In the wake of the kidnapping of over two hundred school girls by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, the world has focused its attention on Nigeria in a way that it never has before. Nigeria has been known for many things, but it wasn’t known as a hotbed for terrorism until after the arrival of Boko Haram. Without going into too many details, Boko Haram literally means that western education is forbidden; the group violently rejects all things western.
Let?s fast forward to 2014. In one of the most brazen abductions in recent history, heavily armed extremists broke into the dormitories of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State while the girls rested. Meeting with slight resistance, the terrorists killed the guards, burned down some buildings and made off with over two hundred girls. To facilitate the escape, the girls were loaded on to pre-arranged Boko Haram trucks. During the operation, a fortunate few of the girls successfully fled from the hands of their captors.
The response from the Nigerian government had initially been tame at best. One would think that a sudden disappearance of an entire dormitory roster would incite a great uproar, however there was barely more than a brief bout of complaints before it was shelved as just another inevitable Boko Haram distraction. Perhaps the bomb weary nation had grown complacent (remember Abuja?), or perhaps there was even a sense of contentment with the relatively less violent attack. In comparison, a boy?s dormitory was recently attacked by the same group, and occupants were not so fortunate as to be captured alive. Initially there was barely any mention of the abduction outside of Nigeria. That is, until the uproar began.
In the wake of the abduction, news begin to spread within Nigeria ? and quickly. Many Nigerians looked to the government for a swift response to the abduction, but the results were not forthcoming. The military was then cited making bold claims to have freed most of the abducted girls. ?Specifically, Major General Chris Olukolade was quoted with the claim that only eight of more than a hundred students were still unaccounted for, statements that the Nigerian defense ministry withdrew the next day after the uproar forced their hands to come clean. The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan has been criticized widely for the seemingly inadequate response to the abductions. After much ado (and rightly so!), he confided in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that he did not know where the girls were. His wife, Patience Jonathan, was quick to come to her husband?s defense. According to a resident of Chibok, the president?s wife accused the protesters of fabricating the abduction stories in an attempt to discredit her husband?s name (say what now?!?). She was also said to have ordered the arrests of protesters including protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar. A credible source namely the Daily Trust newspaper quoted Patience Jonathan as ordering all Nigerian women to stop protesting.
Recently the Jonathan family has been accused by disgruntled Nigerians of being involved with gold platted weddings, 21-gun salutes of Kenyan dignitaries, suspension of the CBN governor and even a fixation on gay hunting. So what has been done by the Nigerian administration on the abduction matter besides downplaying the terror and unsuccessfully attempting to pacify the masses with false hopes? Not much unfortunately. Amidst the complete confusion and panic, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram showed up unexpectedly in a new video bounded by AK-47 assault rifles, despite numerous claims of his killing by the Nigerian military. His message was that he had possession of the girls, and will sell them. Reports were that the girls would be sold for $12 each at the market as slaves and wives to Jihadists.
It seems like the real heros of this event are Nigerian citizens. #BringBackOurGirls has become a worldwide trend. The world of social media has finally focused in on Nigeria, this time for a worthy cause. For whatever reason that people worldwide have decided to join in on this trending topic, we sure are glad that they came. The #BringBackOurGirls hash tag has been retweeted more than 800,000 times, effectively pushing the girls case before a global audience before whose eyes inaction is a totally inappropriate response. With the world staring blankly at Goodluck Jonathan, there seemed to be a brief checkmate before he finally bent under the pressure of a situation well over his head, and sought help from Barack Obama, Britain, France and China. Deutsche Welle (DW) recently wondered in a piece if Jonathan was a powerless president and if he is really aware of what has been going on? Unbelievably, Borno state in which where the attack occurred has been under a state of emergency for the past year. Complicating matters, the first lady does not even believe there was ever a kidnapping. At a time in the wake of the Nyanya bombings, it appeared government response was ramping up against terrorism and Boko Haram. This empty hope was soon put to rest as Boko Haram celebrated May Day by bombing the exact same place within three weeks, exposing the complete ineffectiveness of whatever fixes were apparently made.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Acting General Secretary, Comrade Chirs Uyot, said that despite the previous bomb explosion in the same place, the security forces only responded by barricading the access road to worsen gridlock for commuters. So what exactly is going on with the government response? The Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka insisted that Jonathan was not capable of countering Boko Haram while author Chimamanda Adichie wished for the state of insecurity in Nigeria to utterly consume Jonathan. Nigeria is under siege. Its people cower for safety and the fingers are all pointed at the president.? Nobody knows when the girls will be released, if ever, or if they will be killed, sold, or spared. A week ago the US warned Nigeria of an impending attack on Sheraton hotel in Lagos. Nigeria is besieged, and it seems anyone can be killed at any time. While a president can only do so much at any given time, for better or worse, the president will always receive the blame for poor government response.
The Nigerian government can do way better than this for its people, it just can. #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackANation.