An unprecedented surge of gatherings and rallies across the U.S. and abroad, sparked by the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian boarding school girls, have made plain the growing anger and frustration of Nigerians with the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. After three weeks, little more than a call this week for an investigative committee has been accomplished.
Meanwhile, there are reports of a new kidnapping of eight girls by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria. The girls are between the ages of 12 and 15.
Since the rallies on Saturday, photos of the impromptu events have appeared widely on Facebook and on blogs, exposing a story which received little press attention when the crime in the town of Chibot in the state of Borno, was first reported.
From Union Square in New York City to Oakland, California, women filled public plazas with hand-written signs that read “Bring Back Our Girls” “Nigeria the World is Watching” “200 Too Many” among others. Most of the women wore headwraps or “geles” which have a spiritual significance for Yoruba women.
In New York, Gugu Lethu said she was planning only to meet with a few women in Union Square to show support for the missing girls and their mothers. However when her eye-catching flyer went from hand to hand and Facebook page to Twitter, close to 300 women turned up.
Repercussions from the spontaneous gatherings were seen in Nigeria when the wife of President Jonathan tearfully took to the airwaves. But after her own call to action fell flat, she ordered some of the protesting women to be detained. Fears that the girls were spirited away by Boko Haram, an insurgent group, were confirmed this week when a video of the group leader was sent to international news wires. The leader Abubakar Shekau, threatened to sell the girls as brides to men in neighboring Chad or Cameroon. The anti-western education leader explained: “Girls, you should go and get married.”
Speaking on the DemocracyNow news show, Nigerian journalist Sowore Omoyele warned that the effort to free the girls was more complicated since Boko Haram now exercises control over a territory crossing the national boundaries of neighboring Cameroon and Chad.
A major economic conference is still expected to take place in Nigeria’s capital Abuja from May 7 to 9. President Johnson has given assurances for the safety of the foreign and African guests expected to attend. The BBC is reporting that schools and government offices are to be closed and arrests are being made.
According to the website of the conference: ”The 24th World Economic Forum on Africa comes at a crucial time for the continent. Taking place under the theme, Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs.” Guests include Premier Li Keqiang of China and eleven African heads of state and government.
While denouncing the kidnapping as “an outrage and a terrible tragedy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney did not offer U.S. tactical support to aid in the girls’ rescue. Their efforts are limited to information sharing, strengthening Nigeria’s justice system and crowd control, reports said.
Nigeria’s budget for security this year is more than $6 billion – double the allocation for education.
Meanwhile, the noted author of Half of a Yellow Sun and most recently, Americanah, published a response to the tragedy called “The President I Want.” The full article can be read at: