Tuesday, July 12, 2005

THE NIGERIAN FACE IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM

The Casualty that Counts


Since the events of September the 11th and the ongoing war on Al-Qaeda and global terrorism, I have always felt disconnected. Some days I ask myself what all the hoopla is about, after all don't people die from terrorism every day in places like Israel and Palestine? Aren't drug companies helping to kill aids sufferers in Africa by not making drugs cheaper? Isn't the war in Iraq further aggravating the situation and jeopardizing the lives of soldiers? Why is does this one event in America have to be everyone’s problem, an African problem, or a Nigerian problem for that matter? Aren't we ourselves casualties of American: Western bloc and Eastern bloc politics. In fact, on that day, 9-11, I broke my routine by not turning on my 'tuned-to-CNN' TV, and so I walked on to campus oblivious to the fact that the world as I knew it had been changed forever. Even when I found out what happened, watched it 'LIVE' and even saw one of my classmates fall to the ground when the plane hit the second tower where his brother was, it still did not gel for me. It wasn't until I could not reach my aunt in NY that I began to panic.

My reaction, then was not because I did not care or was being in humane, it was more because I had no connection to identify with. And so the very first thing I did was look for any name that was remotely Nigerian when the list of victims came out. There were a few, and some African looking name, but there were no faces to place to the names. I don't know if it is just me, but every time some thing like this happens, that's terror related, the first thing I think or say is 'I hope no Nigerians were affected.' Not saying that other people are not important, but I have to look out for my own people. With no one to identify with, when I did show emotion, it seemed rather vague, with no personality. I was just crying for humanity, crying for 'the innocent', crying for Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe, whose deaths may not have meant any thing to me if they had not been the casualties of violence perpetuated by twisted minds in the name of religion. That aside, I never felt more American or more human than in the days following the attacks, despite struggling with the notion of feeling like a perpetrator, because I of course, am not truly in every sense of it American.

Even though I wore t-shirts that bore the flag, my voice was not very American so to speak. Sure I have a blue passport, but I bleed green and my perspective is that of a foreigner looking in. Today, and much of this week, I believe I have made that connection. Ironically, if not ideally, it happened on the day I arrived America, 8 years ago. At first when the bombings in London happened, I was not sure what angle to write about. Once again I sought a list of victims and the missing, and found articles splashed around with a name that was all but familiar; one I’ve heard on television and seen in news papers, especially when it came to Nigerian politics.

Unfortunately, and politically speaking, perhaps fortunately, Nigerians now have a face to remember when they hear about terrorism and the ill acts of Islamic fundamentalists. Unfortunately, it had to be the face of 26-year-old Anthony Fatayi-Williams: a handsome young man, full of life and promises. One who had a vision and was definitely doing his parents and countrymen proud. As shallow as it may sound, seeing his picture, I thought to myself that the curse alone that Osama will get form Nigerian girls might even surpass whatever punishment the U.S military could serve him. I mean, in these day and age when eligible, well-suited Nigerian bachelors are scarce, why did it have to be the bus that he was riding, that some half brained idiot decided to bomb. Not that another bus should have been bombed, then again this is my 'shallow' side talking. I was actually hoping and believing in God that Anthony is in a coma in some hospital and no dead. To make the situation even more painful, adding insult to the injury and making it personal for 'many Nigerians' is the fact that he is the first and only son of his mother. He is also from one of the notable families in the country, whose forefather played a major role in our countries history. Although I didn't know the gentleman, I know a few people who did, and perhaps have more right to pour out their souls than I do. But seeing pictures of his mother, Mrs. Fatayi-Williams, a top Nigerian oil executive and socialite, splashed across news websites; humbled and weeping, sent a very strong message to me that didn't just come with goose bumps. This terrorism thing keeps inching closer and closer and closer... who next and where next? At some point we just cannot go on with life as usual, as our leaders are touting, not with things like this happening.

Life as usual in the face of such evil as this, is showing we have become desensitized. We have become the 'casualties' John Pepper Clark writes about in his poem of the same title that don't show remorse for their fellow man's plight and are no better than the terrorists themselves. That we too place no worth on the dead and can deal with these tragedies as it comes. No, we cannot go on, Life cannot go on like this. It cannot 'ever' be 'same as usual', not after AIDS, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Oklahoma, Columbine, 9-11, Madrid, Iraq, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Chechnya, Afghanistan and definitely not after London's 7-7. We have to watch your backs, you just never know where or when next these wastes of human space will strike next, all I have to say it that may you and I not be near by, because they have absolutely no regard for life. None whatsoever. We should all begin to ask what version of the Holy Book the have because things are just not jiving at all.

