President Goodluck Jonathan and the woman who answers to the title of Nigeria’s First Lady have something in common. And that is a proclivity for invoking the unprintable. An inclination that seeks to be properly recognized as gaffe incontinence.
The couple has a rivalry going on. Many people miss the race because it is within the subliminal threshold. Ironically, it proceeds in an ostentatious fashion, screaming for attention. What is up for determination is which of the pair fares better in scandalous misspeak!
Wife tells a rally that her husband’s main challenger in the Presidential elections is brain dead. We don’t get a breather. No allowance to process Patience’s impatient autopsy; no time to let it diffuse into forgetfulness. Husband hurries to reclaim headship. Still on the ghoulish track, he declares that Chibok Girls are still alive because Boko Haram has yet to feature their dead bodies in propaganda videos. His punchline: ’’ When they kill, they display’’.
President Jonathan would be ready to bet one of his bowler hats on the probability that the Girls still draw breath – until Boko Haram demolishes his optimism with a full length, unedited recording of their butchery.
Some charge that all citations of the President ought to echo with awe and deference. No matter who stumbles on Aso Rock – as Luck may lead the proverbial blind man to bump into a ripe star apple – we are in debt of unconditional reverence. Yet, it is Jonathan who abases himself. It is Jonathan who auditions for ridicule.
President Jonathan inspires contempt for his person. He compels his portrayal as a clueless protagonist. He presents himself as a casualty of chance, an overwhelmed mediocre miscast in a tremendously important epoch, a puny puppet dazed by the greatness thrust upon him. In the way of things, one elderly man flattered him by placing a kindergarten crown on Jonathan’s head!
Note that this Commander-in-Chief, who let his combat fatigue remain in mothballs until he figured that wearing it on a well choreographed bravado tour of the liberated zones could fetch him some votes, did not draw his inference from anything solid. He did not pretend to speak from the tentative certainty of someone in possession of something that might be charitably approximated to intelligence. President Jonathan pulled out the assurance from his private conjecture.
The beleaguered parents of the Chibok Girls could have been helped by a more reasonable token of guarantee. It would be insufficient to eradicate their anxiety. But it would have had some calming effect. Nobody had considered that these fathers and mothers needed to be provided safe and measured briefings on the condition of their daughters, as information becomes available. Not even after Shekau bragged that he has married the Girls off.
At the last count, eleven of the Girls’ parents had succumbed to heartache and despair. The more hardy remnants were primed to embrace their daughters. The Federal Government had told them a ceasefire deal clinched from negotiations with Boko Haram in Saudi Arabia would see their precious children return in a couple of days. It turned out to be one hollow hoax. We would hear later that some clever impostors swindled the Federal Government.
Almost one lunar year after the abduction, the parents’ need for closure persists. They can’t bury the kids in their hearts. When outer quietness makes the heartbeat most audible, the turbulence in their minds escalates. They are the set of people summoned to rejoice in the logic that their daughters are alive because you can’t find exhibition of their dead bodies on Youtube.
President Jonathan darkened their doldrums. He put them in worse despondency. Instead of applying the balm, they heard him place a coy order for death porn. They heard him taunt the psychopaths. They heard him tease the brutes to herd the sheep to slaughter.
For Jonathan, the absence of evidence that the captors have consummated the worst case scenario is tantamount to proof that the Girls are alive. He is wrong. Chibok Girls are dead. And they died long ago. Boko Haram terrorists have killed them – even if the necrophiliac still waits to be indulged the sight of human flesh in rigor mortis.
It is too simplistic to circumscribe death as the cessation of breath. Death is not the birth of a corpse and nothing less. Just as the parallel postulation that all who breathe are alive is equally flawed. Poet E. E Cummings wrote that, ‘’ Unbeing dead is not being alive’’.
President Jonathan conceives of death as the ultimate injury. In his book, it never gets worse than death. But even by that standard, Boko Haram has killed the Girls. The appropriation of their persons and their existential reduction to mere playthings is death. Their routine abuse and torture in the sexual purgatory is death. If Boko Haram has not displayed the dead bodies of the Girls, it is because the Haram harem serves fleshly utility.
Jonathan, the church tourist, should have known that the murder of the body is the lesser calamity. ‘’Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who can destroy both body and murder the soul.’’
I fear for the souls of those Girls in whom great dreams thrived, those girls who set their faces like a flint and pressed forward on the road to their school road knowing that the future they want to live out is a series of learning away, those girls who aspired to a life fuller and more fulfilling than their mothers’, those girls Malala called kindred spirits.
Boko Haram has had them in slavery for one year. We can’t plumb the depths of the captive experience from our comfort zone. We can’t presume to grasp the full implication. We would have been able to approach empathy if we could break through the strictures of self and selfie to contemplate the range of horrors a commune of lunatics can inflict on young Girls.
If we ever happen on Shekau’s captives in Sambisa forest or whatever hideaway, they would have undergone Transformation. We are sure to behold the offspring of suffering: Humans stolen like a thing, transplanted to a hell annex, trapped preys of the most depraved savages on this planet, abandoned to subsist on nightmare. We would see the form of variants that have emerged from crushed souls.
Jonathan is salivating for the day when he will have the pleasure to report on a live telecast that the Girls have been found. He would gloat, host them in the Villa and most assuredly work a more marvelous dance than the one he did in Kano, a day after they were taken hostage. He had danced in spite of their abduction – to dramatize that he has the presence of mind to have fun in the midst of a moving tragedy. This time, on the occasion of their rescue, he will dance even more for joy. To celebrate the collapse of the recurring theme he loathes to hear, the theme used to blackmail him: Jonathan has not rescued Chibok Girls. This is one paparazzi choked party he can’t wait to have.
However, the Girls’ rescue, eagerly anticipated as should be, would confront Jonathan with evidence of his dereliction. The man who loves showiness, the leader who said, ‘’ when they kill, they display’’ will come face to face with a sight that should convict him.
Except the terrorists are all celibate or all impotent, a good number of the teens will arrive pregnant or breastfeeding their own babies. Among the number, we may have VVF sufferers. Most worrisome is the odds that they now think differently.
These days a lot of youths are radicalized through internet interactions. Little chats draw them to join a war on another continent. In this instance, the captors and captives have a realtime proximity and relationship. Naturally, that’s an ideal context for feeding impressionable minds the toxic creed that God loves to watch the faithful perform ablution with human blood.
All this complication arose from wasting the window of opportunity to recover the Girls more easily. And that brings us to the question of how much life is in the man who is selling hope that Chibok Girls are still alive.
Was President Jonathan alive when he declined to treat the abduction of 200 plus citizens as a national emergency? Was he alive when he bypassed the desperate humanitarian disaster and flew to dance at a partisan rally in Kano? Was he alive when he staged a callousness that was a tad higher than the cruelty of the abductors?
Was Jonathan alive when he let weeks pass without acknowledging the human heist that occurred under his watch? Was the man in him alive? Was Jonathan alive to his responsibility as President and Commander-in-Chief?
Did he not dismiss the incident in that tiny village because he could not envisage that his aloofness would eventually have electoral consequences?
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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