The Chibok Situation: Dimming Hope and A Dying Hashtag
A principal characteristic of human behavior is the ability to eventually acclimatize to initially strange conditions. The roof of your bedroom starts leaking, for example. The first few times it happens, it is a bother. The sight of it angers you. You mop and mop and place a bucket under the leak. You scribble a furious, strongly-worded letter to your landlord or contractor.
The sound of water dropping into the bucket disrupts your beauty sleep and leaves you fuming into a pillow. As the problem persists without a solution and the days pass, however, the annoyance begins to fade. You begin to subconsciously change the bucket regularly, ingrain it into your daily schedule. The drip-drip-drip that made your eyes burn with tears of suppressed rage every night almost becomes a lullaby. You become used to your situation and it becomes the norm. You are a person, you sleep in a room and you have a leaky roof. Facts of life.
It has been more than eighty days since over two hundred girls were kidnapped from their school dormitory at Government College, Chibok by members of the Boko Haram insurgency. In this astoundingly lengthy period, members of the public have experienced almost the entire gamut of emotions possible in this type of situation – disbelief, outrage,fear, sorrow, impotent rage, gallows mirth, resignation and indifference. Most people have experienced all, severally, at one time or the other, or like me, all at the same time for the entire duration. When the news first broke, it was received with the initial nonchalance peppered with vague concern with which most Nigerians have come to receive news of Boko Haram antics. Girls were kidnapped? How awful. These Boko Haram people will meet their judgment one day. It is well. There is God. Pass the salt, please.
As the days went by, however, and a few relentless compatriots continued to fill the silence of the government with cries for action, the country slowly began to take notice. Even when a few individuals came out to adamantly maintain that nobody was kidnapped, that the opposition was up to dirty tricks in their bid to undermine the incumbent government, these compatriots continued to gather momentum.Whatever the motives of the populace, be it patriotism, compassion or just the refusal to be left out of a current trend, the Bring Back Our Girls hashtag soon became a clarion call for activists worldwide. CNN sent representatives to unearth the story as told by the citizens of Chibok, and for many days, broadcasted little else. The United States waded in with their usual public declarations to ‘do everything in their power to bring our girls back’. Countries offered their public solidarity and not much practical help. The Nigerian government woke up, blinking rapidly under the harsh global spotlight, and tacitly recanting their initial denial of any such kidnapping, were full of bumbling platitudes. We will find the girls, we assure you. America will know. Why are you making so much noise? Terrorism is worldwide. The opposition is behind this. Have you heard that we are Africa’s Largest Economy?
And through all this, over two hundred Nigerian citizens, Nigerian children, were languishing in the hands of the basest of men, their day-to-day survival as dependent on all the outside outcry and the futile government promises as a bald man on a shower cap.
Water will always boil at the required temperature and pressure, regardless of the amount of impurities contained. Slowly but surely, the Chibok girls were shuffled into the old news tray. Did we expect the world to stand still until they were found? Newsworthy events started happening around the globe and elbowed the Nigerian situation out of the way. Worst of all, the World Cup loomed, and then began. End of public focus. The man who first said to strike while the iron is hot knew exactly what he was talking about. If anyone was serious about bringing any girls back at the time when the whole world was paying attention, then would have been the time for decisive action that would have garnered considerable aid and yielded tangible results. But this is Nigeria, where the phrase ‘decisive action’ is mainly used hypothetically.
And so, the days went by. The world turned away from Chibok and turned to other matters. Nigerians, facing other bombing incidents, their personal issues and the almighty World Cup tournament, found their emotions quickly spread thin with little to spare for a three-month old kidnapping incident. We have learned to live with the headache and have accepted the dose of paracetamol three times a day as part of our daily regimen. People, unwilling to live with a guilty conscience, are now accepting the theory that nobody was kidnapped, after all. Who can blame them? What other logical explanation is there for this seeming conspiracy of silence among the powers that be? It is implausible that any government can be this unconcerned about their citizens and the perception of them among said citizens. Even the press seems to be sick of clichéd headlines. They would rather plaster ‘Infertility in Men Caused by Stockfish’ on their front pages than run one more hackneyed Chibok Girls story.
By now, most of us who still believe that these girls are in the custody of the insurgents have all but given up hope for their return. I personally do not see it happening, not after more than eighty days. Ample time to indoctrinate someone who is bitter, angry and feels let down and valueless to her country. There usually is a window period that is critical to any rescue. I (and I suppose, many others) feel as though this window is more or less shut. At the risk of being the morbid voice of doom, I will be bold enough to put in print what most of us already think: Our girls are unlikely to return to their families. The Nigerian State has failed them. We are being raided daily, our citizens are being mindlessly slaughtered, our daughters are at the beck and call of extremists, our properties are being razed and drastically depleted, our leaders are using the country as a chessboard ahead of the upcoming 2015 elections, and our hope, that everlasting Nigerian hope, is dimming steadily.
If only something can give, and soon.