Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Over 200 missing not business as usual

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Nigerians Joy Bishara (left) and Hadiza Fali escaped from Boko Haram by jumping off a truck.

SUNDAY ALAMBA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Nigerians Joy Bishara (left) and Hadiza Fali escaped from Boko Haram by jumping off a truck.

It's been over two months since over 200 girls were kidnapped from their school at Chibok, Nigeria while preparing for their exams. At first it seemed the story would go away as the government continued its daily affairs, promising to help bring back the girls. It was business as usual as they continued to plan for the 24th World Economic Forum. Nothing, absolutely nothing could hamper this great event. Not even the kidnapping of the girls could stop world leaders from converging in Nigeria for the forum.

Well, the summit has come and gone, and probable agreements reached, businesses looking for new opportunities in one of Africa's largest markets. Seeking to tap into the vast gains expected to be made in an economy that is geared toward consumerism with huge reliance on importation.

To calm the nerves of both local and outside NGOs that are demonstrating on a daily basis, requesting the government do something to ensure the girls are returned back alive, the government accepted the help of the U.S. in finding ways to bring the girls back. No one questioned the means of achieving this, no one knows, no one cares. All that matters is bringing the girls home alive.

With the arrival of the U.S. army team, frayed nerves were calmed. Nigerians became hopeful again the girls would be found. And business continued as usual.

It's been a while since the U.S. military first landed in Nigeria to start their mission of finding the girls. So far, nothing has been heard. No news of the girls. No success, no failure report. Simply silence!

Even Nigerians themselves are carrying out their business as usual. Except Boko Haram continued to unleash its menace, setting off bomb blasts in major cities in the north of Nigeria, killing anyone in their path, making it clear to the Nigerian government they can pretty much do what they want and the world can do nothing about it.

This week, another 20 women were kidnapped in another village near Chibok.

It is now time to ask who is in control of Nigeria, Boko Haram or President Goodluck Jonathan? Or split between the two?

Boko Haram in the north and President Jonathan in the south. Boko Haram unleashing their wrath upon the people living in the north of Nigeria while the government of Nigeria carries on business as usual in the South of Nigeria.

President Jonathan had refused to negotiate with terrorists, reinforcing the well-known U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Well, that was the U.S. before. Now, the U.S. had negotiated and has swapped five terrorists for one soldier. If negotiating with Boko Haram will secure the release of the girls, isn't it time for the Nigerian president to be advised to do same?

As the days go by, news of the girls continues to blur. If we are to go by the Boko Haram leader, in a video circulated, the girls will be sold out as wives.

As scary as it may seem, it's beginning to seem as if the girls may never be found. Even their story is beginning to blur and we are gradually going back to business as usual.

For all the concerned citizens out there, it cannot be business as usual. Two hundred-plus girls held against their will is tantamount to slavery. We cannot allow the story of these girls to become business as usual.

Let us keep up the pressure and demand that the world help in finding the girls. Two hundred-plus is a huge number to forget. They are the future of the nation. Extinguishing two hundred-plus lights will result in total darkness.

If world leaders could gather to discuss business in a country where over 200 girls were abducted and still succeeded in carrying out business as usual, we should all get worried over the plight of these girls and the chances of them never making it back home. If America cannot afford to leave one soldier behind the enemy line, and instead will negotiate to swap five dangerous terrorists for the return of their soldier, Nigerians should all at the same time demand their president negotiate and secure the release of these girls.

The case of the missing girls cannot be business as usual.

 

Winnipegger Florence Okwudili is a social justice activist who left Nigeria in 2000.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 A15

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