Sorry, sorry o…
“These politicians and soldiers
Dem be one and the same
No one different the other
My people no won know
But with these kind of leaders
Africa no get hope
Africans will suffer
Till the suffer reach our bone.”
In my mind, Fela is on repeat since Tuesday – the day that will go down in Nigerian history as the day of the Lekki Tollgate Shooting.
On social media, with #EndSars, #LekkiTollGateMassacre, #BuhariMustResign there are reels and reels of Nigerian youth being fired at, shot down, motionless on the floor. Screengrabs of DJ Switch’s Instagram Live broadcast on the night, as she helped each and every single victim she could reach, the injured on the concrete floors of hospitals, shouting, screaming, wailing, praying.
On my feed, I see videos of friends in tears. They are cursing out the government; the army, the powers that be, and that let violent reign.
With the light of the morning comes footage of destruction – as the gutted and charred skeletons of toll gates, ATM machines, shops, bus stops sizzle away on now deserted streets like nightmarish visions of dystopian landscape. Further afield, there are reports of more gun-toting hoodlums causing havoc on the streets.
Then post after post with information on where to take refuge, how to stay connected in the event of a network shutdown, and for those of us around the world, how to support Nigeria through petitions and donations. Each post hurts a little deeper; as with shiver running down my spine, I remember the jubilation and the uncontainable exuberance of hope only five years ago as masses poured on the same streets now awash with the blood of the innocent.
Where did hope go to die? Where did joy run away? Are they in the warehouses under the heaps of donations kept away from those in need so the rich can get richer while the poor continue to suffer?
In our premature joy, perhaps, we forgot that leopards don’t change their spots; no matter how well multi-million naira campaigns package a dictator, he is still a dictator, albeit aged and demented.
As connected as I feel to Nigeria, as much as I have been given honorary Nigerian status by family and friends; it would be wrong of me to claim I can truly feel the heartbreak of Nigerians seeing their country once again torn to shreds by greedy governance and turned into bleeding news feeds by Western media. Then cutting through the pain, I feel the heat of fury rising.
I feel infuriated by the calls to Western politicians and celebrities on social media. In as much as there is some solace to be found in Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton speaking in solidarity especially in the face of the deafening silence or despicable dismissal of Nigerian politicians, is it not decades of Western complacency at best, complicity at worst that has brought Nigeria to its knees.
I then wonder what the aim could be in tagging international celebrities on posts about Nigeria? Yes, they may speak out. Then what? Do we expect Beyonce to swoop in on her private jet? Or Jay Z to take on Buhari? The Clacton-on-Sea MP speaking at the British parliament about the violence in Nigeria will not make BoJo think of Nigerians anything more than ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles.’
I then feel infuriated by the casual callousness of social media posts sharing dead or dying black bodies riddled with bullets, brains hacked away, intestines spilling out, with rivers of blood on the streets; mothers wailing the passing of their children. I can appreciate the desire to showcase the outcome of the ‘massacre,’ the need to show every bullet hole and every drop of blood to prove that this is not ‘fake news.’
Where do we draw the line to preserve human dignity? “When was the last time you saw a video of a white person being murdered on Instagram?” asks Ashlee Marie Preston (Sorry, Consuming Trauma Porn is not Allyship) “…unlike Black victims, white people are afforded dignity in death.”
If we spill our guts about spilled guts, are our social media posts any different than the condescending Western gaze on Africa feeding into the stereotype of the dark continent and its bleeding black bodies or the mainstream media attitudes to stories from the ‘developing world’ which magnified stories of poverty or unrest, and diminishes any stories of black African excellence?
Then I stumble upon social media posts still shamelessly advertising accessories, face creams, lace wigs – business as usual for some, while for others, it is a matter of life or death. I fear for the future of Africa’s giant – the green shoots of hope of the last few dashed under the filthy army boots.
Too afraid to hope, too furious to dream, still incredulous how Nigeria has been set back decades in five short years, I sing… “I sorry sorry o, I sorry for Nigeria. I sorry sorry o, I sorry for Africa”