Activists have launched a Twitter hashtag campaign, #IamNigeria, in response to the hashtag campaign #JesuisCharlie or #IamCharlie, a message of solidarity to the people killed in the shooting at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
Last week’s terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in which two gunmen killed 10 members of staff and two police officers, has dominated the international media with the hashtags #JesuisCharlie or #IamCharlie trending on Twitter.
But at about the time of the Paris shooting, members of the Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram unleashed an orgy of murderous violence against the Nigerian villages Baga and Doron Baga in the Lake Chad Basin region, reportedly killing about 2,000 people.
But while at least 40 world leaders participated in a march in support of the Paris attacks in which 17 people were killed, the world ignored the wholesale slaughter in Nigeria.
Some activists have launched the hashtag #IamNigeria in the Anglophone West African country in reaction to what they perceive as the unfair and unequal global attention to killings in Nigeria perpetrated on a far larger scale than in France. Critics are saying that while the Paris attack merits global attention, the killings in Nigeria also deserve attention.
The critics hoped to be able to use a Twitter campaign to highlight the lopsided media attention in favor of Paris. Thus, they changed the Twitter slogans, #JesuisCharlie or #IamCharlie, to #IamNigeria, #JesuisNigeria and #IamBaga — Baga being in reference to the northeastern Nigerian town razed by Boko Haram.
Since the campaign took off, international celebrities such as Madonna and Nicki Minaj have also tweeted #IamNigeria in support of the people of the war-torn country. Madonna posted a picture to her Instagram page with the caption “the people of Nigeria matter too! I am not just Charlie #iamnigeria #rebelheart.”
“The people of Nigeria matter too! I am not just Charlie #iamnigeria #rebelheart. Why aren’t we talking about Nigeria? Boko Haram has killed 2000 people in an attack in Northern Nigeria! Barbaric and heartbreaking! We must stop the violence and support Nigerian people! #iamnigeria#revolutionoflove.”
The latest Twitter campaign follows the earlier #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign response to the Boko Haram kidnapping of more than 200 young girls from Chibok in April last year.
Criticizing the unequal coverage of the Boko Haram killings, a Nigerian activist, Luvvie Ajayi, writes that “the silence on this is deafening.”
“The silence on this is deafening. It is loud, and what it is yelling is that those 2,000 Black lives in Nigeria are not as worthy as the 17 French lives lost. But whose fault is this? Everybody’s.”
Not only Western leaders have faced criticism. Local activists have also indicted Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, over his silence on the massacre in his country while releasing a statement in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.
Ajayi attacks Jonathan, condemning him over his silence on the Boko Haram killings.
“He expressed his condolences for the attack against the French journalists, but he hasn’t said a peep about what happened in Baga. Why? It’s probably because he’s ashamed at his own perpetual failure in protecting the citizens of Nigeria … His daughter got married this weekend, so the good times still roll for him as bodies of his people still lie in the bushes of Baga. It is absolutely mind-boggling.”
Local observers are wondering whether the daily toll of the carnage has reached a point in which the Nigerian president has ceased to be moved by it. And as Ajayi notes, this is the electioneering season in Nigeria. Like their counterparts in other parts of the world, Nigerian politicians will continue campaigning with single-minded attention even while the trumpet blasts of Armageddon are sounding.
While international media reports claim large scale killings in the latest fighting in Borno, Nigerian officials continue contesting the reports. Army spokesman Gen. Chris Olukolade has described the reports that up to 2,000 people died in Baga and Doron Baga were exaggerated. But despite the denials, survivors are reporting to international news agencies that a large number of civilians were killed. Some survivors spoke of escaping the massacre by walking over dead bodies, while others spoke of people being killed “like insects.”
“They killed so many people. I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.”
Satellite images, newly released by Amnesty International, purports to show the horrific aftermath of the attack on the villages. The images show evidence of widespread devastation of once densely populated rural towns. An Amnesty spokesperson said that the satellite images appear to contradict the Nigerian military spokesperson.
But regardless of how many people actually died in Baga and Doron Daga, Ajayi’s comments that “our melanin shouldn’t make us shadows” encapsulates the message that the #IamNigeria Twitter campaign hopes to send out.
“17 people died in France. We should mourn them. We are mourning them. But 2,000 people died in Nigeria. Where is our outrage for them? Our melanin shouldn’t make us shadows… if we don’t care, no one else will. #IamNigeria because the continued devaluation of Black lives cannot stand. #IamNigeria because all over the world, we still yell Black Lives Matter. Who will protect us? #IamNigeria.”
[Images: Twitter, Wikimedia Commons]