Nigeria’s abducted Girls: A Democracy Under Siege

by @zizii2

The world is slowly waking up to a 2 week old horror, the gut-wrenching story of 234+ teenage girls abducted by a band of terrorists from their boarding school just as they were in the midst of taking their High School Certification exams. A horror that was no less eased when it was reported that some of the traumatized girls who had managed to escape their captors, the Boko Haram, recently told grim news of their fellow captives being sold into “marriage” to terrorists within and without Nigeria’s Northern borders.


Within the 2 wks since the girls were kidnapped public anger inside Nigeria rose and spilled out into the streets in the last 24-48 hours in demonstrations against government impotence to grapple with the terrorist menace that its victims call Boko Haram, which means “Western education Forbidden” (See further below for more on history of Boko Haram). Social media relayed that anger to a wider global public under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Petition drives have accelerated to galvanize awareness and demand action, including one from Change.org currently gathering steam in the US.

Video of when abduction happened 2 weeks ago:


However the indignation captured in the hashtag bumps up against a very messy and complicated reality, one that lifts the scab off the virulent canker metastasizing in several 21st century fledgling democracies and in some mature ones as well, gashing open threadbare societies. Democracy itself is rendered naked. And so:

1) #BringBackOurGirls. But from where?

2) Who do we ask to #BringBackOurGirls?

3) And if we are able to identify captors, who, if anyone, are they answerable to?

4) When a fledgling democracy is faced with a lawless group linked to a global terrorist franchise that fights an asymmetric war, how is security of anyone, let alone children to be guaranteed?

5) Who is bankrolling and profiting from arming a group that is not directly seeking political inclusion/representation but instead wants dissolution of the modern pluralist state itself and modern life?

6) What strategy to deal with Boko Haram? Crush them? Under what rules? Negotiate with them? Contain them? Abdicate democratic governance altogether? Can Nigeria or any young democracy survive a Boko Haram menace and remain intact?

Nigeria Female Literacy RatesSource: BBC.com


The abduction of the girls from Chibok in Northeastern Nigeria is just the latest Boko Haram orchestrated strike in what has become its 5 year repeated murderous assault on Nigerian citizens in schools, markets, churches, police stations, that has killed more than an estimated 4 thousand people. The day before the kidnapping, a bomb blast on a bus had killed estimated 70 people, Christmas Day massacres, Last year students were murdered in the sleep in dormitories at an Agricultural College in Bornu State. Another attack took place in Abuja the political capital. Despite the Islamist religious cloak that Boko Haram covers itself in, its victims have been Muslims and Christians alike.

Video of life in Maiduguri


Source: Wikipedia

Nigeria is no virgin to conflict. Like much of the rest of the continent of Africa, its very existence as an artificially-constructed state and amalgam of disparate ethnic groups, was birthed in 1914 in the crucible of British colonial greed for territory, resources, and supremacy over competing European colonial powers. It was given a name that banally reflected geographical coordinates to the colonizer: Niger-area, rather than any lofty historical references to Kingdoms, cultures or the peoples. Nigeria’s importance was couched in terms of the size of its population and the fact of straddling one of the 2 most important waterways in Africa’s interior, the Niger River. Of course, those facts were what made it economically and strategically a crown prize to the British crown (pun intended), and not the rich stories and indigenous industries of its peoples.


Roots of Boko Haram

After Nigeria’s independence from British rule in 1960, it would dominate world headlines for the wrong reasons starting with tensions emanating form the legacy of some groups empowered by British colonizers over others. The result? Barely 7 years after independence tension burst the seams of an artificially constructed country struggling to define national cohesion, with the outbreak of a civil war. The crux of that war, dubbed by Igbo nationalists as the Biafran war, was the struggle over ownership of territorial control, resources and sovereignty. Like the US civil war, it was bloody, protracted and when it ended three years later in the defeat of Igbo secessionists, the prayer was that painfully but determinedly, the diverse peoples of this new country were going to forge a federated nation out of the messy polity they had inherited, TOGETHER.


