NewsWest AfricaHashtags and activism as search continues for Nigeria's kidnapped girls


Posted on Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:53

Hashtags and activism as search continues for Nigeria's kidnapped girls

Photo©ReutersThe hashtag "Bring Back Our Girls" has become a global catchphrase.


And that's a good thing. Nigerians and sympathisers have held up posters from Chibok to New York, and from Ogun to Cancun, compelling the international community into action.

I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell.

However, the rhetorical implications of the catchphrase must be expanded to cover the larger struggle and gruesome narrative of the Nigerian state and terrorism.

Local and international activism has begun with the slogan: Bring Back Our Girls but it must not end there. There is a larger struggle and narrative that will not be remedied even after our daughters are brought back to us. That's why we must expand this catchphrase.

#BringBackOurGirls must develop into '#Bring Back Civility and Rule of Law', '#Bring Back Peaceful Coexistence of Muslim and Christians', '#Bring Back Public Safety and Security', '#Bring Back Social and Economic Programs', and '#Bring Back Peaceful Islam to Nigeria'.

Before and beyond the kidnapping of our daughters of Chibok town, are the complexities of the asymmetrical warfare which the Nigerian Federal Government must continue to engage against Boko Haram, and its leader Abubakar Shekau.

Under the dictates of Shekau, Boko Haram has spared no one – government workers, police officers, journalists, villagers, students, churchgoers, and young girls. This is the nature of asymmetrical warfare, and as we have seen with the Taliban in Afghanistan and rebel groups from East Timor to Somalia, governments are often left high and dry.

Boko Haram is an asymmetrical enemy that operates outside the conventions of human rights, human dignity, and the dictates of conventional war norms, thus the Federal Government is at a disadvantage in its war against them. Knowing this, Shekau resurfaces every once in a while in video messages to mock the powerlessness of the Nigerian military and government.

"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women," Shekau mocked in his latest video.

What Shekau's sadistic bombast tells us is that even when our daughters are brought back to us, Boko Haram will continue to exploit the characteristic weaknesses and limitations of the Nigerian state. Whether it is blowing up churches, bombing governmental buildings, attacking police stations, blowing up mass transit areas, shooting students as they sleep in their dormitories or kidnapping young girls, Boko Haram will continue to hit the nation hard.

We must not only try to bring our girls back home, we must support a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackle Boko Haram.

Human Rights Watch estimates that in the past five years, more than 3,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram. Conversely, the struggle and hideous narrative that has come to define the Nigerian experience must be addressed comprehensively.

Accordingly, the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls must be the preamble and not the end goal. We must capitalise on the international awareness and attention generated by the hash-tagged catchphrase to launch a comprehensive movement against Boko Haram.

When our daughters are kidnapped by members of a group, whose ruthless leader operates in the shadows with a twisted ideology, and whose members heartlessly carry out his repugnant commands, we naturally get emotional. Who wouldn't? However we must not stop at "Bring Back Our Girls", we must continue.

Hopefully, the Nigerian government along with help from the international community can bring back our girls. But for our daughters' sake, and our sons too, we must demand that they "#Bring Back a Safe and Civil Nigeria".

On Wednesday, a $300,000 reward for "credible information that will lead to the location and rescue of the abducted school girls was announced by Nigeria's police. The authorities also provided several telephone numbers.


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