What I find really interesting about this situation is the fact that this face is just no ordinary face. This is an elite by all standards, whose tragic death has turned him into a 'celebrity' for lack of a better word, just like those rape and assault victims in whose names laws are passed and societies are changed. We Nigerians like to associate peoples' importance by the family they come from and the Fatayi-Williams family is no ordinary family; they are among the list of movers and shakers, so to speak, in Nigeria, socially and politically. That is why this story is getting much more media attention than that of any other Nigerian affected in these acts of terrorism. The irony is that if this was just some lowly average-obi-musa-or-seun we may not have heard or read much of it. It's an unfortunate incident that I believe is bound to and should change and challenge us as Nigerians, particularly the youth. It only takes one person's sacrifice to bring about a change in attitude and make people take a stand. Perhaps now therein lies an opportunity for the government to let Nigerians know that terrorism is real and the threat is drawing closer to home.

Nigerians face a greater threat now that our president is in the forefront of policy changing issues involving the Western nations and Africa. When you start hearing of familiar names being caught in the cross fire then it is time to re-access and wonder if the next time it happens whether it will be someone you actually know. May be those fundamentalists who sympathize with Osama will think again and realize that Osama doesn't give a rat’s hoot about them or Islam. May be they'll see that Sharia is not the best form of politics, may be then we'll all see that religioous fanatcism has no place in society, may be we'll begin to demand our government take responsibilty in ensuring our day to day lives are safe, 'in the country'. My be they'll listen to this mother's cry and see all other mothers who have cried over their sons and daughters killed by trigger happy police officers, corrupt leaders and quake doctors. May be this is the wake up call many of us need.

As I once wrote in a poem, " I sit and ponder the clock ticks and I wonder/ when will it all end/ the hate, the rejection the anger/ the anguish the misconceptions and oh yes the miscommunication. / When will it all end/ When will happiness replace bitterness/ laughing replace crying/ Peace replace war/ When will food replace hunger? / When, when, when I ask/ When will it all end?May Anthony's soul rest in peace and may the Almighty grant his family and others who are suffering because of the atrocious events in London, the comfort and understanding they need to go through this hard time. As for Osama and his cronies, you can run from NATO and the US military and their laser guided missiles and bombs, but you can' hide from God and the wrath of his judgment, and he don't be playing now, just ask Lucifer.
Below is an article culled form ThisDay on www.allafrica.com






Mr. Anthony Fatayi-Williams, grandson of former Chief Justice of the Federation, the late Atanda Fatayi Williams, believed to be among those caught in the London bus bomb blast last Thursday, was still missing as at press time early this morning.
This comes on the heels of the revelation that another Nigerian, Ms Ojara Ikeagwu, has also been declared missing in the wake of the terror blast.
THIS DAY Checks, however, revealed that his father, Dr. Alan Fatayi Williams, a Lagos based medical practitioner and his mother, Marie (younger sister of Chief Tom Ikimi and a senior executive of ELFTOTAL Petroleum) are in London leading the search efforts. The duo were said to have spoken to the London police authorities several times yesterday.
According to family sources, Anthony, a young oil engineering executive who works for AMEC, in Central London, had earlier called his office from the underground station, saying there was trouble and commotion and that he was running late.
He was also said to have suggested that because of the situation, he would probably get on the bus and find his way to work.
Anthony, 26, from Lagos but living in north west London, according to his friends, was in the Camden area of north London when he made another phone call at 8.41am last Thursday, before boarding a train heading towards central London. It is not clear from which train station he called his office.
Many believe he may have been on the ill-fated Bus 30 which was later hit by bombs and in which 13 people were confirmed dead with several others injured.
No one has heard from Anthony since but his family and friends are still hopeful that he may have been injured and is not in a position to communicate.
Search teams led by medical practitioner friends of his father, Alan and friends of the young and likable Anthony are searching all London hospitals where the wounded have been taken.
According to agency reports, fashion industry worker, Rajeet Sahni, 22, from St. Johns Wood, north west London, took a colour photo of Anthony, his close friend, to the scene of the blast in his desperate bid to find him.
He said: "Anthony is just such a fun, cool guy. We want to know if anyone has seen him in the area.
"We have tried every hospital in London well into the early hours, making hundreds of phone calls and want to hear from anyone who has seen him, particularly any survivors from the number 30 bus."
Meanwhile, another Nigerian, a woman, Ojara Ikeagwu, 57, is also believed to have been lost to the London bomb blasts. The married mother-of-three, Ikeagwu from Luton has been missing since the explosions.
Ikeagwu, a social worker, was last seen that Thursday morning setting off to Kings Cross. From there she was going to Hounslow on the Piccadilly line tube when the explosions occured.
According to one of her relations who gave an account of when and how the Nigerian was seen last Thursday morning, "she caught her usual train into King's Cross on her way to Hounslow where she is a social worker - and would have taken a Picadilly Line Tube to get there."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anthony has been confirmed as one of the dead may his soul rest in peace!

Shola said...

Just found your blog through Nneka's blog, and I share your feelings.

Being here when it happened, after accounting for my family and friends, I did the same with the names, unfortunately a family friend of my brother was among the fatalities.

Here is praying for a solution to this problem, though I doubt the earth will ever know peace.

Shola said...

I liked your phrase 'I hold a blue passport, but bleed green!

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