This day last month over two hundred young girls were abducted from their school in a brazen move by Boko Haram terrorists. The Nigerian nation now accustomed to periodic episodes of the sect’s brutality was shocked out of silence by the sheer scale of this operation and the innocent, defenseless children it targeted.
Shortly after, we received comforting and to me no less shocking news that the Nigerian military had rescued most of the girls but our relief was very brief indeed. The army’s information was faulty. In fact no such thing had occurred.
Around or before this time, the campaign had taken to Twitter and found life in the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. And on the web, in a random twist that few could have predicted, the world took notice of the deplorable incident and sent an outpouring of solidarity messages and peaceful protests .
Three weeks after the incident, the national security forces’ handling of the situation came under deep scrutiny. International news organizations ran stories on the kidnap .CNN sent down correspondents to directly assess the situation and finally the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria addressed the nation on the plight of the Chibok girls in a televised broadcast.
He has since formally accepted help from the US, UK and China in the search and rescue mission.
We have great cause to be worried about the state and safety of girls.
Notwithstanding a recent call for negotiation by the infamous sect’s leader, many indicators including previous statements from the group suggest that they might mean to do them deliberate and methodical harm.
Reports that the girls had been split, and were being auctioned off for ‘forced marriages’ – an unconvincing euphemism for sexual slavery only served to alarm us and further devastate their pitiable parents already battling nightmarish fears.
As a result of the recent video calling for negotiations and a prisoner exchange, we now know or rather hope the girls are in centralized locations. This is a crucial point. If the girls are split into myriad cells, it could prove impossible to rescue each of them, without completely dismantling and subduing the Boko Haram terrorists that have survived and expanded despite the Nigerian military’s best efforts so far. Even then, it would be uncertain. The case of the Lord’s Revolutionary Army of Uganda offers a disturbing parallel. Women were kidnapped and ‘forced to serve’ as wives.
It goes without saying, a partial rescue is unacceptable. Every single one of them must be rescued. We cannot stand by as children are potentially harmed with unimaginable savagery and beastly intent. The day after the kidnap would have been ideal. Every minute since is far too long. Every day without positive news is excruciating.
Unsurprisingly, more attention is being paid to the Boko Haram group that have already killed thousands of civilians in the past five years and the federal government that has made bold promises and weak progress in the war against them.
The truth is that the Chibok girls did not have to be kidnapped. They could have been protected. Amnesty International reports that elements of the military received warning hours in advance of the attack. A government representative disputes this and talked of investigating. Regardless, the government’s overall record against insurgency is very unsatisfying to say the least. Word on the street is, many citizens are as terrified of the insurgents as they are of their constitutionally appointed protectors and for good and apparent reason.
I perceive the new-fanged terrorism in Nigeria as akin to the contracting of Ebola by an individual laid low by AIDS , terminal cancers and generous doses of insanity. The systemic corruption, tribal tensions, and a culture of impunity infuse Nigeria with a lethal mix. The last additional thing we needed was a terrorist insurgency.
That said the country is not irredeemable. Terrorism can still be flushed out before it gains a stronger hold and becomes a facet of Nigerian life. There is a long list of plain and established solutions, that would drastically alter Nigeria’s fate. Speakers at the WEF Africa event last week made mention of some of those remedies, and the economic excitement at the summit, is a reminder of Nigeria’s vast potential despite spirited attempts to squander most of it.
As we ask that our girls are brought back, let us also ask how it is that they were taken, why thousands of others have been murdered, how we can end it, and how we can in turn end the system of , sharp ethnic and religious divisions ,callous disregard , incompetent stewardship, inadequate infrastructure massive unemployment, crumbling public service institutions and pervading decay that have brought Nigeria to its knees and stunted it’s growth.
Today, Nigerian Soldiers are said to have opened fire on a General’s convoy citing poor salaries and insufficient equipment and possibly misappropriated funds. Thankfully, there were no casualties. Stop and let the implications of that sink in for a moment.
Today also, Borno villagers ambushed a Boko Haram contingent killing up to 200, capturing 10 and seizing vehicles in a rare pushback. (I expect that the authorities will immediately deploy measures to foil a possible retaliatory attack on that village.)
While I mourn that things are so dire that civilians must fight such foes unaided, I applaud their bravery . With our lives on the line -and I assure you, they are even if indirectly -it might be down to the average citizen to join the call for change with words and with actions.
Today those words are: #BringBackOurGirls !