This past Sunday, I was featured as a source in a Lincoln Journal Star article on Boko Haram and the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. The article can be found here: http://m.journalstar.com/news/local/cindy-lange-kubick-bring-back-our-girls-a-plea-for/article_50571c82-fb23-5e17-8653-43587acfce50.html.
I did not completely agree with the article and wrote a letter to the editor. The author of the article, Cindy Lange-Kubick published my email on her blog, but gave me the impression that my email would not be published by the paper. So I have decided also to publish the contents of my email.
To Cindy Lange-Kubick and the Editor of the Lincoln Journal Star,
I want to start this letter by thanking you for showing concern on the issue of the abducted girls of Chibok, Nigeria and writing the “Bring Back Our Girls, a Plea for the Kidnapped in Nigeria” piece, on Sunday May 4th to that effect. To wit, I was also honored to have an opportunity to contribute to the story and share my concern.
However, there were some details in the story that were not accurately or fully disclosed and I hope you will allow me the opportunity to correct them.
To start with, I graduated last Spring (2013) with a political science doctorate degree from UNL. My dissertation research (available online) was conducted in Nigeria in 2011 and I am an expert on China-Africa relations, especially with regard to Nigeria. So I do have legitimacy to speak on some of the issues that face Nigeria, even beyond my general concerns as a Nigerian citizen.
There are no “cars burning in the streets of Nigeria’s capital,” Abuja.** On April 14 and May 1, 2014, Nyanya, a community on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory was bombed. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the first of these incidents but similarities in details of the incidents has led to the conclusion that it is also responsible for the second bombing. Though to my knowledge, this has yet to be confirmed. Outside of these bombing incidents, there have been no vehicles set aflame in Abuja. Government security forces have increased their efforts in the central area of Abuja as world leaders are expected to convene in a few days time for the World Economic Forum on Africa meetings.
Secondly, there is indeed a war in Nigeria, against Boko Haram and terrorism and their continued pattern of violence against women and girls. With the missing 234 (or however many) Chibok girls, mothers from Borno state estimate that up to and perhaps more than a thousand of their daughters have been killed or captured by Boko Haram and made to endure several atrocities. It is for these women and girls and also for the boys used as soldiers that I speak, when I say this brazen abduction is a solitary incident in a greater war. I hope that this is the incident that turns the tide of the war. I hope this is the incident that bands Nigerians together, regardless of tribe, religion or education. I hope this is the incident that elevates women and girls from casualties of conflict to treasured and esteemed and protected members of our society. I hope this is the incident that rids my country of the scourge of ethnic and religious hate and intolerance, violence and Boko Haram.
Because this matters to Nigerians, I will also add that I am a Christian, born and raised in Northern Nigeria but I am not a Christian from the North. My tribe is Igbo and from the Southeast. But unflinchingly, my people are the Nigerian people, all the Nigerian people. I hope that more and more Nigerians share in this view.
While the violence of Boko Haram has been concentrated in Northeastern Nigeria, it has crept southward. The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in 2011, and the recent bombings at Nyanya.
The emergence of Boko Haram coincided with the announcement of Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to run for and ultimately win the office of President. In addition to managing his administration and the entire nation, President Jonathan has had to manage the persistent problem of Boko Haram. In this current situation and previous ones, Nigerians have called for swift and aggressive action against the insurgents. When these actions have incurred harm to innocent citizens whether at the hand of government forces or retributive Boko Haram who reportedly kill their captives when government forces get close to their hideouts, the President has come under a lot of pressure from local citizens as well as human rights agencies; even when the citizens have allowed Boko Haram to hide among them and would under international customary law be classified as accessories to the carnage that Boko Haram has wrought on the nation.
Thousands of lives have been lost at the hands of Boko Haram and even more stories untold and unknown. It behooves the President of Nigeria and his administration to exercise caution, not to the point of inaction but caution nonetheless, in the resolution of this situation: the end of Boko Haram and the safe return of the Chibok girls.
As an international community, we can also come together to denounce the global blight of terrorism, it is not just a Nigerian problem. We can demand that our leaders regardless of religion or race or ethnicity or creed, speak up for the countless victims. We can demand that our women and our children are treasured, esteemed and protected. We can refuse to accept violence and conflict as ways of life. We can speak up when we see wrong and aspire to the very best ideals of our humanity.
**I sent a later email clarifying this point, stating:
Nyanya is to Abuja what McLean, VA is to DC. Part of Nyanya falls just inside of the boundaries of the federal capital territory but it is some distance from the central business district (think Bellevue to downtown Omaha).***
I am uncomfortable with the phrasing “cars burning in the streets,” because it paints a picture that to me gives the impression that cars burning in the streets are commonplace and a way of life instead of addressing the specific incident that led to that particular imagery. In two separate and shocking incidents, vehicles carrying bombs exploded on the periphery of the federal capital territory. The first incident was at a motorpark (a bus and taxi public transport station) and the second at a police checkpoint (very close to the earlier bomb site) while in line with other vehicles. Yes cars burnt but as a result of specific bombing incidents, that I think should be referenced, at least for the sake of the victims but also to paint a more complete and more accurate picture of what is happening here in Nigeria. Cars are not randomly aflame in Abuja. Not even in protest. This was my point of contention and I apologize if I was not clear on this in my earlier email.
***I’m not saying that Nyanya isn’t and/or shouldn’t count as Abuja or part of the federal capital territory. That is a debate that drives attention away from the loss of lives or greater security concerns that remain. However, I make this point to illustrate that I live in Abuja and feel safe as do friends of mine who live within the central area of Abuja.