Paris and Nigeria: A tale of two hashtags

Exclusive: Nigerian soldiers discuss Boko Haram fight
Exclusive: Nigerian soldiers discuss Boko Haram fight

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Exclusive: Nigerian soldiers discuss Boko Haram fight 02:51

Story highlights

  • Up to 2,000 people in northeast Nigeria killed in Boko Haram's worst ever attack in early January
  • Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani: Nigeria's government has expressed more sympathy for the Paris terror attacks than the latest massacre within its own borders

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a Nigerian novelist, humorist, essayist and journalist. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)In matters regarding Nigeria, the international community seems to be learning from experience. Why galvanize support for a government that then exercises its sovereignty by not backing up that support? Why effuse sympathy on people who themselves seem to care so little?

When more than 200 girls were in April 2014 kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists from their school in Chibok, the international community rallied around Nigeria.
    From Michelle Obama to Alicia Keys to Malala Yousafzai, personalities from across the globe lent their voices to the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign.
    Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
    This response contrasted greatly to the relative apathy which followed what has been described by Amnesty International as Boko Haram's deadliest attack -- the massacre of up to 2,000 mostly women and children in Baga town of northeast Nigeria last week.
    At about the same time that the Baga bloodbath was making headlines around the world, the international community was rallying around France in support against the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris, giving rise to the #JeSuisCharlie social media campaign. A simultaneous #IAmBaga social media campaign has failed to gain much steam.
    The Igbo proverb points out that a man cannot expect you to both marry a wife for him and then buy the new couple a bed on which to sleep. Similarly, a country is expected to take responsibility and set sail with the winds of global support.
    Boko Haram's escalating wave of terror
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    Boko Haram's escalating wave of terror 04:45
    France's President Francois Hollande was addressing the world's media and showing leadership within minutes of the attack. His government's efforts to hunt down the terrorists were broadcast for all the world to see. Nigeria's President Jonathan, on the other hand, waited two weeks before even offering a word on the Chibok kidnappings. So far, he has said nothing about Baga.
    However, President Jonathan has issued a statement condemning the Paris attacks.
    Perhaps it is not that the Nigerian government does not care about its own people. Perhaps they simply want to spare us the repetitiveness of their public statements and condemnations: "The perpetrators of this dastardly act shall be brought to book". "No stone shall be left unturned". "God will punish them and their families". But who cares about words and worn-out clichés? Action is what the Nigerian people need.
    One year on, the fact remains that -- despite predictions that they would be released imminently -- the more than 200 missing girls have still not been found. The Boko Haram perpetrators, rather than cowering under the fire of the Nigerian armed forces, have become bolder. More women and girls have been kidnapped. Boys have been kidnapped. Communities in the northeast of Nigeria are being raided and razed on an almost weekly basis.
    It is also possible that the Nigerian government's incertitude is being misconstrued as sluggishness or inaction. Maybe they do not believe that things are as bad as is being widely reported by the international media. Last year, President Jonathan's wife, Patience, openly queried the veracity of the missing girls report. This week, the Nigerian defense ministry insisted that fewer than 150 lives were lost in the Baga attack, as opposed to Amnesty International's quoted 2,000.
    World paying attention to Boko Haram atrocities
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    World paying attention to Boko Haram atrocities 04:11
    Some Nigerians I've listened to have also expressed their doubts about the 2,000 figure. They believe that, similar to the World Bank's assertion that more than 67% of Nigerians are living in poverty, the Baga reports are all part of the international community's grand conspiracy to taint Nigeria, to make our country look bad. They insist that the international media, in their quest to excavate bad news from "Africa," have simply latched on to an unverified casualty figure.
    Unfortunately, the Nigerian media -- presumably not part of this grand international conspiracy -- are unable to provide us with enough alternative information. They are too busy covering the preparations for the forthcoming elections scheduled to take place in February.
    Political rallies are beamed live on local TV and radio stations for hours every day. Photographs of grinning politicians are splashed on newspaper front pages every morning, their latest pronouncements and promises stealing all the headlines. Current affairs programs and opinion pages are consumed with the adulation or derogation of either President Jonathan or his main contender at the polls, General Muhammadu Buhari.
    Baga and other such will clearly have to take a back seat until after the elections.
    Nevertheless, the ongoing carnage in Nigeria's northeast will definitely be a determining factor in the outcome of the February elections. A recent snap poll by Nigeria's NOIPolls (which partners with the U.S.'s Gallup) identified security as one of the key issues that Nigerians want their president to focus on in 2015.
    I suspect that those Nigerians who believe the relatively popular theory in certain ethnic circles that the rise in Boko Haram attacks are being orchestrated by unknown forces who want President Jonathan out by all means, will vote to keep him in -- just to prove a point to his enemies that their vicious efforts did not work. Others who feel that Jonathan is simply insensitive and incapable of handling the crisis will probably vote Buhari.
    Whatever happens at the polls, Nigeria has to at some point face the Boko Haram issue squarely -- even after the international media frenzy around the group's latest attacks has died down, as it surely will.