Hafsat Abiola is a human rights, civil rights and democracy activist, founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), and daughter of late business man/politician, MKO Abiola. Her letter below
As young global leaders we would like to express our deep concern about the recent situations in Nigeria.
The massacre in Baga has been Boko Haram’s deadliest so far and what has it met with? Your silence. Most disturbing still is the fact that you would send a message to France condemning the killings there, yet seem unable to address the Nigerian people who look to you for leadership. Unfortunately, it would not be the first time
On 10 November 2014 a suicide bomber killed 47 people and injured 79 others. The following day, with barely a mention of this horrific incident targetting children, you launched your re-election campaign.
And despite the ease with which you move on, even you will remember the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok in April last year. It was 40 days before you addressed the country on that occasion. Nigerians waited, perplexed, as your government debated whether or not the abductions had even taken place. As a result, of all the girls captured, only 52 have secured their freedom – escaping on their own. The rest are still in captivity, still waiting to be rescued, 276 days after being taken from their friends, family and community.
Could it be that your government also doubts that the Baga attacks happened? Amnesty International’s satellite images confirm that indeed a massacre took place, and as many as 2000 people are dead. Yet your army wastes time contesting the numbers.
Whether 150 or 2000, we’d like to hear from you on your governments plans to secure the region and to bear witness to the loss of lives in Baga. We have seen a clear incompetency in handling matters of national interest. In the context of existing ethnic and religious fault lines, silence only says that Nigeria’s government does not care about the victims and is not dealing with the insurgency.
True the global community has also failed to maintain pressure on your government that seems ambivalent about fulfilling its constitutional role to secure the lives and properties of its citizens.
As 1.5 million Nigerians flee their homes, swelling camps within Nigeria and overwhelming border communities’ (if not same as before), it seems the only hope to see you act is global outrage. It was this that finally forced you to address the nation and the world 40 days after the Chibok abductions. It was only then that you reached out to other countries and, with their help, agree a plan for a regional security force to secure the porous borders between Nigeria, Niger and Chad where Boko Haram roams undeterred.
Perhaps, had international pressure been sustained last year, a multi-regional force would have been based in Baga as planned. Perhaps it would have been strong enough to repel Boko Haram when the militants attacked on 3 January. Perhaps 2000 lives could have been saved.
But Isis happened and the world moved on, leaving a small national military unit to stand between thousands of armed militants and a town of ten thousand people. We now know what happened. The world has seen pictures of bodies still strewn around the forest and river where they died.
If these deaths do not generate the attention, outcry and action that they ought to, we can only prepare the ground for more bodies because Boko Haram shows no sign of relenting. The insurgents can be defeated but first you must decide if the lives of Nigerians are worth it or not.
Break the silence, Mr. President. Call for global attention and support to avert a crisis that begins to echo the early days of the Rwandan genocide. Be the voice for the thousands of innocent people who have died and the millions who yearn for peace. They have the right to rebuild their communities and claim their place in the unfolding rise of the African continent.
Founder/President Kudirat Initiative for democracy
Arnaud Ventura, France
Bjarte Reve, Norway
Binta Niambi Brown, USA
Erik Charas, Mozambique
Funmi Iyanda, Nigeria
Georgie Bernadette, USA
Jacqueline Musiitwa, Zambia
Loulwa Bakr, Saudi Arabia
Leo Shlesinger, Chile
Marieme Jamme, Senegal
Mark Turrell, Germany
Rossana Figuera, USA
Salim Amin, Kenya
Soulaima Gourani, Denmark
Susan Mashibe, Tanzania
Tara Fela Durotoye, Nigeria