Almost a month ago, I found out that a boarding school in Northern Nigeria had been raided, and more than 200 girls were missing. I was in a boarding school once, and I remember the setting all too well. Everything is regimented and as a young girl clinging to the bible that dictates every ounce of your survival, you quickly learn that there is strength in numbers.
I experienced the drama when I was carted off to a school situated in the wilds of the Northern desert at the tender age of twelve. My mother was inconsolable, my father indifferent, and I was just plain excited. After years of being under the tutelage of my overbearing parents, Federal Government Girls College, New Bussa, seemed like a godsend. For the most part, I was literally running wild with my comrades and exasperated seniors. But by the end of the term, there was a riot that resulted in the ousting of the British principal and the end of a regime that forced us to abruptly vacate the premises.
I was lucky enough to be cool with older girls who miraculously lived in the same housing estate and recognized me. We hurriedly grabbed whatever belongings we could gather and hopped on a cargo train back to Lagos, Nigeria. I still remember watching the plague of the fireflies through the bars that served as windows as we were whisked past a plethora of towns. I was too exhausted to care about the harsh wind beating against my cheeks, but I was alert enough to wonder how an American born citizen could end up sandwiched amongst humans and livestock.
That wasn’t the only time I was in a state of confusion over the continent of my origin. Having survived a handful of military coups and a consistent setting of political unrest, it was understood that my parents had made the ultimate sacrifice by leaving the chest-filled opportunities in America to come back to a thankless, hopeless, and desperate nation in hopes of utilizing their acquired skills for progress. The culture shock was intense. I had to adjust to harsher hairstyles and reconcile the fact that I was not the most special girl in the class, by way of my unique name and easygoing temperament.
But the major takeaway years later, when I arrived at JFK airport waiting for my connecting flight to my two-year private college, was that Nigeria was not a country to boast about or be remotely proud of. The bribery, corruption, and unstable government seemed like a never-ending cycle that continuously dulled the senses. The passionate debates propelled by my parents and their entourage was a testament to the love/hate relationship they were harboring against a province capable of greatness but stuck in a tragic time warp.
I was one of the lucky ones; I had a way out of the madness. My fellow boarding school escapees and I tried to keep a secret and smile politely when strangers would enthusiastically grill us about our former abode. We tried to match their level of wonderment and supply the answers that satisfy, but in time, the truth is exposed, the jig is up: Yes, my country sucks on so many levels that it is embarrassingly horrifying.
I am relieved in some ways about the turn of events that have captivated the headlines because I want you all to know that Nigeria is a country where a slew of girls can be removed from their dormitories against their will and the government waits until a Twitter hashtag is created to take action. It’s fulfilling to behold the faces of the anchors relaying the unfolding events, as if they are speaking a language they are trying hard to translate. I am content that my country is finally exposed.
How can it be that we have a leader who has allowed an extremist group to wage a war against innocent citizens with very limited intervention? Boko Haram militants, who operate on the philosophy that western education is evil and should be eradicated, have been strategically terrorizing key regions in Africa’s most populous country for more than five years, and these attacks have conveniently remained under the radar.
I get it, the Diaspora is already deemed as a fortress for barbaric offerings, so random bombings of churches, schools, and side posts will not warrant the level of concern assigned to more prominent parts of the world. But the poor girls that were scooped away without warning finally got the attention of world leaders and influential personalities. Or was it the empathic pleas of compatriots, both home and abroad, on social media that gave the world no choice? I think I will settle for the latter.
President Goodluck Jonathan is an impish pathetic caricature of what a head of state should never strive to be. He has always remained in the background puppeteering his administration with emotionless gusto and shattered resilience. He gave Boko Haram permission to be outlandishly cruel as is evident in the latest development — their leader, Abubakar Shekau, announcing that he intends to sell the kidnapped girls to the highest bidder.
As disgusting as this might sound, I actually respect Shekau because at least he’s direct about his intentions, whereas Jonathan aimlessly switches direction in the hopes that he will spin around so fast that nobody will hold him accountable for his gross negligence. With every turn I have remained unfazed and decidedly numb. Now that the world is watching and the new outlets are bursting with headlines, not because they necessarily care but because it’s symbolically necessary, I am completely immersed.
President Jonathan recently declared in a televised “media chat” that he was certain the girls will be found. He condemned their delirious parents for not fully “cooperating” with authorities, but still vowed that the missing would be returned to their families. In the same breath he confessed that he had no idea where they are.
The truth is nobody in the President’s administration is armed with the pertinent details needed to carry out a full-scale investigation. Nigeria is being tested to rise to the occasion and prove that there is no tolerance for unsolicited brutality. So far it has failed and, in the end, I can confidently say that those girls will be permanently lost unless a global power intercedes in their favor. Any takers?
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