Nigeria: What #BringBackOurGirls Should Remind Us

One evening in Nassarawa-Eggon [a town in Nasarawa state], we were all minding our business when suddenly we heard gunshots.

Next, we heard heavy footsteps running towards the direction of our rooms [staff quarters]. Trust what followed. Doors were locked. Bolted. Light went off. Silence.

A few minutes later, we were snapped back to reality by voices of the strangers.

Apparently, one of my colleagues successfully provided shelter for some of the people who had come running towards our rooms. They begged for shelter and she obliged.

The strangers were night travellers. They had heard rumours of arm robbery attack some miles away, which prompted them [and some other drivers/travellers] to run out of their vehicles for safety. One of the closest spot was the fenceless secondary school where we were serving [NYSC]. 


That was not the first time we have had strangers driving into the school at night seeking for refuge from the terrors of armed men on the highway. There were also cases of strangers dropping in at odd hours looking for ways to lure students out of the school compound… until a group of senior students shout the stranger out of the compound.

Don’t get me wrong, Nassarawa-eggon is a relatively peaceful community.

My point?

It is possible for armed men to drop into a secondary school in northeast Nigeria and whisk kids away into sambisa forest. Most schools — especially government-funded boarding schools– lack a lot of things, including adequate security.

The case of over 200 girls that were kidnapped a year ago, for me, has brought to light many issues that is wrong with Nigeria and how our government leaders run the system.

Let us not loose sight of those important things.

A year ago:


“Is this #BringBackOurGirls campaign real? Are you sure those girls were really kidnapped?”

Those were some on the questions in the minds of many people a year ago, when the news of the Chibok kidnapping was first announced. Someone actually confronted me with similar questions… which I had no answers to then.

There were those who passionately protested, for the girls to be rescued. Amidst opposition, their attitude said: we are here to brazen it all out. 

Those who traveled to the community reported what they saw.

Then there was this:

Pictures. More pictures. Some were real, some had elements of photo-shop. It almost became a distraction. In public forums, after an event, participants were mobilised to take a group picture holding up the famous #BringBackOurGirls postcard.

But this, like the hashtag boom on twitter cannot be faulted. At least, it was relevant enough to soon draw global attention. The shame of a nation became a global discourse. How can over 200 girls be kidnapped from a school without any declaration of a state of emergency?

The apathy.

The concern.

Over a year later, we are still waiting for the girls to be brought back home.

More girls and women have been kidnapped after that Chibok case. How about boys and men in those communities? How are they affected? They are maimed, killed or forced to join the Boko Haram sect.

Was the Bring Back Our Girls campaign a failure? Will the story of the kidnapped girls just remain another case to be remembered annually?

Will our government leaders take action to prevent future occurrence?

We are in a time of war. War against a failing system and ineffective government. War against Boko Haram. 

Nothing can be achieved through apathy, denial or simply by wishing things away.

Our President-Elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his administration [hello May 29th!] have not promised us Utopia. But at least they will hopefully help revive the Nigeria economy and deal with all these social vices, with support from the rest of us, of course.

All hope is not lost.

 

Jennifer Ehidiamen is a tech-savvy journalist based in Lagos. She reports on global health and development issues in Africa for Voice of America (VOA News). Jennifer also serves as a photojournalist and communications consultant. A 2013 Innovative Young Journalist Award recipient, 2013 New Media fellow for International Reporting Project, 2010 LEAP Africa award recipient and a 2009 Atlas Service Corps Fellow, Jennifer recently founded the Rural Reports project [http://www.ruralreporters.com], a news portal dedicated to grassroots citizen-reporting. She serves as an Advisory Council member for Washington DC-based One World Youth Project (OWYP). She has published three books: "In Days to Come" (2004), "Preserve my Saltiness" (2011) and "Half A Loaf And A Bakery" (2013). Jennifer graduated from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism with a degree in Mass Communication. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @Disgeneration