It has been more than three weeks since over 200 girls were abducted at Chibok in Borno State by the Boko Haram terrorist organization. They have not been found yet.
More than three weeks ago, about 234 girls from a school in Chibok Local Government in Borno State in the North-east of Nigeria were kidnapped from school. Only two or so of the girls escaped. The disturbing event has turned attention of the world on my country again, for the wrong reasons. Boko Haram, the group that carried out the attack and took responsibility, have been a present threat in the country since about five years now (and a few have asked why it took this long to get the world’s attention).
Many things have happened since the news of this abduction took place. Concerned Nigerians have forced the Nigerian government to acknowledge the abduction, and finally accept the offer of help from the United States Government. This is a good thing. It might however be too late as intelligence reports have pointed to the likelihood that the girls may have been scattered or sold to different parts of the region. Today, the US special forces arrived in the country. The next couple of days and weeks should be interesting.
Meanwhile, the social media campaign that forced our inept and unresponsive government to finally say, if not do, something, continues. Here was the first tweet carrying the hashtag. It was inspired by a passionate plea by Oby Ezekwesili, a former Nigerian Minister, at an event in Port Harcourt, Nigeria about a week after the kidnapping (though, in a somewhat sad and predictable twist, ABC News today attributed the organic, locally-generated campaign to a Los Angeles woman who joined in at least a solid week AFTER Nigerians already lit up twitter with the hashtag).
As a teacher of school kids of similar age range, the presence (and success) of Boko Haram threatens everything I hold dear. Unfortunately, I live in a country where the government, as properly described by the New York Times editorial is “deeply troubled”, “corrupt”, with “little credibility”, and if I might add, filled with unjustified hubris that cares only for the sustenance of its own political survival. Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that it took foreign, outside, pressure (acquired through the dogged use of social media by concerned citizens with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag) to even get the president to address the issue or acknowledge its existence after about two weeks!)
There are already op-ed pieces in the nation’s journals calling attention to the possibility that we may never find those girls anymore. Not in one place anymore, obviously. More importantly, not in the same sane and decent state of mind. A very legitimate concern poignantly illustrated in this piece in the New Yorker. Nigeria has a number of deep and troubling issues, top of which is leadership. Every other issue (corruption, terrorism, poverty, decaying infrastructure) has stemmed from this first issue of leadership.
Since the attention of the world is on us now, legitimately, though for an uncomfortable reason, it’s also a time for some self reflection. But those interested in a more nuanced discussion about our expectations from this foreign intervention should follow Nigerian writer Teju Cole on twitter. This is what I mean. The girls may be found. Actually, now with the help of the US Special Forces, it is likely that the trails may get clearer. What kinds of girls are we getting back, however? What would be left of them physically and psychologically, and into which country are they returning? The same one that let them down in the first place? How many more will be killed and maimed, and how do we defeat an ideology that has refused to die?
In the end, it will not just be a Nigerian, but a human, problem. And we should not be deceived as to its quick and clean resolution. I’m not.