Nigeria wealth distribution

Source: BBC.com


The discovery and drilling of vast deposits of oil in the Niger delta in the 1970s would catapult Nigeria to heights of global strategic importance. But as its other moniker, “Oil Cursed state” reveals, fierce competition for power in the forms of both military coups d’état and quasi civilian rule would warp systems of governance for the next 3 decades reaching new ugly heights in the 1990s. Nigeria made political headlines when the dictatorships of Sani Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida ruthlessly put down Oguni people in the Niger Delta area who were agitating about the economic neglect of populations living in the oil-rich areas, and about the oil drilling practices of multinational corporations that were destroying the fragile ecosystem. The execution of famed writer and Oguni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was seared in our collective minds, until democratic rule feebly took hold again in 1999, with the promise of righting that giant ship once more. Along with the devolution of power through the ballot box, another critical fact was born too: the cessation of the unwritten agreement that power would alternate between the predominantly Muslim North (40% of pop.) and Christian South. Power now had to be competed for in the open political market.


Nigeria ethnic mosaic

Source: BBC.com


Boko Haram was born in 2002, under the official name “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad,” meaning ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Its founding leader Muhammad Yusuf’s initial complaints were that “Western education, or ‘boko,’ had brought nothing but poverty and suffering to the region and was therefore for bidden, or ‘haram,’ in Islam.” In the context of the economic disparities that divide Nigeria, Yusuf’s message quickly gained a devoted following among swathes of unemployed youth. The movement soon began stockpiling arsenals of sophisticated weaponry. Clashes with Borno State authorities resulted in violence against law enforcement, torching of government offices, followed by clampdowns.



In 2009, the police clamped down on sect members who were ignoring a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. That sparked a furious backlash. Police stations and government offices in Borno were burned to the ground, and hundreds of the ground, and hundreds of criminals released in a prison break, as the violence spread across northern Nigeria. The government and army reacted with force: Yusuf was captured and shot dead in police custody. Five days of fighting left some 800 people dead.


Boko Haram: South African TV Discussion


Following Yusuf’s death, the new leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has taken violence to new indiscriminate heights and is believed to have expanded liaisons with al Qaeda affiliates in the Maghreb (North Africa), and Al Shabab in Somalia.  I argue that these liaisons are criminal franchises and not religious bonds. As has become clear with other terrorist groups in theater this era, religion and the plight of Muslims in Northern Nigeria that supposedly animated founding leader Yusuf’s initial protests, simply function as pretexts for pathological and criminal behavior that have nothing to do with faith. The current modus operandi of Boko Haram demonstrates the use of violence for it’s own sake rather than coherent ideological or philosophical motives. It is stochastic. Intended to render the country simply ungovernable. Violence then simply becomes the currency for profiting off arms trafficking, and driving Nigeria into penury by depleting its fragile national security resources.


In their usual lazy retread of the usual “Africa is backward, African leaders are corrupt” narrative, a key question the international media have NOT explored is the emerging perverse inverse relationship between the reduction of large scale wars BETWEEN states, and the scaling up of microwars and insurgencies WITHIN states. Weapons manufacturers traffickers need new markets and thus foment conflicts in order to sell arms to groups who become even better armed than their host states, who in turn have to divert resources to Global arms manufacturers to buy more weapons. A highly lucrative micro-arms race within developing countries for the arms peddlers (just like NRA’s desire to put guns in every chicken pot).


Sadly the abduction of the girls or the students gunned down in their dormitories in one of the gruesome previous incidents, or the abuse of child soldiers in previous internal conflicts, plus our worldwide reactions are seen by these criminals as media events intended to exploit viral communication technologies such as social media to amplify the spectacle effect. Ultimately these for them are enactments in narcissism, psychopathy, and pure profit.  A side benefit, in their mind, would be the failure of a resource rich country like Nigeria.  It is also for this latter reason that Boko Haram is believed by some to serve as guns-for-hire to political opportunists who seek to advance their agendas toward elections in 2015.

Ironically, they may be selling their services to everybody on all sides of the political game, ultimately becoming frankenmonsters that nobody can contain. And this freelance terrorism by persons and groups who have no interest in the niceties of democratic governance, or majority rule, is the horror awaiting us all in this new century.  We can sniff parallels in our midst here in the West too.


>>>>> UPDATE <<<<

MSNBC is reporting that the US govt has offered  the Nigerian government assistance to help find the abducted girls. We hope positive news comes out of this


Roots of Boko Haram: References and In depth articles

h/t Professor John Mbaku’s List — Boko Haram Resources

1. Adesoji, Abimbola (2011): “Between Maitatsine and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and Response of the Nigerian State

2. Adesoji, Abimbola (2010): “The Boko Haram Uprising and Islamic Revivalism in Nigeria

3. Danjibo, N.D. (2011) : “Islamic Fundamentalism and Sectarian Violence: The “Maitatsine” and “Boko Haram” Crises in Northern Nigeria

4. Onuoha, Freedom (2012): Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Extremist Islamic sect

5. Rogers, Paul (2012): “ Nigeria: The Generic Context of the Boko Haram Violence




107 Responses to “Nigeria’s abducted Girls: A Democracy Under Siege”

  1. May 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I can cheat? Ha! Thanks Chips for loading this up 😀

    • 2 hopefruit2
      May 1, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      Congrats zizi on #, and thanks for bringing this very serious issue to the forefront.

    • May 1, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Well, zizi, it will take awhile to read and ponder what is most likely the most comprehensive report on this massive crime. No surprise that it’s published at TOD and let us hope all who read this excellent blog will share your report. I know I am going to do so, beginning with ….

      Thank you!!

    • 6 Vicki
      May 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Reuters is reporting that the US State dept has been in contact with the Nigerian government and has offered our help. Very welcome news.

      • 7 Vicki
        May 1, 2014 at 8:55 pm

        Not that this is a simple problem that US help will solve. Still, I want us to care.

        Zizi, Your work paints a picture so dire I can’t see where relief could come from. If weapons manufacturers can’t sell tanks and warplanes to invading countries because large ground invasions aren’t happenning so much, then they will seek weapons sales to whoever has the money to buy them.

        Boko Haram reminds me of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. That effort to expunge western influence involved the amputation of childrens arms bearing vaccination scars.

        • May 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm

          Sadly, it is dire. I just feel terrible for the Nigerian government that has to put scarce resources to fighting Boko haram, then gets vilified by Amnesty International for using force to counter the group. Meanwhile the group, not being a state, is answerable to no one. That is the loophole they are exploiting.

  2. 9 hopefruit2
    May 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Was there a WH event this evening with FLOTUS/PBO? 🙂

    • May 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      They are madly in love and they’ve been apart for a while!!

    • 11 Nerdy Wonka
      May 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Hot Damn!

      • 12 Cindy
        May 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm

        I 2nd that Nerdy Wonka! Hot Damn….and Hot Damn again….

        This is a captivating picture of “pure ecstasy” in the finest moment of “LOVE.”

        Eat your hearts out repukes, you don’t have to wonder about the President’s “manhood.” Our beautiful 1st lady “GOT THIS.”

        P.S. You can’t handle the truth!!!!!

    • 13 MightyPamela
      May 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Remember not to read the comments. Why don’t the ugly ones just go away? They wouldn’t recognize heaven if they were standing at the gates.

    • 14 99ts
      May 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      From the second link

      “Brendon Ayanbadejo

      I just left the White House and the FLOTUS had a moment! Every one in the room could feel the love, accomplishment, and over all sense of pride that Barack Obama is truly doing what is right for America. ”

      And most of the comments on this one – are very pro the President

    • 15 anniebella
      May 1, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you Bredon Ayanbadejo, I listen to FLOTUS talk of how proud she is of her husband. It really touch my heart.

  3. 16 Nerdy Wonka
    May 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    They make everyone keep on believing in loooooooove.

    • 17 carolyn
      May 1, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      What was the event? Celebrating health care numbers or…..? Enthusiastic crowd.!!!

      • 18 Nerdy Wonka
        May 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        I believe so, since blow out numbers were announced today and Sec. Sebelius was in the audience.

      • 19 0388jojothecat
        May 2, 2014 at 1:05 am

        How sensual is that……if they behave like that in public they must me steamy alone in bedroom….naughty mats for everyone!

    • 20 hopefruit2
      May 1, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      It’s amazing that Brendon’s reaction to meeting PBO & FLOTUS could be used for just about every other person who has met them in person. It’s the SAME overwhelmingly positive effect that they have on people. You cannot make this up.

    • 21 anniebella
      May 1, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      I feel the same Brendon Ayanbadejo, I couldn’t be more proud to have Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama represent America. Love them.

  4. May 1, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    WOW, Zizi, you’ve presented such a comprehensive perspective on these tragic events, so much for us to think about. Thank you for always putting your heart and soul into your writing.

  5. May 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Serious …

    “A group of young men in camouflage with bats and chains were intercepted near the main control room of the Kyiv Water Utility on Thursday, May 1, around 16:40, reports the utility on its website.

    Security at the company responded immediately by increasing all safety measures and by calling the police and notifying the department of security at the utility, the statement says. Police on duty at the main control room and the police of the Pechersk district in Kyiv asked the young men for the purpose of their presence near this strategic location with enhanced security. The armed men called themselves the “Public Defense of Kyiv” and claimed they were maintaining order.”

    More at the link: http://euromaidanpr.com/2014/05/02/police-prevent-seizure-of-kyiv-water-utility/#more-8094

  6. 26 Nerdy Wonka
    May 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm

  7. 27 amk for obama
    May 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for the history and geography lessons, zizi.

    Brits’ legacy everywhere is disgusting.

    bbc’s front page is all about privileged drug addicts, that racist canadian mayor and geldof girl.

    • May 1, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      The journalists are all too lazy to research and do real reporting/analysis and the general public is too lazy to care.

      • 29 amk for obama
        May 1, 2014 at 9:02 pm

        Even now their fp story is all about the Abuja bombing. Not a pip about the abducted girls. Blood, gore, violence and sex seems to be media’s staple food.

    • May 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks Amk. We become trapped in the warped new iterations of that colonial legacy

  8. 31 Nerdy Wonka
    May 1, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    • 32 99ts
      May 1, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      If the media pundits were anyway supportive of the ACA – some would be invited to such events – they have been cutting off their noses to spite their faces for over 5 years – and are too stupid to realize why they are not part of the WH events.

      • 33 carolyn
        May 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm

        We are SO blessed to have them for these eight years. It is pure joy to see their happiness and love for each other.

        If people make rude remarks, that just obviously shows them up for the pitiful, hateful people they are. They only diminish themselves, not POTUS and FLOTUS.
        Think about it…..not once in the time we’ve been aware of PBO and Michelle, have we heard either one utter a mean or nasty word about another person. They just don’t do it, and as the bible says…..”Out of the heart are the issues of life…..as the mind thinks, so the mouth speaks.”

        These sad people don’t realize that we see them for what they are, and they’re pathetic.

        Those pictures of them are just delicious, and the crowd in the video was wild!

        • 34 99ts
          May 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm

          What a lovely post carolyn – one thing I remember so clearly is that the President and his wife, when campaigning always presented the positives and if they criticised anything – it was a policy, not a person.

        • 35 anniebella
          May 1, 2014 at 11:06 pm

          I would not waste a second looking at pictures of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity or any of those other right wing Tea Party haters. But for some reasons these haters love to keep up with the very people they claim to hate so much. Maybe they have nothing better to do with their bitter disgusting lives.

  9. May 1, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    • 37 jacquelineoboomer
      May 1, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      I think we’re all having similar thoughts this week. Returned from a big grocery shopping trip (I actually remembered to bring my list), opened my freezer later and almost felt guilty that people in this world are starving, and I have more than enough.

  10. May 1, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Zizi, this a completely superb, informative post, I was utterly ignorant about the background to this madness, but you provided all the answers. Appreciate your work on this so much, thrilled to have it here. Thank you again.

    • 44 anniebella
      May 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      What part, the sole of his shoes.

      • 45 anniebella
        May 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

        Hay Ted Cruz, I’ll be sure to pass the wonderful news to my black brothers and sisters.

    • May 1, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      Speaking as a Cuban, I seriously doubt that. From what I know of Eduardo and his father, they were definitely formed by the racial attitudes of white Cuba. I’d want to see a family tree, and just how that Afro-Cuban blood entered it.

      • May 1, 2014 at 10:08 pm

        I can assure you LL that every person on this planet has a ‘family tree’ that includes at least several generations of ‘black’ ancestors, but Ted Cruz is too stupid to even have a clue why that’s true. He could find the answer in the DNA in every mitochondria in every cell in his body (excepting mature ‘red cells,’ of course).

        • May 1, 2014 at 10:10 pm

          Oh, you and I know that. What’s laughable is his pandering to a community which he will never get. Rather than proposing solutions—real solutions—for the AA community, he engages in a poor man’s “Black Like Me” pantomime.

          • May 1, 2014 at 10:15 pm

            Like I state in my tweet, LL, he is totally incapacitated because the essence of his being is ‘black.’ The dude is the evil spawn of his just as evil father.

          • 50 0388jojothecat
            May 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

            I wonder if his father knows they have AA blood…..I think his father would disagree since his father is a racist.

