Nigeria Matters

The Hashtag should be #BokoHaramBringbackourgirls!

It has been more than 80 days after terrorists in the guise of Islamists kidnapped over 200 school girls in Chibok Nigeria. And it goes without saying that the unprecedented outcry from the rest of the world over the incident has also put tremendous pressure on the Nigerian government to rescue the girls. Not many incidents have received this kind of attention, not even after the Taliban had attacked and shot Malala Yousafzai has the world ever raised its voice, standing on the ashes of the League of Nations to place an unequivocal demand for the return of the girls. And after all, the demand is legitimate and seemingly well directed – most of the world is aware that the human development index of a place like Chibok in Borno state stands as the lowest in the West African sub-region – children – boys and girls hardly go to school. Whiles the boys are trapped in a cultural cul-de-sac known as ‘almajiri’, the girls are perpetually in purdah apparently being prepared for matrimony.

And so as we watched, the clarion call to bring back the girls became a brand. From Chile to China, from Germany to Guatemala, Finland, Norway, the United States, Britain and Russia, humanity has united in one voice on common patios and cafes, on streets and palaces bearing little placards with the inscription #Bringbackourgirls. Even celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, Will Smith, Two Face and Puff Daddy all have added their voices calling for a return of the girls. To tell you that this thrust onto the world stage on something as embarrassing as this, that it didn’t humble and warm our hearts would be a big lie. For most of us however, we watched with some uneasiness as the Nigerian version of the call for the release of the girls began to assume a somewhat political undertone. Some of us also watched with some curiosity and from some distance because a lot of what Madam Oby Ezeikweisili and co were doing was aping the brand rather like a franchise than adapting it to our environment and without its linguistic limitations. That the Nigerian group has taken up a pseudo-Tahir square vigil at the Millennium Park in Abuja is noble as well as can be expected but I know that their message which has been directed at the presidency is narrow, is lopsided and smacks of a lot of mischief.

What do I mean? First, the Nigerian version of #Bringbackourgirls may have ‘innocently’ copied and pasted an unedited hashtag spruced up in banners around the world. The original intent of that message was the world asking us to do something about the missing girls. All we could have done is vigorously direct our own message at the people who are holding the girls hostage with our own message, and which could have read something like this: #Bokoharambringbackourgirls. But that’s not what I see when I review the activities of the group purportedly putting pressure on the authorities to do something to effect a rescue of the girls. Their stand at the Millennium Park and wherever they stand resembles a crowd that knows for a matter of fact that the girls are in Aso Rock. If not, why is the attention of the leaders of the crusade so focused on the Federal government as against a state government that flunked in its primary duty to secure the lives of our brothers and sisters in Borno State?

Of course anybody would quickly throw my stupidity at me and tell me that the Federal government has massive resources at its disposal with which to pursue the rescue of the abducted girls – there’s the navy, army, air force, etc. So does the state governor and government. But these are not ordinary matters. The group in question is not really in this because they are fighting western education as they claim. They are ruthless and ruthless with their avowed plan to use terror as an instrument with which to achieve their aims, whatever that is. In a matter of days, they have killed more than 100 innocent Nigerians. If the killings and abductions are a tool to embarrass the present government and present it as weak and effete and ineffectual, then it goes without saying that those who are carrying placards here and there and those at the Millennium Park with that misleading hashtag are mere appendages carrying the badge and doing the bidding of the intellectual arm of Boko Haram. They may not realize it now, but that’s the way the rest of us who have not carried that misleading badge see it. And to put the latter expression to the test that the #Bringbackourgirls is an appendage of Boko Haram, let them change their message from #Bringbackourgirls to #Bokoharambringbackourgirls. I recommend as well that the campaigners should take a listen to one of their esteemed members who has suggested that they must broaden their horizon and decentralize the campaign. They should look at how to partner with multinationals and communications giants like MTN, Etisalat, Airtel, and GLO to send that edited version of their message across board instead of focusing on the government.

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