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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And that campus shooting

Pix:Sam Okpodu and the girls
As we grapple with our own problems here in Nigeria, l cannot help but
be transfixed by the horror of the campus shooting reports coming out
of Virginia Tech in America. The reports are even more eerie for me
because in 1999, I stayed in one of those dormitories where the
shooting began. I had been doing a sports travel diary out of America
during the FIFA Female World Cup. After the finals l flew from LA to
Chicago and then to Maryland and had to drive to Roanoke to visit our
friend Sam Okpodu. Sam, ex-Green Eagle star is a decorated football
coach in America. At that time, he was the female football coach at VT
and he was conducting a summer school for girls aged between 9 and 15 during the campus summer break. I recall teasing Sam about the fact that l could count the number of black faces l saw in my one-week stay on one hand. That community is so suburban, middle class, white and peaceful that my mind cannot comprehend how such a heinous crime could be committed there. Sam eventually (on Segun Odegbami's persuasion) resigned his job and came home to coach the Nigerian Falcons only to be thoroughly frustrated out of the job (story for another day). After three years, he returned to America and is now in South Carolina. I sit here in my Lagos home far away from Virginia but my mind is on those beautiful lawns of Virginia Tech, l still have my VT sweatshirt with the Go Hokie sign on it.

I cannot imagine the pain of the family of the victims and the consternation of the Korean community in America and at home. As the arguments on gun control start all over again in America l recall the story of the Nigerian tourist in Johannesburg whose two year old daughter was shot right in front of her in their hotel room. Perhaps it is because we don't have such easy access to guns or the fact that Nigerians are just non violent but l have often admired the fact that crime rate in Nigeria is so low compared to the amount of policing we get. You can travel for kilometres on NEPA (don't care what it is called now) darkened roads without a policeman in sight save the occasional police check points where random policemen shake down okadas and danfos for the odd 20 naira. Imagine New York or London without light, cameras and police? Ah ha you get the picture? So even as we join America in a comity of nations to mourn the dead and ponder on how it could have happened we must be thankful that things are not as bad as they could potentially be here in Nigeria. Or am l deluding myself?


Anonymous said...

It was indeed a huge tragedy, one of those with a mysterious "why?" behind it.
However, the horror of this massacre is no more barbaric than slayings in places like Afghanistan where renegades burn down girls schools with the pupils in them, Iraq where everyday routines could be deadly, or in Nigeria where teenage pupils beat a teacher to death over a perceived slight to the Koran. The difference from suburban Va? None of the above have unrelenting and sympathetic CNN coverage.
Conclusion: There are crazies everywhere, even in bucolic Va.

Anonymous said...

We have guns in naija, we don't just use it that way. When most people kill in naija, it is usually for profit.Have you seen Lord of War? The governments of USA,UK and I forget, are the largest arms dealers in the world. Blame the society that allows a young person acesss to guns legally or illegelly. What is a small arm for? To kill a person, not game.

The gunman obviously had (a) mental illness(es), probably aggravated by the isolation/bias he encoutered that he rambled about.He was a sick boy. This by no way is an excuse for his actions.

Peace and love, Reader in Toronto.

Toks- Boy said...

Funmi, I agree with you on the lack of gun crime in Nigeria. Even the police with their accidental discharges are not as bad as what once person can do in the USA. I went to school in the US and soon became very aware that guns were a big part of efveryday life - even as far back as high school. It is a real shame what has happened but I fear it is not the last - some sicko is guaranteed to try and top this latest massacre especially if it means the sort of coverage that this chap has been receiving. Is this not just an extension of reality TV where everyone wants to be famous and if you have no natural talent then you have to resort to unnatural means?

Anonymous - I am curious as to why all your examples of barbarism have to do with Islam \ Moslems?

Moriam Ojikutu said...

That was trully a tragedy that happened in Virgina, espcially those poor students got up in the morning to go class, if only they knew that was their last day on earth. It is really sad, we just have to pray that we cross that kind of deadly path.
Talking about Nigeria, Funmi i strongly agree with you, we will never hear crazy things like this
happening in Nigeria Which is one thing we have to thank God for.

Anonymous said...

Hello funmi, pls i like to read ur blogg every mornging, but it`s never updated on time.
Observation of a loyal fan and reader.

Queenb said...

The shoot in VA was horrifying to say the least...my heart goes out to all the victims’ families. We are all wearing maroon and orange today in their memory.

You may be deluding yourself a tad bit; there may not be random shootings but to say that Nigerians are non violent? I beg your pardon? How about the numerous armed robberies that have resulted in death or the random assassinations of politician we read about everyday or even the cult activities at Nigerian universities? At the end of the day the crime in VA will be attributed to mental illness of some sorts but what is Nigeria’s excuse?

Funmi Iyanda said...

@anonymous, l do agree that there is tendency to sympathize more with American tragedies because Western media puts it in our faces relentlessly. Our issues are not as important because we do not have the powerful media. Our media will not get powerful unless we support it, any 2 bit american reality show will get millions in adverts and endorsement on DSTV (with only 1% of the african audience) before any African concieved and produced show. That odious argument about low standard is annoying because if we were to apply that to all other sectors, is our banking, construction, finance, government etc on par with their western or eastern counterparts of the world? We continue to engage these and work towards improvement. If we had all taken our monies to HSBC in the days of tally number banking where would the GTBs of today be? I and my friends have tried to get African content produced by Africans on international western media and continually hit a wall, we keep at it because at least they listen, our people wont even listen to us as a CMO of a top communications coy said recently to me that he has never seen my show even whilst his managers and the people around him look on in shock. Another top Nigerian media practitioner requiting for DSTV said he had never seen my work because even his mother cannot make him watch NTA or most Nigerian stations. His poor mama! Such celebrated declaration of ignorance is common here as many middle class retards declare that they never watch Nigerian TV and only listen to radio statios with non coherent, weird American accented on air personalities.

@toks-boy, that make me an instant star culture is bad enough where they have a vibrant entertainment industry that can support the 15 minute celebrity but here in Nigeria, with our challenged and at best emerging entertainment industry what is to become of them, particularly since the majority of the ordinary people (tv is mass media) dont even know them. Ask Bayo of big brother africa whose bitterness is palpable. Whose most of the winners are either shor changed or forced to sign agreements taking a huge percentage of the winnings and future earnings. Ask which of the manufactured movie stars has a fraction of the acceptance of genevieve or omotola or which of the so called singing stars can rival obesere, pasuma, psuare, weird mc or 2 face. 17 years on, they cant even compete with Shina Peters. Even if a person has talent, he or she requires perseverance and other skills that only going through the process imbues.
@ anonynous from toronto
l have this dream, that all the misfits, frustrated and racially glass walled of Nigerian extraction got on the plane and came home and together we go and deal with those ruining our lives so that we may build a nation that the western democracy will be forced to deal with as equals. Did you notice the ripple effect on the dow jones when the shangai stock market shuddered in february?
@ anonymous, l'm trying, l'm trying. stick with me :-)

Nkonye said...

i went to school in Ife "Great Ife"and if i can remember correctly this same incident happend in '99 when cult members from another school came armed and shot innocent student union leaders who were trying to put an end to cultism.It can happen any where in the world the difference is the one in Afica is not given "any"media attention.

Through these eyes said...

I go to Virginia Tech. It was a huge tragedy for us. We are actually given the option of skipping final exams if we are satisfied with our grades so far, so school ends for me sooner than I expected, which is a huge weight off my shoulders.

If you have a minute, please read my account of the tragedy first hand and leave your comment. It will be much appreciated. :)