The following day, the newspapers hit the newsstands with screaming front page headlines: 234 girls abducted in Chibok; Terrorists kidnap 240 school girls; Boko Haram strikes again… Abduct 230 girls.
The stories were same but the figures were different. No one knows the actual number till date. More so when it was reported 48 hours later that some of the girls, out of sheer guts and bravery, escaped. A bewildered nation woke to the chilling reality of terror in a new dimension. The early morning editions of newspapers sold out quickly as shocked citizens stood in groups in offices, market places, schools and markets to discuss the latest attack of these terrorists.
What will they do to these girls? Will they kill them? Where did they take them? Will they violate them? So many questions asked by bewildered citizens seeking answers to the latest dimension of violence unleashed on the people by this Islamic sect since 2009.
When it was revealed that the girls were mainly Christians, Christian organizations in Nigeria cried blue-murder, declaring that the thrust of Boko Haram terrorism was targeted against Christians. Not so because the victims of their attacks include Muslims and Christians.
Initial reactions were muted. People were wondering…Boko Haram again? Why kidnapping? Their trademark is bomb blasts and gunmen shooting. Why the change of gear to kidnapping? Do they want to bargain for something in exchange for freedom of the girls?
Government’s apparent cautious approach provoked the anger of citizens and civil society groups who accused the ruling government of being too slow in reacting to the kidnap. The people wanted quick action to rescue the innocent young girls. Little wonder street protests, largely by women and youths, erupted in major cities of Abuja and Lagos. It soon spread to other cities of Nigeria.
The protest spread like wildfire as the awareness of the kidnap grew rapidly. People scanned news bulletins for updates. Anger and consternation spread through the land. Fear pervaded. Who would be next victim? What is government doing? Why can’t the security forces crush Boko Haram after five years of unleashing terror and violence on the people? The people are asking.
The clamour for release of the girls soon hit the social media with the hashtag…
#BringBackOurGirls. This message went viral and caught the attention of foreign leaders and nationals. A groundswell of global outrage against the kidnap rapidly built up. The flame of recuing the girls began to burn as citizens of various countries identified with the social campaign.
The peaceful street protests by women and youths soon spread to other countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and other African countries. Different women groups have since staged daily street protests in Lagos and Abuja, and have vowed they will sustain it until the girls are rescued.
Foreign Presidents, Heads of State, and leaders of government’s quickly reacted pledging support for Nigeria. America, Britain, France, Italy, Israel, and Japan pledged to send troops and intelligence officers to Nigeria to join in the search and rescue of the girls. American troops were the first to arrive.
The global reaction was swift in total condemnation of the kidnap. The social media operated at full throttle with the American first lady boldly displaying the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. The fever of bring-back had caught attention, sweeping across the globe like wildfire, and sustained by outpouring of grief and emotions and global support for the Nigerian government to rescue these girls. The rage and support is still on six weeks after the kidnap.
Boko Haram intermittently posts a video on YouTube showing their leader, Abubakar Shekau, castigating government, boasting, and making ridiculous demands. The latest is the video of the kidnapped girls (mostly Christians) dressed in the Islamic female attire, Hijab, and reciting the Koran. The video hit the global media through the French news agency, AFP.
In the video, Shekau was gloating about the group’s latest exploit. He said the girls have been converted to Islam and threatened to force them into marriage or sell them. He threw up a bargain: They want an exchange of the girls, for their members held in Nigerian jails and police custody undergoing trials for terrorism.
The Nigerian government flatly rejected the demand and opted for negotiations for rescue via a Committee of eminent citizens it quickly set up. The Committee has since gone to work. Expectations are high for a resolution of this crisis without military onslaught.
(18 June 2014)
Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.
Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.