The calm happy Saturday afternoon, all of a sudden became a tumultuous commotion. Mothers who were with their little children escorted by handlers or nannies, young boys with their sisters struggling to get the best sitting spot in the open spaced eateries littering the eating area, so that they can have a go at their brown paper bag of hot French fries, oven roasted chicken served with ketchup and a pack of juice and still be able to play Dragon Slayer and Car Racer on their father's newly acquired tablet, everyone trying to enjoy their "we" time with their families. In the shopping outlets littering the 3 floors of the mall, shoppers (mostly window shoppers) from all works of life who were rummaging through the merchandise - clothing, shoes, bags, make ups, books, TVs and communication equipment and a lot more things that truly don't have names or that simply become called whatever the buyer call it- writers from Ghana including the eminent professor, poet and Ambassador - Prof Kofi Awoonor and his son who were attending a conference and had come to scout through the mall for some necessities, people from various countries, who had come on holiday and were visiting the mall as part of their sight-seeing plans, after spending the last few days in the in the game reserves, all these had their happy Saturday turned into a nightmare.
A pregnant woman working for the Clinton Foundation had come to do some last minute shopping for her soon-to-be-born baby, everyone going about their businesses and trying to have as much fun as possible, and in the parking this pretty 27 year old model - Anne Dechauffour, and her 54 year old mother, Corinne, sat in their cars awaiting other cars pulling out to move on so they can park and get into the mall. Suddenly, Anne opened her mouth to speak to her mother and the words hung in her lips, with blood spotting from her mouth as she clutched her chest, she has been shot. Before anyone could say jack, Corinne too was dead. Anne Dechauffor and her mother Corinne were killed right in their car at the basement garage. The almost-due pregnant lady that worked for the Clinton Foundation was shot dead with her baby in her womb, Prof Awoonor was killed and his son was injured, several other nationals from Peru to India including kenyans died in the or were injured. The total dead count, 61, people who died from gunshot wounds, grenade shrapnel, collapse of the roof of the mall etc. The terrorists laid siege on the mall for 4 full days. It took the combined effort of the military and other international security agents, to end the siege. Infact, one of the Al-shabaab terrorists smuggled himself into the crowd that was marching out with hands raised and would have escaped except that his rifle's magazine fell and he was arrested.
This event shook the world to its roots. Why? Because the people that died were not faceless and nameless people.
In Nigeria, we have sort of become numb to the news of death by Boko Haram. All we hear in the news is that Boko Haram has killed 10 people or 20 people. The way the human mind works is that after hearing bad news for a while, we become numb to the information especially when the issue does not touch us in any way and those involved are anonymous. For one, there is no face or name to the people affected. If the news we have heard in the past 4 or so months are anything to go by, at least 100 people would have died in the hands of Boko Haram, not to count officers and men of the armed forces. But because there are no faces and names attached to the people, after a while, the incidence just becomes one of the several ills in the society, as though it the people that died were just items and not people's relatives - fathers, mothers, children etc. Then the fact that they happened long distance away further numbs us, once we have the slightest inclination that we would never be in the path of that danger, it starts to bother us very little. The anonymity of the people also affects the government, because the people that died were just mentioned in numbers, in large numbers, after a while, even the government become somewhat numb to the loss and becomes lackadaisical with dealing with the issue, without any real sense of loss to the nation. Somehow that way of dealing with the deaths in this Country is a reflection of what value the government place on its citizen.
What makes us all remember 9/11? Because there were faces and names to the deceased. They were not anonymous. Till today, so many years after, we still do a remembrance of them all over the world. What makes us remember the people that died in the shootings in America, they put names and faces to every loss. I remember when a guy killed almost 20 kids and their teachers in a primary school, every one of those kids and the teachers that died has their names and pictures documented and shown on television. Because they could touch and feel the loss, the government of the United State put pressure on themselves to deal with the issues. Years after the bombing of the This Day building in Abuja, not one name of the affected people can be remembered. Infact most people have forgotten that any such thing happened. No one can even say how many people died in the catastrophe or in any catastrophe at that, while the police gives a casualty figure, the State Security Service will give another and that goes down the chain until the figure and the issue just enters the countries rumour mill, after which we all return to our business and pray to God for protection.
In some ways the national consciousness has to be kept awake to the reality of the losses we have experienced in this country. It is good for everyone to share a sense of common pain. We are not a country of faceless people; this is the country with the largest number of black people, a country of intelligent and hard-working people. American or Europeans are not more important than Nigerians, the people that run their countries are not much smarter than the people that run or can run ours. We are a nation of intelligent and highly resourceful people, but we need to begin to ensure that everyone counts. It is time to stop letting things disappear. It is important to keep events in the consciousness of the nation. A person that forgets his past is likely to make the same mistakes in his past, same goes for a nation. As long as we don't start to put faces and names to the people we lose in this country it will be hard to entrench the change we need.
Lastly, our condolences to the families that lost loved one in the Kenya massacre. May God comfort them with the comfort which only He can give, and may He give them the fortitude to bear the loss.