I have so far refrained from writing about the Nigerian ‘missing girls’ for some reasons. Firstly, I wouldn’t want to cause any more pain to families of the missing girls, if indeed there are missing girls.
I got a glimpse of just how much Nigerians love conspiracy theories when Lee Rigby was hatched to death on the street of London by Nigerian/British born Islamist fanatics, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. Many Nigerians went into conspiracy frenzy on social networks. They claimed it was all a set up and made the murderers out to be victims of a twisted immigration plot! Surprisingly, many of the conspiracy theorists were self-identified skeptics and freethinkers. I got fed up of their conspiracy theories showing on my newsfeeds that I reached for the block button. One thing I emphasized was how much pain their insensitive posts were causing the bereaved family. So, let’s get this out of the way, I loathe conspiracy theories, not just because they are mostly misguided but because they do tend to cause pains to the victims and their families.
However, I know that silence in the face of oppression is never the answer. if things don’t add up in the Chibok kidnappings, better to voice concerns than keep silent especially since I can’t keep saying ‘No comment’ whenever i am asked to comment on the issue.
Fears and Suspicions
Boko Haram is real. It is a monster that has claimed many innocent lives and blown children up in their dormitories since it started its nefarious activities in Nigeria. However, the sad truth is that some prominent Nigerian leaders and politicians have at one time or the other befriended, dined and wined the monster called Boko Haram in an effort to score a point over their political opponents. It is now blowing up in their faces and unfortunately, it is taking innocent victims and casualties down with it.
When I first read that about 276 girls were kidnapped from Government Girls College, Chibok, Borno state by the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, I thought “oh no, not again!” but I was actually relieved that they were not murdered since Boko Haram is more known for blowing up children in their dormitories than kidnapping them. To be alive is to have hope. However, as events unfolded, I started wondering if truly 200+girls were kidnapped.
When I saw the headlines by some newspapers and bloggers brandishing a purported interview with one of the 53 girls that allegedly escaped, I suspected foul play. Only a line or two was attributed to the girl and there were contradictions. It didn’t add up. It smacks of a badly written nollywood script. At that point, I thought it was just some bloggers trying to get hits on their blogs with made up stories. However, recent events point to the possibility that this is beyond irresponsible journalism and overzealous bloggers. It seems in the case of the kidnapped Chibok girls, the more you look, the less you see.
A state of emergency was declared in Borno state before the girls were kidnapped. How come the insurgents did not encounter any police road blocks, especially when it is virtually impossible for civilians to go about their legal, normal duties without encountering police palaver? How did the terrorists operate for hours in the night with heavy weapons in a place where there is a curfew? What is the use of declaring a state of emergency when trucks could be moved into a school to abduct 200+ girls without encountering security barricades?
It took a lot of questions and pressure before the principal of the school could come up with the names of some of the missing girls. They were supposedly in school to prepare for their GCEs. I presume they are also registered to take the GCEs, so how difficult could it be to get their names and pictures? How is the public supposed to help alert police to sightings of missing persons when they have never seen their pictures? Did they not think that people are bound to ask for names and pictures of the missing girls? Why on earth did some people, especially northern leaders, take it as an affront? Why turn this simple, logical request into a political row?
Nigeria is a country where people can be paid to do anything or be anything you want them to be. It is a country where unionists sometimes pay workers to join workers’ protests for minimum wage. Nigeria is a country where you can pay strangers to cry at a funeral and pretend they are relatives or friends of the deceased. The belief is that people wailing and crying their eyes out at a funeral is a sign that the deceased was a good person. Needless to say the cries of the paid strangers is a spectacle all on its own.
What is my point here? I was not surprised when it was pointed out that the woman who was arrested during the meeting with the first lady, had earlier claimed that her daughter was one of the abducted girls. It turned out this was a lie. While her arrest on the alleged order of the first lady (who actually has no such power but of course little facts like this won’t stop power drunk Nigerians from exercising powers they don’t actually have and won’t stop ass-licking police officers from doing the bidding of the rich and powerful) is despicable one must not lose sight of the damage false claims like this does to police investigations.
It is one thing to organise protests to demand the return of the abducted girls but it is quite another to give misleading information that could actually jeopardise the investigation. Her actions could very well be termed as perverting the course of justice, which is a very punishable offence in democratic countries. So while we condemn the actions of the First lady, do not forget to condemn the false information this woman fed the public. Which also begs the question, how many other women out there have falsely claimed that their children were among those kidnapped?
It was also reported that the President paid 1 million naira each to the parents of the missing girls. I doubt if this was true, but well, it is Nigeria and it could well be true. If true, one must wonder, what is the payment for? How come we couldn’t have the names of the entire 276 missing girls but somehow, the president had names of their parents and paid out a million naira to each of them? Was it a death payment? If this was a case of fabricated lies, irresponsible reporting or more dirty politicking, there is a danger that this would cause more people to falsely claim that their daughters were taken. Yes, if money would be paid, many Nigerians would try out their luck to claim the bounty.
These children were missing for 3 weeks and little or no action was taken by the government. However, when the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls went viral and international government got involved, seasoned and emergency activists started organising protests. Where exactly are the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends of the missing girls? We have not really read much or seen the faces of the 276 aggrieved parents of these missing girls. While doing a little online research on this, I stumbled on this post which said the villagers actually tried to ambush Boko Haram terrorists with sticks and machetes shortly after their children were kidnapped. If true, how brave of them!
Which again brings us to the question, where were the security force when this was going on? The villagers allegedly gave a statement at a police station when Boko Haram group was still very near, but nothing was done. Has the DPO been questioned about this? Has any punitive measures been taken against the officers or are they part of a higher conspiracy to protect Boko Haram whenever they operate?
A lot of security votes go to the area considered prone to Boko Haram attacks. Governors enjoy bounties in the name of providing security which judging by the deplorable state of security in their states, they never did. Is it too much to ask that these Governors account for the security monies allocated to their states? Or is it a case of ‘Touch not my anointed or else we will all go down’?
I fear that even if no one was kidnapped, if it was just a ploy to destabilise the election campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan by the disgruntled northern politicians and a ploy which was played to the fullest by opposition parties like ACN, in all this nasty politicking, we must not lose sight of what is at stake; innocent victims.
Yes, my fear is that even if no one was initially kidnapped, the terrorist group have been provided a goldmine to exploit in this tragedy. If they have not already done so, they are likely to kidnap some girls or who knows, come to some arrangement with some northern leaders to provide some girls as bait. I suspect that even the girls that were shown on the video reciting the Quran could just be an arranged political clip. Yes, Nigeria is in such a mess that its leaders wouldn’t hesitate to drag us deeper into their dirty politics.
The Governor of Borno state, Governor Shettima ordered three days of prayer and fasting in the state and now he is suddenly receiving messages about the intentions of Boko Haram. I wonder why, after insistently claiming that they do not know the whereabouts of the abducted girls, Governor Shettima and the Northern Elders suddenly have information on the whereabouts of the abducted girls?
As #Bringbackourgirls went viral and international support grew, the northern leaders now have information materialising from thin air that Boko Haram does not intend to harm the girls but would consider trading the girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. This is highly suspicious plus it provides a very dangerous if lucrative reason for Boko Haram to have some girls in custody to carry out the exchange.
Northern Elders have said that the Government ”should pay billions as ransom to Shekau and release all detained Boko Haram members” and that there must be ”no foreign forces in Nigeria”. They have also demanded that ”force should not be used” in securing the freedom of the abducted girls. Really, i mean really?
So yes, my fear is that even if they did not have any girl in custody, they have an excuse to want to kidnap girls or at least have girls they can bargain with. So in all these dirty politicking, there are bound to be innocent victims. And from all angles, the victims are bound to be innocent girls, forcefully kidnapped or actually pawned out by their parents or family members. Yes, I fear that this is about to get dirtier. And if children are not already the victims, they will be the victims.
