Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 12:30 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014
BORNO, Nigeria — Six very long weeks ago, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in northern Nigeria and abducted over 200 girls in the night. This terrifying incident, that lead a Boko Haram leader to announce they would “sell them [the girls] in the market,” sparked a massive social media campaign with the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Thousands of social media posts and hundreds of minutes of news coverage later, almost the entirety of the group of these young, innocent girls is still being held captive without rescue or hope.
What’s the most frustrating aspect of this? The lack of willpower and resolve from Nigerian politicians.
Nigeria, a country with a booming economy (recently surpassing South Africa), recently hosted a World Economic Forum meeting, bringing together high-profile businessmen and political figureheads from across the world to showcase Nigeria’s newfound economic success. But wait. What does economic growth matter if a country is not even willing to defend itself from terrorists and humanitarian crises?
This miscalculation essentially equates to Nigerian politicians taking home big, fat checks while they wait weeks to fulfill their duties to even just respond to this abduction. Visiting the site of the attack and speaking with families there? That took even longer for President Goodluck Jonathan to do.
What good are democratic elections if the elected officials feel no responsibility to protect their own citizens and defend those who can’t defend themselves? A key factor that people are forgetting to talk about here is that Nigeria actually has an incredibly powerful, i.e. capable, military arm, ranked 47th in the world in Global Firepower’s Power Index score. The organization uses 50 factors to determine a nation’s potential conventional military strength. Nigeria’s ranking puts it ahead of many developed or developing, stable nations, including Finland, Azerbaijan, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Hungary, Kenya, Kuwait, Jordan and Lithuania.
In summary, Nigeria’s leaders are not sitting there with their hands completely tied. Yes, now that they claim to have found the location of the girls (with international help, I might add), they want to avoid firefights and risk harming the girls, which is sensible. However, why did the issue ever get this far? Nigeria has several hundred thousand personnel in its armed forces, yet they are doing an atrociously feeble job of defending the nation against Boko Haram, which according to Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, makes up a “minuscule” proportion of the population.
Why did this internal mess get this far? If Nigeria has a robust, proficient military arm, coupled with a growing economy, how is a group of terrorists still wreaking such effective havoc across the nation?
The matter truly comes down to a matter of resolve, because while Boko Haram is well organized and has been successful in carrying out suicide bombings, they are not using high-tech, profound strategies that Nigeria is helpless against. Diverting some of this newfound economic wealth to the underdeveloped portions of the country, along with military postings and increased surveillance, could cripple Boko Haram’s capabilities and weaken them to a point where abductions and weekly bombings would be impossible.
Alternatively, if President Jonathan truly felt helpless in leading this terrorist situation, he could have also asked for international help a long time ago, considering most Western countries are committed to fighting terrorism. His qualms about doing so, though, are likely influenced by the upcoming presidential election where he doesn’t want to look weak. Who’s paying the price for his political battles? These hundreds of abducted girls and their families, who are left to live under a government that sits in Abuja while a terrorist network continues to wreak havoc throughout the country.
- Nigeria army ‘knows where girls are’ (bbc.co.uk)
- On Boko Haram’s Blood Trail :A Filmmaker’s Account of his Two Weeks in Northern Nigeria. By Jordan Allott (ruthfullyyours.com)
- Boko Haram running rampant in nigeria , Nigeria government still unable to control these insurgents or find the missing girls….. (fredw-catharsisours.blogspot.com)
- Vigilante Nigerian Women Fight Boko Haram as Rescue Attempts Continue (guardianlv.com)
- 4 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls escape Boko Haram, official says (bnowire.com)