Bring back the girls

May 10, 2014 - 12:47:56 am

While addressing the World Economic Forum for Africa on Thursday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the kidnap of schoolgirls was the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria. Jonathan’s strong statement against the heinous act of Boko Haram comes in the wake of the kidnap drawing world headlines about three weeks after Islamists raided a school in the northeast, herded 276 schoolgirls into vehicles and disappeared in the bushes.  It is sad that as distraught parents of the girls suffered for over two weeks without much of a response from the government, it took an appearance by a militant leader, who cocked a snook at the establishment, to goad the world into action. Boko Haram leader Shekau appeared in a video challenging the establishment and giving his own reasons for the reprehensible act. 

In a defiant speech, Shekau said he kidnapped the girls as they were undergoing Western education despite being warned. “I will sell the girls to the market,” he thundered.  The militant also spoke of making slaves of the schoolgirls.

International human rights group Amnesty International revealed yesterday that the Nigerian military had advance warning of the raid. They may not have heeded the alert for fear of confronting a better armed adversary, Amnesty said. 

Boko Haram has been waging a relentless struggle against the Nigerian state, especially in its northeast where the girls were abducted. On the day the girls were taken away, there was a massive bomb blast in the outskirts of the capital Abuja that killed scores of people near a bus stand.

The United States, UK , France and China have offered Nigeria help in tracking down the girls after Abuja declared an award of $300,000 for any information leading to them. 

World powers’ offer to help trace the girls is laudable, thought it has come quite late. The right course of action for Nigeria now would be to leverage the strength of world powers to launch a severe crackdown on the terror group that wants Islamic rule in the west African nation. 

Amid all this, the lackadaisical attitude of the Nigerian government during the initial stages of the crisis should not be lost sight of. It is only in the last few days that the world has taken note of the crisis and hashtags with ‘Bring back our girls’ are being flashed all over by celebrities from US First Lady Michelle Obama to Pakistani braveheart Malala Yousufzai. The administration in Abuja led by Goodluck Jonathan had maintained a cryptic silence in the aftermath of the mass abduction.  Jonathan should live up to his World Economic Forum pledge of decimating Boko Haram. The terrorists should be made to pay for their egregious act of abducting schoolgirls and parading their evil designs before the world. Nigeria, aided by world powers, should make an example out of Boko Haram so that any devious ideology finds it hard to institutionalise what it preaches, in the future.