International security forces
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is a mess. I am happy that the international community is finally getting involved. However, we need to be clear on the terms of involvement. Is this a humanitarian intervention out of the goodness of the heart of the countries offering to help or is it purely a business transaction?
If it is a business transaction, how much exactly is it going to cost Nigeria if it accepts the help offered by USA, Britain and China to find the missing girls and fish out Boko Haram?
As I said about the Syria crisis, I do not care if the cost of saving lives involve paying with oil or diamonds because lives are more important than mineral resources. However, it would be helpful if the USA, Britain, China and whatever other international community offering to help would just state clearly on what terms they are offering the help.
These countries have an expertise Nigerian clearly lacks. The question is, are they offering this expertise for free because they care so much about the missing girls and truly want to bring their abductors to book or is their expertise going to involve oil barrels and/or having a hand in choosing the next ‘elected’ Nigerian government officials? It would really be appreciated if Nigerians know the terms and conditions of this ‘generous humanitarian’ efforts to #bringbackourgirls and hopefully bring Boko Haram to justice.
Yes, Nigerian government is corrupt. Nigerians already know this, so US Secretary of State John F. Kerry is not exactly telling us anything new. I don’t think US is in Nigeria to do a survey of how corrupt the Nigerian government is. The mission is to help #bringbackourgirls. Nigerians already have a good idea of how corrupt our government is, thank you.
Nigeria, a hotbed of hypocrisy
Nigeria is a mess. The northern leaders who are suddenly aghast that children are going to be sold as brides have forgotten that they are also the ones who introduced sharia law into Northern parts of the country with the hope that they could use it to justify their many child brides. Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, who introduced Sharia law when he was Zamfara State Governor, is a known paedophile and he justifies his penchant for underage child brides using the Quran. Today, he is a serving Nigerian senator. The lawmakers that are today condemning Boko Haram for its threat to sell the missing girl as brides, were all guests at this paedophile’s wedding to the 13 year old girl he bought. The hypocrisy is truly disgusting.
Nigerian Lawmakers sit everyday with this known paedophile, making laws for the country. They lack the moral ground to cry wolf over the intention of Boko Haram to sell the abducted girls as brides. After all, when the paedophile in their midst bought his child bride, they all celebrated with him at the National Mosque and congratulated him on importing a beautiful 13 year old child to add to his harem of child brides. Yes. Nigeria is a hotbed of hypocrites
Media mob mentality
I wonder why it took the media and international community so long to eventually acknowledge that the abduction of three hundred girls was worth reporting. The kidnap was reported in all major Nigerian newspapers more than 3 weeks ago, some foreign newspaper also published it. The report managed to make the obscure corners of some international news and foreign papers.
However, the minute a deranged looking black man who calls himself Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, posted a video where he threatened to sell the kidnapped girls because, well, girls are supposed to be wives not go to school, this was all it took to incite the international community. Suddenly, the video raised the ire of civilised nations. “Who does this barbarian thinks he is?”, they asked. “Are Africans still this barbaric?”, many wondered. “Islam is really the religion of the insane”, many concluded. “Let us go as white knights in shining armours and rescue the girls!”, they screamed!
Hmm, the girls were not deemed newsworthy or worthy of rescue just three weeks ago, but well, post a video of a black Islamic terrorist ranting that girls should not be educated and threatening to sell the missing girls off as child brides, and we suddenly have no shortage of white knights in shining armours.
Help is good, but it would be great to know one can get help without relying on media shock tactic.
My problem with the hastag ‘#bringbackourgirls’
The hashtag #Bringbackourgirls makes me cringe. ‘Our’ denotes property. The girls are not our property; they are humans with names and faces. They don’t belong to us. They don’t belong to the terrorists. They are not even the properties of their parents because children are not properties.
