Friday 20 May 2016

Nigeria, Is that you?

There are many things I don’t do.  Using the F word is one of them but FUCK you Nigeria, FUCK YOU VERY MUCH!

I have watched with horror as a young girl is paraded by the Government. A young girl who was abducted, held hostage for two years (under heaven knows what kind of circumstances) is rescued or released with a baby and our first reaction is to parade her as a prize.  What happened to privacy, what happened to giving her time to heal? Do we care about this girl at all or just about scoring points?

Towards the end of the former president’s tenure, there had been reports about the Nigerian army rescuing hundreds of girls from different camps. I’ll confess that I wondered if this was true, or if it was exaggerated to score political points but I have recently, in the course of my work had to visit some IDP camps in Abuja.  The first thing I noticed was the absence of young women.  When I asked, they said most of them were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Apparently the terrorist group hardly if ever kills women, they ‘marry’ them instead.  In one of the camps, there were 697 young men to 26 young women. Yes, you read right. 26! Most of the girls were said to be in BH captivity. Reports say that about 2000 girls were abducted by the terrorist group, this figure may actually be under-reported.
One of the young women who spoke to us said she was pregnant when they raided her village so she was relatively safe. Her husband hid in the roof for days before he got a chance to escape but when she had her baby, they told her they were coming to marry her so she also had to escape with her few days old baby.  Another told us she’d been abducted but escaped after months but not before she was impregnated.

We heard horror story upon horror story. No family we met was complete, there was always a brother or a sister or a mother they had no idea of their whereabouts.  They have no Government support. There have been many visitors and pledges but as with many things Nigerian, that is where it ends.  They live on charity. Only able to feed when a Good Samaritan drops by.  This is Abuja , the seat of power is in Abuja, the big men are in Abuja yet people who through their own strong will and luck managed to cheat death are being ignored by the Government.  Able bodied men sit around playing cards all day, mothers go into labour unsupervised, there’s a health center not far off that charges NGN6,500 for delivery but most of them cannot afford the cab fare to the center how much more the delivery charge so they do it on their own. Those who survive, survive and those who die, die.

But this Government wants me to pat her on the back for rescuing one girl and parading her to the world.  Hey look, America , we did it. What makes her different? What about the many girls who escaped or who were previously rescued and have been completely abandoned; homeless and destitute, some of them with babies to feed.

To borrow a line from Sprite, Image isn’t everything. Conscience is. The IDP camps are in terrible conditions. The people have little or no hope. Help them! All Nigerian lives should matter whether they are from Chibok or UkanaIba!