Lessons Learned From #BringBackOurGirls

The world was recently alerted to the plight of over two hundred young girls who were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria. While this unfortunate incident?has inspired many around the world to act, we realize that there are numerous lessons that have been learned from this situation – some good and some bad. At the end of the day, the goal is not to let this define who we are, but to rally a movement towards change. Here are few of these lessons learned below:

There is strength and power in the voice of civil society
Not long before the Chibok girls were abducted, there were several boys executed in their dormitories by Boko Haram. Although there was an initial outcry, it wasn?t long before the fatal event was all but forgotten. In contrast, the aftermath of the Chibok girl?s abduction saw a worldwide twitter campaign. A very clear difference in reaction was observed once the voice of the people was heard.

There ARE leaders with conviction
Given the unfortunate history of poor leadership in Nigeria, it is indeed hard to make this statement. Perhaps then it takes unfortunate situations like an abduction to bring the positive within out. Now, Oby Ezekweali, the former VP of the World Bank African Unit has shown leadership with conviction. Amidst a streak of downplaying, Oby led protests which fanned the strength of the united voice of the people. Today #BringBackOurGirls has become a worldwide movement.

In the battle between humanity and politics, humanity should always be the priority of any African government
Africa has been known for a long time as a continent of nepotism.? In the past large atrocities have been committed by dictators, military heads-of-state, and warlords in bids to maintain power. Millions have been maimed, killed, amputated, and decapitated across Africa as the so called leaders consolidated their power. We all know fully well from hard earned experience that such leadership does not work. We are all?aware of the horrors that can arise as a result of this. Although we seem to be making progress as a continent in this regard, it remains to be fully realized that the lives of more than 200 girls could be placed at a higher priority than politics. It has been reported that protesters were deliberately arrested and otherwise prevented from participating in legal civil action. Al Jazeera reported that the Nigerian First Lady called some reports of the Chibok abductions ?fabrications? and that she ordered the arrests of protesters such as Naomi Mutah.

In the task to ensure security, civilian action is no substitute for military engagement
Talk is cheap; visibility is paramount in a situation like this. Needless to say, there is only so much civilians can ever do unless they were to physically arm themselves in organized militias. It is an even more dire situation when civilians attempt to pit themselves against a violent and well-armed terrorist group. The Nigerian military has been accused several times of doing nothing, despite its numerous incredible claims of counter terrorism successes. The military has assured the Nigerian people and the world that they have knowledge of the exact location of the kidnapped girls. Despite this and other spectacular claims, the kidnapped girls remain a distant memory. Reports still persist that the poorly armed military has been skimmed by corrupt government officials, leaving them as little more than a uniformed formality. Hope remains, as more advanced countries including the United States have donated expertise to help calm the situation.

United voices force accountability
Boko Haram has wreaked havoc and terror upon Nigeria for years. Although Nigerians know this fully well, few people outside of Nigeria have thought anything of Boko Haram, nor have many people known anything about them. The advent of social media has changed all this. The twitter revolution is here, and it is real. Voices can now unite much faster than they ever could in the past. Whereas Boko Haram activities had become very frequent, so much so that they became regular, expected and even unfortunately accepted, the voices that united through twitter have made such activities completely unacceptable. The world has decided not to accept terrorism as a way of life anymore. Although voices alone cannot bring back our girls, they can set off a chain reaction which could eventually bring them back.

 

Image:?Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde