On the night of April 14-15, 2014 up to three hundred girls from different schools in northeastern Nigeria gathered for their final examinations in the town of Chibok. Instead of taking their tests, they were kidnapped. Three weeks later, on May 5, Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Some victims managed to escape, and the numbers still held in captivity are soft. The figure most often cited by the media is 276.
Especially in the aftermath of Shekau’s video, with threats to sell the girls into slavery, there was international outrage. Even First Lady Michelle Obama publicly rallied around the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, and other countries all offered assistance. There was widespread criticism of the lethargy of the Jonathan administration in taking concrete action.
Six months later, the school girls are still in captivity, and Chibok as an international issue has largely disappeared. World media attention is now on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Ebola. But, not among some courageous Nigerians. The Guardian (London) on October 13 published an interview with Ibrahim Abdullahi, a Nigerian lawyer who started the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Abdullahi renamed his Twitter campaign using a quotation from a statement made by the former Nigerian minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, one of the few public figures to demand that the government move. Ezekwesili retweeted Abullahi’s re-named hashtag that then went ‘viral.’
In his interview, Abdullahi provides details about the current state of the campaign. The campaigns current activities include:
- daily tweets;
- daily one-hour demonstrations in Abuja and weekly demonstrations in Lagos; and
- the campaign “continues to pressurize” the Jonathan government.
Yet, sadly, Abdullahi notes in his interview that “Even before Ebola and ISIS’s intensified activities, most of the world that stood with #BringBackOurGirls had moved on.” He calls for “local and international media publicity and to march on the streets, as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is here in Abuja.”
Kidnappings have been ubiquitous in Nigera, and not just associated with Boko Haram. It has probably accelerated since Chibok, though it is often difficult to determine whether the perpetrator is Boko Haram or criminal gangs.