By Mopelolade Ogunbowale
On April 24, Boko Haram’s guerrilla attacks, which had been going on for the last seven years, resurfaced in my Nigerian homeland, this time, not only with the usual bombing, burnings and brutalities, but with an unprecedented kidnapping of more than 200 defenseless schoolgirls.
First, it was the gunshot and the shouts of “Allah Akbar” that sent people scampering for safety. The girls, like others, made for the door. Outside were armed men in Nigerian army uniforms, so they fled in their direction. One could only imagine the girls’ horror to find what they thought represented safety was, indeed, the Nigerian nightmare – men of Boko Haram.
I felt so helpless because of the initial silence about the girls. Then Boko Haram claimed responsibility, boasting it would turn them into sex slaves or exchange them for weapons. These are girls, I thought, young girls like I once was. How I long to scream and poke my fingers at the dark and sinister faces in protest, shouting, as I tear them apart: “They are my sisters, as they are yours.”
Sisters of the world, please, help #BringBackOurGirls! It is nearly a month now! Over 200 girls! Who will lead the charge? Who will wake Nigeria and shake the president from his slumber?
Did someone knock at my door or was I thinking aloud? My apartment door opened and a man’s face appeared. It was my landlord. In his usual manner of speech that reduces Africa to a simple, one-sided story, he bellowed even before I could ask him in: “Hey, did you listen to the news about the abducted kids in Nigeria? This is why the United States of America needs to fight terrorism all around the world.”
How can I tell this man that I appreciate the United States for aiding Nigeria in this frightful moment? Tell him that Nigerian leaders, like Boko Haram, are essentially men? Tell him that in this moment, I am rebelling against all men and until you #BringBackOurGirls, let no man knock at my door?
My earliest impressions of northern Nigeria were shaped by my father. He told my sisters and me how his father rescued him from being killed by Muslim students. I used to think he was an ethnic chauvinist. Now I know what the British amalgamation of 1914 means to the entire nation. It sacrificed national unity for British economic gains. It made the north strictly Islamic, insular and constrained by extreme poverty, while the rest of the country conformed to the rhythms of Western modernity.
Who bears the brunt? Women and children, especially girls! We are denied education, daily. We are treated as slaves, daily. We are despised, daily. We are kidnapped, daily. We are raped, daily. Are there none among us who would #BringBackOurGirls?
Mopelolade Ogunbowale is a doctoral student in the University at Buffalo’s Department of Transnational Studies, where she teaches a course on cultures and history in Africa.