Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has been shamed by desperate parents, a horrified nation and world celebrities into accepting sophisticated international aid in the search for more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. That he waited so long is criminal.
It is a month since Boko Harem kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls.
The story broke on AlJazeera but it took weeks for other media, let alone Nigeria’s own government, to show much if any interest.
Some networks were still pre-occupied with manufacturing ‘news’ about the search for the missing Malaysian airline which, in a hideous comparison, was carrying about as many passengers as there are schoolgirls abducted.
Amnesty International maintains the Nigerian military was given warning of the impending kidnapping.
The military counter claims that it has about a thousand such threats every day so can’t really tell which is legit and which is not. Added to that the ‘military’ claims it is so poorly resourced it doesn’t want to engage with the often much better equipped Boko Haram.
Of course while these girls were being spirited away with only desperate, truly ill-equipped parents braving the isolated forests to search for them, the Nigerian military was out in force ensuring unprecedented security to protect international guests attending the World Economic Forum in Abuja.
The visitors from all around the world were the reward for Nigeria’s unprecedented economic growth, now claiming the crown from South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy.
Appearances must be maintained at all costs it seems - especially when 70% of Nigerians exist on less than $1.25 a day.
International investors have a particular skill at overlooking pesky little details such as gross poverty, corruption within the government and its security forces, and a brutal police force which does exactly what it wants, when there are rich natural resources to cash in on.
And so Nigeria’s inaptly named President Goodluck Jonathan praised those who made the pilgrimage to worship at the alter of Africa’s top energy producer, insisting that had they not done so they would have succumbed to the fear Boko Haram was looking to sow.
It was as if Jonathan was puffing up his chest for an international audience to prove he could poke a stick in the eye of this extremist Islamic militant group which has been terrorising northern Nigeria in particular for the last five years.
His wife played her part in maintaining the farce by accusing some of the women protesting the government’s inaction of being Boko Haram supporters and when they came to meet with her, she had them arrested for embarrassing the government. They spent a night in prison.
But then #BringBackOurGirls hashtag went viral.
Celebrities were immediately on the bandwagon.
Michelle Obama took over her husband’s weekly address so she could point out how these girls were so like “mine and Barack’s daughters”...just as the President had referred to Trayvon Martin - the black teenager gunned down in Florida - as looking just like the son he would have had.
The Pope prayed for the girls from Chibok.
Malala Yousafzai launched a Nigerian girls education campaign.
Nigerian men carried signs that read ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ in reference to Abubakar Shekau’s taunts that he would sell the girls on the “market”.
The Americans now have drones in the air; the French, Brits, Canadians, Israelis and Chinese have all offered to help in some way.
All good...but...276 OF THE GIRLS ARE STILL MISSING and no-one seems to have any idea where they are.
There’s been a fair number of opinion articles blaming the Americans for this situation. Why didn’t they begin the search earlier? Why did Hilary Clinton not classify Boko Haram as a terrorist group during her reign at the State Department?
That’s all stretching it too far.
The US did offer help but Jonathan was having none of that.
And because all things Clinton must have a political spin, Hillary’s opponents are adding the ‘soft on Boko Haram‘ subject to their obsessive file called of ‘soft on Libya‘. Don’t worry about it now because you will hear much about it when she runs for President.
There’s also much discussion on whether the Nigerian government should trade the captive girls for Boko Haram members in its jails.
The response is very confusing having gone from outright refusal to negotiate to all options are on the table.
I know the no negotiation stance is because it only encourages more kidnappings, but this group is going to keep on kidnapping and murdering with impunity anyway.
It has slaughtered thousands of Nigerians - Muslim and non-Muslim - in the five years it has been trying to set up a strict Islamic state in north east Nigeria.
It has won a big victory in that Nigerian parents would have to be out of their minds to let their daughters attend school in places like Chibok given the ease at which they can be taken. Don’t forget eight more girls were kidnapped from another village just a week ago.
Boko Haram’s audacity is empowered by the weak, corrupt government it taunts.
Reminders that its actions contradict the teachings of Islam are a waste of breath.
Surely given the state of play it is more important to save the lives of these girls than to keep however many militants there are in prison?
The only solution is a long term one that involves addressing Nigeria’s crippling economic and social divides - the fertile ingredients for militia recruitment.
Nigeria should not make these young girls, desperate for an education, pay the ultimate price for colossal government failure.
Just imagine being the parents of the kidnapped girls, scouring for the slightest sign of a familiar face amongst the 100 or so in Islamic dress in the video Boko Haram’s swaggering new Muslim bad boy released.
The fault lies with the Nigerian government and its corrupt army.
Let us hope President Obama can finally do something positive with his drones.