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Chibok, Nigeria and the Stockholm syndrome

IT has been over 100 days since the forceful abduction of over 200 girls from their sleeping beds inside their school premises at Chibok in Borno State.

Since then not much has been heard from them save  the video that was released by their abductors, the Boko Haram sect. One hundred days is a long time for a human being to adapt to a new environment and lifestyle. I wonder what those innocent girls might have gone through in the hands of the Boko Haram members, but more importantly, what really is their mood or psyche presently?

The Stockholm syndrome emanated after the hostage situation in Stockholm, Sweden some time ago. Over a period of time the captor and the captive soon develop a bond whereby there seems to be a certain level of comfort for the captives and in extreme cases, the captive even falls in love with their captor(s). This may seem too theoretical to be true in this case but what exactly is going through the minds of those girls? Are we abandoned? The government doesn’t really care about us? Maybe these men holding us hostage may be right after all. Should we follow them in their ideology?

I sincerely believe, and it is my opinion, that whatever is the predominant feelings of those girls as I write this, fear might have been replaced with another emotion. They have lived with these people for a period of time and interacted with them, and probably to some extent, they might have even become sympathetic to their cause.

Communication, including the  propaganda variety, is a great tool for information. Those girls, I presume, are held incommunicado. So, maybe  they are not aware of the rallies, protests, discussions and the bring back our girls hashtag that has been viral since their abduction. What this means is that the only information they get is from their abductors. Information which is actually a disinformation.

During the civil war in Sierra Leone, children were abducted, radicalised, given guns, machetes, hard drugs, but worst of all, they had their minds twisted and with all this; they maimed, killed without pity, all because their fragile vulnerable minds had been tampered with. This shows that no matter how innocent a child can be, any trauma and new ideology  can negatively affect him.

The government is acting too slowly in this situation and those girls are drifting far away from the values that they have been brought up with. They are losing hope in the state and they might rebel against the state. They are not aware of the wailings of their mothers and siblings or the heartache of their fathers who consciously look towards the horizon everyday wishing for them to come home. President Barack Obama recently ordered the swap of five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay Prison facility in exchange for one American soldier captured way back.

If the government has to release some Boko Haram prisoners then it is imperative that they do that to get those girls back. They need not just their freedom back and released to their parents but they need psychologists and trauma experts to mentally guide them back so they can be re-integrated in to the larger society. We just do not know what the Boko Haram have been feeding their minds with.

To a great extent the Stockholm syndrome is actually affecting all Nigerians, we have been held captive for a long-time and we love it. That is why we can see our captors and hail them as the best thing that ever happened, that is why our legislators are the highest paid in the world and we still wallow in abject poverty. That is why those we elected to serve us chase us off our roads with horsewhips and fierce looking security personnel so their siren blaring bullet-proof motorcade can pass quickly; that is why some governors can allocate a medical package of N100 million for themselves in a year, even after they have left office. So, in the midst of all these obscenities, we sing their praises both in newspapers and gatherings, and once we get back to the confines of our houses with generators emitting toxic fumes, we console ourselves by saying: “it is well”, “God dey” and later ask our pastors to please pray for us so that the witches and witchcraft troubling us would die.

Ayi Kwei Armah in his classic novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born described the level of corruption as it was then in Ghana. Amidst all the temptations and even the bickerings from his wife, the protagonist in the novel who Armah beautifully characterised as “the man” didn’t follow the bandwagon of mediocrity and shame, not even the grandiose, affluent lifestyle of his friend and colleague, Koomson, could deter him from his noble stance.

Fast forward to present day Nigeria. If Ayi Kwei had known that the corruption prevalent in Nigeria today would make the Ghana situation look like a kindergarten playground, maybe he would have waited and released a blockbuster without any hyperbole effects.

The literary Icon, professor J.P Clark in his poem, “The Casualties”, wrote: ”The casualties are not only those who are dead, they are well out of it”.

In this case, the casualties are not only the Chibok girls, their situation is just brought into prominence. The casualties are all of us; even the Boko Haram members are casualties. If Abubakar Shekau and his likes were giving basic education by the states or taught a skill, he wouldn’t have been this dangerous man troubling us, he wouldn’t have risen against the state in this violent and grotesque manner. He wouldn’t have created a cause to fight, kill and die for, he wouldn’t have hated his people to the extent of saying he takes delight in killing people the same way he kills chicken and goat.

Abubakar Shekau is a perfect example of how the government have failed us over the years. His lieutenants and foot soldiers would not follow his warped ideology if they were gainfully employed or engaged in more decent productive ventures.

Most of these renegades who had nothing to live for were willing tools in the hands of desperados who daily feed them and then orders them to violent acts of murder and religious hatred.

The only empowerment they had were their plastic plates they use to roam around begging for food from there benefactors. Now they are empowered with weapons of mayhem like machine guns and its likes, rocket propelled grenades and even armoured personnel carriers. The Almajiris who had nothing to live for except looking forward to the next meal,now find themselves living a ruthless existence and have something they are willing and ready to die for…

I hope and pray those girls return safe and with their minds not radicalized..

Henry Onyekuru, a social commentator, wrote from Lagos.






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