On the evening of April 14, 2014, two hundred and thirty four female high school students were abducted from their boarding school in Borno State, Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram. Most of them are between the ages of 16 and 18, they should be having their final exams at this time. A civic organization reported on Wednesday that these girls are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors. There are also rumors that they may have been sold as slaves outside of the country. Some are worried this tragic event will cause parents to withdraw their girls from school in a region that already has very few girls getting an education.
Boko Haram, which means “western education is forbidden” was founded in 2002, in order to overthrow the Nigerian Government and create an Islamic state. Since 2009, they have terrorized the Northern parts of the country with gun attacks, bombings and now abductions. This year alone, approximately 1,500 have died as a result of their terrorist acts.
The Government’s response? Shortly after the abduction, we were told half of the school girls had been rescued but then the statement was retracted and blamed on a miscommunication error. The Interior Minister of Nigeria – the competent Interior Minister – said the Government has to act in a “discreet” manner because the militants had threatened to kill the girls if “certain steps” were taken. He accused opposition parties of politicizing the crisis and said they should work with the government rather than criticize it. Since Boko Haram’s history of attacks, President Goodluck Jonathan has only ever called “State of Emergencies”.
The honest truth is that our Government cannot help us. I am forced to believe our Government must be made up of clueless individuals with no strategic bone, no tactical advantage. Exemplary in devious tactics and money laundering, peerless in corruption, but clueless in an actual time of need and crisis. I say so because how can human beings with hearts think it is okay to be “discreet” at a time like this? To leave parents with the painful uncertainty of whether or not they will ever see their children again?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Junior
Not a single Nigerian has ever believed in the Government. On a daily basis, we witness the corruption and injustice by police officers. Our leaders no longer have their money laundering under wraps. They don’t care to hide it anymore. Anyone who cares to look, will see. However, there is no point highlighting the inefficiency of the Government. It is well known that they cannot help us, but we can help ourselves.
We, as Nigerians have been quiet for too long as a people and I understand why; many feel powerless at the hand of the Government. We point to those in the grave and there is a fear that anyone who tries to rise against the government, will end up there as well. The truth of the matter is we are now suffering a fate much worse than death for our silence. So what now?
I have always believed that we are part of a whole. It is unfortunate that tragedies unite us, but they do. I don’t know what I would do if either of my sisters were kidnapped. I couldn’t possibly stop my imagination from the emotional and physical trauma it would be experiencing right now. So, I sympathize with the mother who is tucking one less kid in bed tonight. I am afraid she will have nightmares tonight of what her little princess is going through every second she is away from home. You and I can only imagine. But thankfully imagination is enough to get us to feel and put ourselves in their shoes.
“So what now?” is a question we have to answer collectively. I don’t know who is reading this. I don’t know who will care to lift a finger. I am not ready to give into despair. Here’s a link to sign the Bring Back Our Girls petition. Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your blogs. There will also be a demonstration tomorrow (May 2) at the Nigerian High Commission in London from 9.30am as protests continue in several states in Nigeria. Let’s raise awareness on this issue. Let’s help find our girls. Let’s help Bring Back Our Girls.
Words by Oluwaseun Oyedele