It is a cultural language that I loathe so much. ‘Our wife’ is often used by the in-laws of a woman basically to denote that she is their property. When an African man takes his girlfriend home to meet his family and they start referring to her as ‘our wife’, beware. Although, most women see it as a sign of acceptance into the family, but underneath the facade is that patriarchal connotation that she is now their property. I loathe it when anyone refers to me as ‘Our wife’ or ‘OUR women’ because many tend to use this when talking about the ‘chastity’ of ‘their’ women, of ‘their’ African women. ‘Our women’ or ‘our girls’ are words used to keep women in line, it says: You belong to us. You will do as you are told. You will keep the honour we impose on you. You will live up to the roles we set for you because you are OUR Woman.
Therefore, when I see the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls, I cringe. I cringe because it strikes me as yet another way of saying the girls belong to us. The girls are our property, not that of Boko Haram but are our own property, the property of Nigerians, the property of the world. No, they are not our property. They are their own person and they deserve our help whether or not they are OURS!
Some foreigners are leaving such comments like “No, these abducted girls are not our American girls. They are not our British girls. They are Nigerian girls, they are Nigeria’s problem.” Hmm, can we just pause a minute to recognise that it is not about whether they are our property or not, but that they are first and foremost vulnerable human beings in dire need of help.
For the conspiracy theorists who are so opposed to America coming into Nigeria to provide the intelligence work needed in eradicating Boko Haram, because they are convinced the big old evil capitalist America is after Nigeria’s oil, I’d say, so what? Your ramblings about America coming into the country just for your oil are pathetic. It is pathetic not because it does not have a ring of truth to it, but because Nigerians might actually fare better economically if our damn oil was controlled by entities other than our corrupt government and its cronies.
All Nigerians have to show for the Federal government control of our oil is lack of stable electricity supply, deteriorating educational system, lack of basic amenities, no good water, no security. Many Nigerian families have lost a loved one to road accidents caused by bad roads. Access to good healthcare is nonexistent. Unemployment is so high that it is a surprise that the poor are not eating the rich in broad day light yet. What good thing do Nigerians have to show for government control of our oil? Misplaced pride, I guess.
Yes, I wouldn’t want America or any other country to come into Nigeria to play dirty politics, which is why I would rather all Nigerians make a loud call to ask America, UK or China to declare exactly what the payment for their help would be. Let us know, let all Nigerians know. Maybe this would stop the conspiracy theories. Maybe this would help save us from a corrupt government telling us in 10 years time that the money we think they are looting is actually going towards paying for America’s help in eradicating Boko Haram.
All I am saying is, as a Nigerian, I appreciate any help that would eradicate Boko Haram, but please state your terms very clearly. Let us know what we are paying and let us get our money’s or oil’s worth. Transparency and accountability are what we demand from the forces coming into our country. I know it is sad that we cannot even trust our own government to give us accountability and transparency. However, those are words American government throw around a lot, so maybe, just maybe, in this transaction to bring back the missing girls and help eradicate Boko Haram, America can please respect us enough to show accountability and transparency even when our own Nigerian government won’t honour us with such words or actions.
One thing that is unfortunately glaring is that children (if not already) will be the victims in all these dirty politicking. No child deserves to be used as pawn in the dirty mess that is Nigeria. Even if it was one child kidnapped, that child deserves to be rescued and if it takes the international community coming in to rescue that child, then so be it. Even if it takes paying with our oil to ensure that no child is ever put in danger by Boko Haram, so be it. The life of every human being is worth more than oil. If What Americans want for saving the lives of the girls is oil, well, negotiate and give it to them. At least let us know it is a business deal and not a humanitarian crusade.
It is not my wish to add to the confusion out there or fuel the conspiracy theories. However, facts must be examined. Boko Haram is an evil entity that must be wiped out. Right now, it is not about who created and fed the monster. If those who created the monster that has now grown beyond their control can be brought to book, that would be great. However, the most important thing is , if there are kidnapped girls held by Boko Haram, let us do all we can to rescue them from the clutches of evil, and ensure no one is ever made a victim of the terrorist group again.