• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Not Nigeria, not again

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I was lying lazily on my favourite couch at home when a young man suddenly appeared on the screen with what seemed like red paint on his hand. The channel was the BBC and the volume had been turned down. I had drifted off on the couch a few times. I had watched most of the news highlights over and over again and had become quite bored with the fact that there was nothing new and only Syria was still making news across international channels. There was little else to watch. My head did a double take. Surely, I had not seen this man before. My senses became alert when I saw that he had knives in his hand. I was still woozy and I wondered if it was a strange dream. I flipped through other channels barely able to hold the remote control. Each channel had some image of this man. I am a newsperson, having spent thirty years of my life involved in news operation and news administration. This was a red alert. My sleepy eyes stirred awake. My instinct told me something was terribly wrong. I pressed volume on the remote control so hard it sent my family scampering to the living room. Immediate information gathered ran my blood cold. A black man had attacked a white man on the streets of Woolwich with knives and a meat cleaver cutting him to pieces in broad daylight. Passers-by had thought he was attending to an accident victim who needed help. I was gobsmacked. Horror of horrors! In broad daylight! It was unbelievable.

It was a running story so I remained with the BBC. Since it was happening in the UK, they would definitely be the channel with updates and fresh pictures. I was now fully awake. I called friends and family in the UK. Most of them had not heard about the tragedy. I sat up on the couch. I felt sorry for any efforts on race relations; I worried about black Britons, immigrants and coloured people living in the UK. Already, immigration laws were getting more and more stringent and opportunities for blacks slimmer and slimmer. The European economy’s challenges had changed a lot of things. The crunch was on, people were being let off and jobs were few and far between. The action of this black man, yet to be identified, was going to worsen the situation.

My thoughts then wondered to the man who had committed this horrific act. It was said that he had an accomplice who was also black. Wow! Were they high on something? Were they occultists? Were they psychiatric patients who escaped from their care or a sanatorium? I was restless. Then bang! New information: the man carrying the meat cleavers had been identified – Michael Adebolajo, Nigerian born, 28. I was stupefied. Not again. Now his words were being played at the scene of the crime. He had yelled “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for God be praised) at the scene of the crime and with the knives in his hand he urged passers-by to record him as he made his infamous speech about how Muslims were dying at the hand of British soldiers and how these attacks would continue and how British PM David Cameron should be called to order. An indescribable sadness washed over me. This young man has links with my country, even though from the way he spoke he may never have been home. But certainly he was of Nigerian parentage. I tried to shake it off as news filtered that he was British but of Nigerian extract and his accomplice also bore a traditional Nigerian name. Well, they can’t hold us all responsible for his foolishness.

As the hours ticked on, the Muslim community in London condemned the act and disowned him. That left the only strands the news channels could hold on to. Nigerian, Islamic extremism, Boko Haram links. That was it. Of course, they can hold us collectively responsible in their heart. I felt a new wave of sadness. I know nothing of the three strands mentioned earlier, but like all other law-abiding Nigerians worldwide, we are going to pay one way or the other for his misdemeanour. Checks will be more stringent if you carry a Nigerian passport, more so if you are Muslim, and generally all black immigrants will now be under watch. In a lot of instances, privacy will be invaded. Before now it was Mutallab, and now Adebolajo. Our image of “international bad boy” is beginning to emerge. It saddens me that our name should be linked to such a horrific act and here I was feeling sorry for others, not knowing that it will be so close home. How very sad. There are so many good Nigerians representing Britain in sports, literature and the sciences. May God help them to shine so bright that these sad incidences may be blighted from international consciousness.

Our hearts go out to the family of the murdered soldier. What a sad end to a fine young man at the hands of a Briton of Nigerian descent. Very sad.