    • May 1, 2014 at 10:03 pm

  11. 52 amk for obama
    May 1, 2014 at 9:18 pm

  12. 53 sjterrid
    May 1, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Zizi, thank you so much for this brilliant essay about the history of Nigeria. I pray that these girls will be found soon.

    TOD is the place to get real informative news about what’s happening around the world. Thank you so much Chips, NW, LL, AMK, LP, Bobfr, Zizi, and everybody else that posts comments here.

  13. May 1, 2014 at 9:42 pm


  14. 58 hopefruit2
    May 1, 2014 at 9:42 pm

  15. May 1, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    • 61 hopefruit2
      May 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      WOW…The WHCD is fast becoming THE EVENT at this time of the year. 🙂 🙂

      • May 1, 2014 at 9:51 pm

        Inorite? Lots of very big stars. PBO is going to have a blast!!

      • 63 99ts
        May 1, 2014 at 10:44 pm

        Only because of who is POTUS and FLOTUS 🙂 I so look forward to seeing the two – sad that some of the ghouls get to sit at his table.

    • May 1, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      I can’t bear the insufferable, self-absorbed WHPC.

      I’ve tolerated them in years past, but since the last gala they have proven themselves to be despicable liars, not just lazy and feckless.

      This year, I’ve only got eyes for our President and the First Lady.

  16. May 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm

  17. May 1, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Perhaps the separatist are getting a dose of exactly what they deserve ….

  18. 73 Nerdy Wonka
    May 1, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    • 74 hopefruit2
      May 1, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Oh my..housing was cheap relative to income…

      But alas, only a certain segment of the population was able to enjoy that low cost of living and idyllic life….

    • 75 jacquelineoboomer
      May 1, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      Eight years before I was born. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  19. 76 hopefruit2
    May 1, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    So CNN only invites GOPers as guests? Hmm…

  20. 79 jackiegrumbacher
    May 1, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Zizi, you have given us another master class on the complex history of Nigeria and the weakness of the government in fighting horrific acts of terrorism. My heart just aches when I imagine the agony of the parents of the girls. To feel so helpless knowing your child is suffering and being abused must be the worst torture possible. Perhaps the US offer of help will lead to others and a whole international effort can be launched to find the girls and identify the captors. Thank you for bring light and sense to a complicated situation.

  21. May 1, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Perhaps Ukraine is rocking #TzarVlad’s boat ….

  22. 90 hopefruit2
    May 1, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    LL is so right about this!

  23. 91 amk for obama
    May 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm

  24. 93 jackiegrumbacher
    May 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    For those following the PA governor’s race, this is the first poll in a month on the Dem primary candidates. There has been a recent ad blitz from Allyson Schwartz along with a lot of heated attacks, but Tom Wolf still leads all other candidates by over 20 points with only two weeks left until the vote. Unless Wolf does something outrageously awful, it seems likely he’s going to be our candidate.


  25. May 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Masterpiece of research, insight, perspective, on a story I needed to see and understand. Not because I can fix it but because it is a brutal horrifying assault on our human family. These young students’s families have turned their sorrow and shock into action and I have been wrong to look away. Deep roots to this tragedy. Thankful to you Zizi2 for this; another breathtaking lesson and essay you share here.

  26. 96 amk for obama
    May 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

  27. 97 hopefruit2
    May 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

  28. 98 99ts
    May 1, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Zizi – thankyou for your post and your history. It is taking me some time to work my way through it. As an Australian, my history at school was based on the English version of the world in which we live – I have had to re-learn much of that history in the past 50 years.

    I am lost in the horror of the abduction – and the suffering of the girls and their parents

  29. May 1, 2014 at 10:45 pm

  30. 101 donna dem 4 obama
    May 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you zizi2

  31. May 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm


    Thank you for your insight into this complex, dangerous and tragic situation in Nigeria. I have nothing to add to your assessment of this bleak situation.

    On a lighter note, I’ve posted 6 tweets of my favorite @PeteSouza photos from the Asia trip. I tried not to duplicate ones I’ve seen at TOD, but I had to include the South Korean cuties.

    Here are three:

    Japan — how is it that Pete Souza captures everything in focus, regardless of speed and distance?

    Malaysia State Dinner — love the American flags…

    Malay University: catch this guy’s infectious spirit:

  32. 103 yardarm756
    May 1, 2014 at 11:14 pm

  33. 107 Nena20409
    May 2, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Awesome post Zizi2.

    My goodness, you gave a history lesson. Thank you.

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