Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls!

For anyone who’s been following the news lately, you’ll know that Malaysia Airline flight MH370 en route to China flew off the radar 6 weeks ago and a search has been underway to find the plane and its passengers. There was also an investigation into the private lives of the pilot and co-pilot to ascertain whether the plane’s disappearance was intentional or an accident.

Also, for anyone who’s been watching the news of recent, you’ll know that a ship carrying 475 passengers capsized in South Korea almost three weeks ago. Following the horrendous incident, there was a concerted and continuous effort to find the 290 passengers who remained missing. For several days, rescuers searched while parents prayed and held on to the hope that their children will be found alive in the ship’s air pockets. Unfortunately, their search came up empty as there were neither air pockets nor any survivors found.

The two news stories above bear a similar characteristic to a third story, in that three of them involve the disappearance of people. However, the third takes a different, bizarre turn, in that there hasn’t been any sensible or comprehensive rescue effort launched for the missing people. In the case of the third story, the missing people happen to female students abducted from a high school in the town of Chibok, Northern Nigeria.
More than two weeks ago, over 200 female students were awakened from their slumber and herded into trucks by members of the Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram. Luckily, some of the girls were able to escape through their own efforts.

Since 2009, the group has been responsible for perpetrating terrorist attacks in Northern Nigeria, targeting both government officials and civilians alike. They’ve torched churches and were responsible for 2011 bombing of the UN building in Abuja. Recently, they bombed a busy bus stop on the outskirts of Abuja twice within two weeks of each other, and have been targeting schools in Northern Nigeria, killing students and burning down infrastructure which has led to the closure of several schools.

A combination of an ill-equipped army and the Government’s incompetence and reluctance to stamp out the menace that is Boko Haram hasn’t only led to its growth, but has also emboldened the group’s insurgency.

For over 2 weeks, more than 200 girls have remained captive performing domestic chores for members of the group, and possibly being raped by them. It’s been reported that some of the abducted girls have been sold as brides for as little as $12 to Boko Haram militants.

And what does the Nigerian government do about all this?

First, they tried hoodwinking Nigerians into thinking that the girls who had escaped were rescued by the Nigerian army. But, of course, the spurious claim has long been refuted, and since then the Government has folded its hands and made no attempt to rescue the missing girls.

Second, the Presidency, under the auspices of Goodluck Jonathan, thumbed its nose at Nigerians by attending a party a day after the girls were kidnapped. What kind of President goes partying when his country is under attack? Can you imagine the South Korean President partying a day after the ferry disaster, or Kenyatta doing so after terrorists attacked a Nairobi mall in Kenya?

Leadership and responsibility are intertwined. One can’t claim to be a leader and then absolve oneself from responsibility when the shit hits the fan. In the face of trouble and uncertainty, leaders proffer reassurance and hope to the distressed and ensure that the resources needed to resolve the issues at hand are made readily available. It’s also the responsibility of the leader to provide timely information to those under their custody. Case in point – the Malaysian airline has kept families of the passengers on flight MH370 updated on the search mission via conferences and various media outlets.

Similarly, the South Korean Prime Minister demonstrated leadership when he resigned from his post and accepted responsibility in the slow rescue response to the ferry disaster. Meanwhile, the vice principal of the high school that students on board the sunken ship attended, committed suicide because he felt responsible for leading them to their death.

While I don’t advice anyone commit suicide, the examples above demonstrate how seriously leadership and responsibility are taken in some societies.

It's shameful that the Nigerian government has made no visible or meaningful attempt to locate the missing girls, despite some media outlets reporting that they’re being held hostage in Sambisa forest. Furthermore, the President has yet to address the nation, or even visit the town where the attack occurred, which has left many Nigerians asking themselves and one another the question: How many ears must the President and his administration have before they can hear the cries of Nigerians?

If the current state of affairs doesn’t improve, one thing is for certain: Boko Haram will become bolder and more aggressive in its insurgency.