By Morenike Taire
When a Chibok Girl, Salomi Pogu, was found in the company of another girl and a baby this week, there was no rolling out of drums in celebration of their finding. No euphoria, no excitement, no celebrations.
The international outrage continues and may have even expanded in influence as individuals and news outlets from as far as New Zealand and India, are tweeting about the recovery of Salomi. Back home in Nigeria, there has emerged, at best, an opportunity to criticize government while politicizing everything.
As far as many Nigerians are concerned, Boko Haram fight is simply a tool for negotiations for the present administration. One Nigerian has tweeted, “What an untimely distraction from the Benue massacre. The plan is to ‘rescue’ singly now, make the girls no finish before elections”. Another posits: “Every time Nigerians are angry with the government, a Chibok girl is found/released. How many Chibok girls will be found/released before the elections?”
In general, the people of North East Nigeria are perceived as being both victims and violators in the Boko Haram conundrum. As village after village is sacked in Borno State; the people displaced, the rest of Nigeria turns up their nose and considers it as ‘their problem’. Truth be told, the average Nigerian is almost completely indifferent to the fate of the two million children, men and women who daily struggle to stay alive surrounded by trauma, loss, disease and extreme poverty in the various internally displaced camps across the country.
Her name- as well as her face or what it is supposed to look like three years plus down the road- were struck off the list of the still-to-be found 113 teenage girls that were reported abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, in 2014. She will be rehabilitated alongside other vulnerable young women of North Eastern Nigeria, Moslem as well as Christians, who have found themselves disenfranchised due to circumstances completely beyond their control, and for which they are not at all responsible. After a short while, she will be forgotten. Just like the others.
Her future will not be taken into consideration by anyone, unless she is extremely lucky and a random do-gooder crosses her unlucky path. It is unclear whether ‘Pogu’ is just a common name or that the three Pogus on the list of the yet to be recovered Chibok girls are sisters or relatives. Still it bears pointing out that another escaped Chibok girl, Lydia Pogu, last June made international news after visiting US president Donald Trump in the company of another escapee, Joy Bishara. They wrote a nice letter, read it as they had been taught to do , took group photos and went back to their lives.
An outrage that had commanded an unprecedented amount of attention from the most unexpected quarters, the Chibok girls ‘conundrum had, until the finding of Miss Pogu, gone from commanding global outrage to dwindling into a half hearted whimper. Confusion had set in; the problem has developed many heads each of which is less of a priority than it was on its own.
It was just around new year’s eve that the president was talking about his not forgetting the still missing Chibok girls; through Mohammed Ali Ndume, senator representing Borno South in the National Assembly who represented the president at an event around Chibok . From all indications the president is on his own on this. Yet finding the rest of the Chibok girls is just the beginning of what ought to be the rebuilding of the badly torn social fabric of South Eastern Nigeria.
The violence meted out by the Nigerian military and the discrimination that exists in the Muslim-dominated north, as well as the effects of climate change affecting that region, is ignored by the politically disregarded “Bringbackourgirls” campaign. It’s so much easier to “care” about 200 schoolgirls than comprehensively analyze what is actually happening in Nigeria. At the same time, it gives the Military something to do. Who said something about a coup?
Every day villages are sacked. Properties are pillaged. Families are torn apart. Fear reigns and development is frozen. The young and strong migrate southwards. Their hearts have become hardened to survive their experiences.
There’s a long history in Nigeria of essentially ethnicist southern stereotypes of northerners as stupid and lazy. This stereotype on its own is stupid and lazy, particularly considering that Northern Nigeria, like basically every part of Nigeria, boasts an incredible level of diversity with regards to religion, language, values and even ethnicity.
To ignore the severe humanitarian disaster in the North East is to go to bed while our communal roof is on fire. The school girls, when and if they are found, remain the main symbol of the state of affairs in Borno and Adamawa, bona fide parts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Still their lot, pathetic as it is, will have them faring better than their peers who never had the good fortune of being abducted from school. For Nigeria as a whole- whether we close our eyes tight in denial or open them wide in defiance- the consequences will be the same. It will mean less food security, less human security, less humanity. The symptoms are already with us.