We try to sympathize. But even under these trying circumstances, how much does this sympathy weigh in light of the history of impunity, extra judicial killings and lies told by the armed forces and the Police when placed on a scale along with the pain that grips the heart and brain of a parent who has had 3 children killed in one day? How much does it weigh against the spasms of empathetic grieving that touches every parent who hears this story and is human enough to put themselves in the shoes of the El-ZakZakys’?

We should all be afraid. The culture of lies, oppression and impunity which we have lived with for so long with regards to the men and women who have the right to bear arms in this country is extremely dangerous to our security and well being as individuals and as a nation. This culture takes its place high on the list of the factors of extreme radicalization along with injustice, corruption, serial election fraud and refusal of the state to provide even the most basic social services.

Living in Nigeria may be like living in a twilight zone but the body count of innocents rising at the feet of our armed and security forces is all too real. We must stop thinking that we are immune to the bad things that happen to neighbours and fellow Nigerians. If the truth sets you free, then we need to be more logical and appreciate the opportunity costs of allowing conspiracy theories and blatant lies distract us from the facts, context and history of the parties involved. Committees, probes and inquiries never get to the satisfactory conclusion of any issue, in a way that one can say ‘this is what happened’. Our inability to get at the truth of anything helps us to abdicate responsibility for what is going on around us and if this relationship with truth does not change…we might never get off this cycle of violence consuming us.

Ayisha Osori is on linkedIn

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