To some Naija people, Thailand could be in Mars or Venus; to others, it is that Asian nation famous for its rice production that Naija has now banned. Yet others would remember it for executing drug traffickers. Medical historians would link it to Siam, from where we get the word Siamese. The country reminds of political instability of which the story of multimillionaire ex-prime-minister Thaksin Sinuwathra spending his time in exile readily comes to mind.
This is not about Thaksin, it is about the international conspiracy to make Africa’s most populous nation look like a cave colony. On the scale of population, Thailand is 21 while Naija remains the most populous black nation. Naija people would proudly tell you that one in four black faces on earth is a compatriot. So, how many children were lost in a cave as a result of the negligence of their adventurous soccer coach to warrant all that international media attention to Thailand? Just a dozen! A dozen in a nation of 68 million people.
In Naija, after ten days of silence in a cave with rising waters, you could hear Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina advising Sai Baba to tell the parents of the boys to accept the will of Allah, go home and make more babies to replace the lost ones. You could hear them telling the nation, if they cared at all, that tragedy is something we would all have to face at some point in our lives.
Not so in Thailand. The Thai, mostly Buddhists who believe in reincarnation and not a heaven or hell would not give up on hope. They employed over 1000 international divers and cave experts and kept probing ten days later. It was a test of tenacity, national courage under incredible odds.
If we had not cantankerously stopped importing rice from Thailand, I’d be queuing at the Royal Thai Embassy in Abuja begging for adoption. Audu Ogbeh has spoilt it for me. Don’t take my green passport from me yet. I am a proud Naija. But I was not proud when President Jones tried to stop the media from ruining his re-election chances as his wife dramatized the abduction of about 300 schoolgirls from Chibok.
I was not proud when Boko Haram strolled to Buni Yadi and slaughtered 49 schoolboys. Shhh! Today nobody remembers them except as anecdotes to compare how safer life has become under APC compared to what it was under the PDP. Casualty figures no longer benumb us. We are a nation that moves on unfazed by tragedy. We are a nation that quickly obliterates casualties to celebrate mundaneness. We don’t talk about the Civil War except to taunt the side that lost. We have learnt no lessons from it. Instead we elevate and celebrate our flag independence.
I was a pumped citizen listening to Sai Baba bragging to reporters that he would exterminate Boko Haram if he ever got to Aso Rock. My national pride was deflated when, with people dying and towns still being burnt down, he announced that he has technically defeated the group. I am yet to re-graft with shock seeing Sai Baba catch Buharia – a disease that infects its carrier with selective amnesia, untenable excuses, playing deaf and dumb, being economical with the truth and missing in action in times of serious national crises.
How proud could a Naija be, reading the divisive statement from CAN last week counting the deaths from herdsmen in the last few days? Where does national pride take a person reading about the killings in Adamawa and Taraba? At what time does national pride bow to national shame?
Imagine that Leah Sharibu was Thai? Her parents would be having daily briefing about efforts being made to rescue her. They’ll have probably made contact and kept hope alive draped in national colours in their moment of uncertainty but restful in hope that their government would do whatever is required to secure the life of one citizen from the claws of brigands. Leah’s parents and the parents of the remaining Chibok girls would have been all over the world with news that Naija does not give up or waste a soul. Sai Baba would’ve been telling world media that although Naija does not negotiate with terrorists, it would pursue them beyond the gates of hell to snatch one of it’s own.
National pride dies when you watch your government silent as brigands terrorise the citizenry while the police collect bribes by the roadside. It dies when you watch all security apparatchik diverted to secure party bigwigs at a convention with slaughtering happening on the Plateau. National pride dies with the politicisation of the mass murder in Zamfara, the killings in Benue, and the annihilation in Adamawa, Taraba and Kogi.
National pride is buried in shame watching Thailand refuse to sacrifice a dozen boys and their coach to the cave and rising monsoon floodwaters. Shame buries national pride having to rationalize how a country that fought civil war to forge unity; has taken part in global peace keeping operations; liberated Liberia and Sierra Leone from annihilation has failed to secure its own borders and territory.
Yes, shame might prevent me from queuing up at the Royal Thai Embassy in Abuja, but I sincerely admire the Thais. I hope next time my president goes to a global meeting; he’ll avoid Thai officials. I hope his agriculture minister would never use Thailand, rice, ban, and importation in the same sentence ever again.
I’ve no hope for a cure from Buharia or lessons from the Thai rescue. An empty but proud nation would learn nothing except it first admits that it knows nothing. Sorry Thailand, you’ve nothing to teach us about national pride.