Boko Haram and #Bringbackourgirls

Submitted by AWL on 20 May, 2014 - 5:07

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories... not just because they are mostly misguided but because they do tend to cause pain to 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.

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 down with it.

When I first read [about the kidnapping] I thought “oh no, not again!” ... 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. 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?

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.

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 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.

These children were missing for three 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. [But] 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 an internet 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!

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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 or is their expertise going to involve oil barrels and/or having a hand in choosing the next “elected” Nigerian government officials?

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.

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 three weeks ago, some foreign newspaper also published it.

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!

Help is good, but it would be great to know one can get help without relying on media shock tactic.

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 property.

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. 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.

These girls are not our property. They are their own person and they deserve our help whether or not they are ours!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

• Yemis Ilesanmi is a trade unionist, human rights activist and author. She is the founder and coordinator of the campaign group Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws. You can read a longer version of this article on her blog