Nearly two million Nigerians are threatened by famine in the north of the country where the Islamist sect Boko Haram has been raging for more than ten years. A situation that does not seem to worry great people. Until when?
In the general indifference, famine is gaining momentum in northern Nigeria. According to the World Food Program (WFP), nearly two million Nigerians are threatened by famine in the areas where Boko Haram has lived.
Between Syria, North Korea, and Donald Trump, the international media have other cats to whip. More surprisingly, the Nigerian media are not interested in it anymore, as if these silent dramas were happening in another country or at the other end of the world. The national media are mostly located in Lagos, 1,000 kilometers from Borno State, the epicenter of the humanitarian tragedy and the conflict with Boko Haram. The ones the Daily Lagos are devoted to the releases of new Nollywood movies, much more than to the dramas threatening the north.
Already after the abduction of 200 high school girls from Chibok in 2014, it had been very difficult to mobilize the media and the people of the South. The Western media seemed to be much more interested in the issue. When Boko Haram proclaimed a caliphate in northern Nigeria during the same period and had conquered towns with more than 100,000 inhabitants in the state of Borno, it was difficult to find people from Lagos to take an interest in this issue. ” For us, the north is another country. What happens there leaves us completely indifferent, “acknowledges, lucid, Baden Ramsome, a senior official of Ibadan.
Refugees settle in the south
The situation is all the more surprising given that thousands of refugees from the north have landed in the south, especially in Lagos. Most often without family in the region, they live in the utmost destitution and settle in makeshift shelters where they have to pay high rents. Officially they do not exist, but in reality, their misery is exploited methodically by the owners of vacant lots or by those who have decided to present themselves as such.
The local authorities strongly deny the existence of these refugees: they have decided to sell to the world the image of Lagos, a paragon of modernity. The “New York of Africa”. The success story of the continent. ” Do not spoil a good story with the truth ” ( ” Do not ruin a good story with the truth “), as saying the Anglo-Saxons.
The Lagotians feel less concerned about what is happening in the north than they have never set foot in the north and have no real contact with them. A country of more than 190 million inhabitants, Nigeria was created by the British during the colonial period. In 1914, they decided to “amalgamate” their colony in the south and in the north. Lord Lugard’s mistress, a British journalist at the time, thought it would be wise to call this creation “Nigeria” in reference to the Niger River which crosses the country.
The north and the south of the country in antipodes
The Christian south and the Muslim north had little to do. The North has a Sahelian climate while the extreme south has many mangroves. One of the objectives of the creation of this great country was to cut off the French empire in West and Central Africa. In a century, Nigeria has succeeded in establishing itself as the regional power.
But this federation is crossed by very contradictory influences. Lagos, the economic and cultural capital is turned towards the West, in particular, the United States and Great Britain. Education, especially that of girls, is considered a cardinal value.
The north is inclined to look towards the Arab-Muslim world. Sharia (Islāmic law) is applied throughout the northern part of Nigeria. The Mosques have multiplied, even in factories and homes. In the south religion is less ubiquitous. Even though in recent years, the rise of evangelical churches makes it much more visible.
In the south, the most common languages are English and Pidgin (English Creole), while in the north the Haussa language dominates. Governors of the North marry young girls. Practice much less accepted in the south. In the state of Zamfara (north), girls spend barely a year on average at school, compared with a dozen years in Lagos. ” The differences are so marked that it is sometimes complicated to imagine that we live in the same country, ” said Benjamin Okafor, a northeastern northerner.
Boko Haram did not rage in the south. It is therefore difficult for the populations of the southern part of the country to take the full measure of the tragedy. In the north, the Islamist sect has killed more than 20,000 people in the past decade. The speeches of Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, are pronounced in Haussa or Arabic. The Lagotians are more accustomed to listening to Queen English, the queen’s English than the diatribes of Shekau. He himself seems far removed from the Western world. He thus threatened to murder Margareth Thatcher and Pope Jean-Paul, when they had already died and been buried for a long time.Lack of international mobilization
Faced with such indifference, it is very difficult to mobilize funds in Lagos and the rest of Nigeria to help the martyred populations of the north.
At the same time, international mobilization is slowly taking hold. All eyes are on Syria, all the more so as the drama of North-Nigeria takes place practically behind closed doors. The Nigerian authorities make access to the area very difficult for journalists, in particular by increasing administrative and police harassment. In their eyes, it is necessary to preserve at all costs the image of the country, the main economic power of the continent. A slogan repeated on all tones by the authorities since 2014.
Nigeria proclaims itself a rich country, but at the same time, it fails to feed its population. In addition, 70% of Nigerians live on less than two dollars a day. So where the money goes, wonders the international community. It is not uncommon for politicians to have about twenty luxury vehicles and almost as many villas. In 2014, the governor of the central bank, Lamido Sanusi, denounced the evaporation in the coffers of the State of 20 billion dollars in a few days. As a result, he was dismissed.
An administration in denial
“Rather than feeding populations, elites prefer to divert money and place it in tax havens,” notes a senior Nigerian official. Under these conditions, it will be very difficult to ask the international community to mobilize instead of the “elites”. Especially since the Trump administration seems determined to make clear cuts in humanitarian spending.
” For now, the Nigerian ruling classes are in denial, they pretend that this humanitarian crisis does not exist. They continue to drink champagne in Lagos, “said a senior Nigerian official. He adds: ” But one day they will be caught up in reality. When they find the hungry displaced at the doors of their villas.”