Je suis Charlie
On January 7, 2015, two masked Islamists stormed into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French weekly newspaper that most people had never heard of, and killed the editor and 11 employees, plus two national police officers. They also wounded about a dozen others.
The offense? Charlie published satirical cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed.
Four days later more than 2 million people from all over the globe, including 40 world leaders, marched in the streets of Paris as a sign of national unity.
An additional 3.7 million people joined demonstrations nationwide, while still others around the world marched in unity.
“Je suis Charlie!” they proclaimed. “I am Charlie.”
Not once, to my knowledge, did anyone proclaim “Je suis Nigeria.”
Je suis Nigeria
Boko Haram is an Islamist group that has terrorized northern Nigeria since 2009. In 2014 they slaughtered some 2,000 of their countrymen.
On January 3, 2015, Boko Harum massacred the men, women and children in the Nigerian town of Baga. They used guns, explosives and grenade launchers. They then mounted motorcycles to pursue and kill those who tried to escape.
The offense? Baga was not living under strict Sharia law. Or maybe the people were simply guilty of existing.
Four days later there were no massive demonstrations and no global leaders marching arm in arm, just corpses rotting in the field because it’s too dangerous to bury them.
Occasionally you can find a sign that reads “Je suis Charlie. N’oublions pas les victims de Boko Haram.” “I am Charlie. Let’s not forget the victims of Boko Haram.” But not many.
It’s difficult to forget about victims you never paid attention to in the first place.
Je suis indifferent
Why the solidarity for Charlie but not for Baga?
Can it be because Nigeria isn’t in Europe and the massacre was simply more “black on black” crime?
Can it be Nigeria of little strategic and economic importance?
Is it because France has produced Napoleon, Manet, Ravel and Bardot while Nigeria is just a place you can’t find on the map?
Or is it because, as Josef Stalin cynically stated, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
We can relate to 12 dead Frenchmen, but not to 2,000 dead Nigerians.
So in that sense our indifference is all Nigeria’s fault.
They should have limited the death count to less than 10.