By Oluwa Tosin Adegbola
NNPA Guest Columnist
The cold facts stare us in our face:
Fact 1: More than 300 girls were abducted from the rural northeast region of Nigeria on April 15 while attending secondary school; 276 are still believed to be held captive.
Fact 2: The federal government has yet to forcibly intervene to get our girls back.
The issue isn’t just that the government hasn’t fully addressed this atrocity, the deeper questions are: What decisive action is necessary to put a stop to what is becoming a normal occurrence? Does the Nigerian government have what it takes and what it needs to make this happen?
Results of a search on the activities of Boko Haram leaves a sickening feeling in your stomach. A deeper void settles in the pit of your stomach when you search for responses from the government regarding this latest tragedy. And the response? Silence. Dead Silence. It’s hard not to wonder why, and it becomes a little easier to understand the seeming apathy from Nigerians home and abroad.
I called my sister, Temitope George, because I could not help but think of my niece. She is a mother of two sons and a daughter living in Lagos whose words echoed what I had heard from almost every Nigerian I had spoken to, “’So what’s next?’… ‘We’ve begun to expect it’ … It’s a terrible state. Nigeria is fast becoming like a woman in an abusive relationship … ‘It’s terrible, but a reality.’” I have yet to speak to a Nigerian who doesn’t know someone who has been personally affected by a killing or kidnapping in the hands of the terrorist group.
The mass killings in Nigeria read like a bad dream, a dream that no one is waking up from, and the next chapter is only written to outdo itself in numbers of casualties it leaves behind.
The reports show that this is indeed the highest number of persons targeted by the Islamic radical group. And perhaps that is why many Nigerians who have taken to social media to express their despair with the situation are invariably asking, “What number will become too outrageous.”
It appears that the latest transgression has garnered the most voluminous commentary. Not the 59 boys attending boarding school that were killed in February 2014. Not the 40 killed in September 2013. Not the 185 killed in January2012. This is all too familiar.
Lest I point any fingers of apathy towards anyone, I too, a Nigerian living in the United States have become apathetic. Did I hear about the prior killings? Yes, I did. Did I decry it publicly as I am doing now? Regretfully, I did not. Did I act? Again, no. I heard or read each headline, shook my head, expressed my disdain within my own small circles, and that was that.
Why was my reaction to this one different?
The truth is, as with each prior occurrence, when this one happened, my initial reaction was the same. However, each time I heard the number – 234 – (albeit not officially confirmed), there was a rage building within me. I found myself scouring the Internet for any new updates.
There was a false claim within a couple of days of abductions that the girls were home. However, when parents of the girls started lashing out in pain at such falsehood, the statement was later retracted.
Seeing the helplessness on the parents’ faces, brought me to tears. Tears of anger. Reading that a group of women, who had already marched once before, were marching again on April 30, demanding some response from government, I turned to social media with the desire to join or start a campaign to support them and give voice to the girls.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot. My desire was simple and my questions endless. First, everyone needs to know about this. Second, why has international media not covered this as vigorously as the coverage of the missing Malaysian flight 370? Why are world just beginning to decry this outrageous occurrence? Has the government reached out to the families? What support is being given to the families? Finally, what will it take to end this?
Moreover, what will the noise accomplish?
Regardless of some Nigerians lashing out at the government and accusing them of inaction, one has to respect the reality that to effectively shut down an extremist radical group such as Boko Haram, is no easy task. However, what many Nigerians like myself are seeking is a show of humanity from the government through it all. A public acknowledgment of the pain, despair, helplessness and anger felt by the families would be a step in the right direction. The noise therefore, of persons who are campaigning on social media, organizing rallies and reaching out to the families, is to let the family know that we care. That we understand that this is unacceptable and that we stand with them in solidarity, seeking an end to these atrocities.
Public silence, even if there is action behind the scenes, cannot be the answer from the Nigerian federal government. Too much is at stake.
Oluwa Tosin Adeqbola is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication in the School of Global Journalism and Communications at Morgan State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.