A police chief once said that he hoped Boko Haram would soon run out of fools to blow up. He said so in that characteristic way in which we Nigerians vent our frustration by telling slightly tasteless jokes. Black humour always come to our rescue. Under Abacha we joked. During Occupy Nigeria, even as bullets strayed into the crowd, we joked. And this police chief, confronted with the ineptitude of his force and the foreignness of the mode of attack (but Nigerians love life too much to be suicide bombers), he too he joked. The bombing of schools, churches, mosques, UN buildings, police headquarters, it is not a laughing matter, yet still we joke and I think in the end, it is this that will save us.
Boko Haram is not strong enough to overwhelm Nigeria with force. They have neither the arms nor the funds to stage a military invasion of Nigeria. So what we have instead is a war of attrition. They strike here, strike there and hope that they will wear us down. I have not yet seen the power or calamity or disaster that is capable of wearing the Nigerian down. We can be angered, we can be pained, we can suffer but tomorrow we rise at 4am, rinse our faces and we start again. Not in an automated, mechanic way but in a matter of fact, practical way. And when the pressure builds we fight. And when, that is not enough, we burn each others houses. And if still, all is not released, we will kill each other. But then we start again and all the while, while we fight and burn and kill and die because the hospital had no drip and the road was not tarred and the light was not working, all the while, we joke. And then we start again not in an automated, mechanic way but in matter of fact, practical way.
This is what suffering has done to us. Perhaps it has made us easily trampled on. Sparks that would ignite a population elsewhere, soon flicker out. Forest fires that would explode another country, flare briefly and die away. Yet, this suffering has also made us very difficult to wear out. In a war of attrition, I will bet on Nigeria every time.
My hope for my country is that we learn to get angry in a constructive way; we learn the angers that builds roads and schools and credible elections and power plants and an honest police force. But I also hope that when finally, the people are aroused, we will not forget how to deal with suffering. It is not to be crumbled in front of, nor cowed by but to be joked at. And when it has done its worst, we start again, not in an automated, mechanic way but in a matter of fact, practical way.
May the souls of all those murdered by Boko Haram today rest in peace.