NewsWest Africa500: Rise of the Nigerian hunters


Posted on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 11:52

500: Rise of the Nigerian hunters

By Konye Obaji Ori

Five hundred Nigerian hunters have marched into the Sambisa forest in search of the 270 girls abducted by Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram and in scenes reminiscent of classic periods, they say they want to fight tyranny, slavery and terrorism.

In the classical periods it was King Leonidas and his 300 brave Spartans who marched into Thermopylae to battle the invasive Persian army led by King Xerxes.

we have the powers that defy guns and knives

Just as King Xerxes and Persia threatened the Greek states, Boko Haram threaten Nigeria with tyranny, and terrorism. And like the Greek army in the face of Persian menace, the Nigerian military has been inept, out of their depth, and wanting.

Along came the 500 brave traditional hunters.

King Leonidas Spartans were armed with shields and spears. The traditional hunters of Borno are armed with homemade guns, poisoned spears and amulets.

The hunters, some as young as 18 and some in their 80s, have heed the clarion call to defend Nigeria from Boko Haram, and rescue over 270 abducted girls, who have been missing for five weeks.

While the Nigerian government has stalled, like the Spartan and Athenian politicians during the Persian invasion, the 500 hunters, like the 300 Spartans, have risen.

In the presence of the Associated Press the 500 hunters did not yell out: "Ah-hu!" like Spartans would. Instead they blew their cow horns, made eerie war cries, and twirled their knives and swords with deftness.

Occasionally, they stabbed and cut themselves, with no apparent harm, in a fit even King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans would have applauded.

"We are seasoned hunters, the bush is our culture and we have the powers that defy guns and knives; we are real men of courage, we trust in Allah for protection, but we are not afraid of Boko Haram," the Associated Press quoted an elderly hunter, Baban Kano.

The Spartans believed they were descendants of Zeus himself. Nigeria's 500 traditional hunters have charms they believe fortify them against harm: cowrie shells, animal teeth, leather bracelets, herbs and other substances wrapped in leather pouches could march the power of Zeus.

The April 15 mass kidnapping of Chibok girls, and the government's ostensible lack of action sparked demonstrations and a social media campaign that has activated global action.

This is Nigeria.

Currently, US aircraft and drones are combing the Nigerian skies in search of the girls. Military crews from America, Spain, Britain, France, and Israel are providing expertise in surveillance, intelligence gathering, counterterrorism and hostage negotiation.

African leaders met at a French-organised summit in Paris to wage war on Boko Haram.


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