God save the child: What is happening in Nigeria has stopped making sense

When the Boko Haram brigands stormed into a school in the northern state of Borno, Nigeria, and abducted over 200 schoolgirls, they caught the world’s attention like they had never done before.

The reason is simple. Their hostages are an extremely delicate issue. Young girls of a very tender age, at school, trying to learn the skills that will make them better, stronger, smarter, freer. Kidnapped by rough, bearded, unkempt, probably unwashed thugs whose aim is to ensure the girls do not get to realise their dreams.


A government that looks clueless when it comes to dealing with this novel problem, just as it has not been able to deal with Boko Haram generally. A world that looks on in dismay, wondering whether Nigeria is fast unravelling as a state.

Speculation as to where the girls were driven to, what their abductors intended to do with them and indeed whether the world will ever hear from these girls again. Generalised consternation, confusion among families, relatives, friends, colleagues in the area, Nigeria and the world at large.

A hoax, as some silly prankster claims to have freed most of the girls, showing the purported “rescuees.” Bad taste. Very bad taste. Soon, an announcement by Boko Haram to say the girls will be sold into slavery. Clearly Boko, which I’m assured, is not the name of a rock band from the 1970s, are not doing Muslim things. Sell them into slavery?

Proof of life

But, wait a minute. There are the girls. At least a good number of them. In a video, all in hijab. They appear to be reciting something from the Koran. A couple say they have converted. Free will? Compulsion? Boko Haram say those who convert will be “our sisters.” Whatever that means. Those who don’t will be exchanged with Boko prisoners in government custody. If the government plays ball.

At least, joy that the girls are alive. Where there is life there is always hope. But where are the other girls? The ones not in the video. Are they still alive too? Or, have they been sold as threatened by BH? Not easy to know.

Meanwhile, the government says no deal. Will not negotiate with these wicked people. But seems the government is talking with a forked tongue. Noises are also made to the effect that some kind of “talks: with the rebels are underway.

Foreign governments have offered help. Nigeria has accepted. The British have landed. The Americans are to follow. I’m told this is so the Brits can show the Yanks where Nigeria is on the map. After all, it was Fred Lugard who drew it up originally. Without the Brits, Uncle Sam could end up in Crimea.


So, what is the state of play? Girls still in the hands of BH. All of them, you hope. The government is on the horns of a dilemma: To negotiate or not to negotiate. If yes, you invite BH to take more girls so they can free all their comrades in gaol. If not, you could be jeopardising the lives of these poor little souls. As it is, they have undergone more than they should.

In a situation like this, does a government turn a blind eye to the principle of non-negotiation with bandits, or does it do expediency. Just once. Save these girls. As many as you can. Bring them back to their families. Then go back to the principle of non-negotiation.

Now, let me come clean on this one. If you ask me what I would do if I were Goodluck Jonathan, I will have a simple answer. Don’t know. Except, maybe, change my first name.

For the medium and long term, however, I would say that Nigeria, just like other African countries that are tottering on the brink of collapse, owes it to itself to try and make a little sense. To itself and to the rest of the world.

The biggest economy on the continent. Africa’s largest oil producer. Biggest population. Very proud citizens. These don’t sit well with the levels of poverty in the country. Contradictions such as these will engender incomprehensible phenomena. Like BH.

Make sense.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an aocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com

SOURCE: The East African