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I have seen a lot being posted on social media and in the press about Boko Haram, and some of it is really astounding. I’ll list it what I’ve seen numerically, along with some thoughts.
1. Part of the narrative being shaped around Boko Haram in the western press is that they’re like the Taliban and that they exist because they don’t want girls to go to school. People need to stop using Malala Yousafzai to make their talking points on Boko Haram and to draw parallels to the Taliban. First of all, Boko Haram is not a political party like the Taliban. Second of all, if these people even bothered to research, they would know that earlier this year, Boko Haram murdered 59 school boys in Yobe ranging in age from 11 to 18. It wasn’t the first time they’ve murdered male students, so Boko Haram hasn’t just targeted girls. Also in Yobe last September, they killed 40 students. They don’t discriminate who they victimize. Boy, girl, man, woman - they are equal opportunity killers.
2. Republicans are having a field day with this story. They have somehow managed to inject the US liberal and conservative binary with Boko Haram. Just the other day, Rush Limbaugh said the leader of Boko Haram (Abubakar Shekau) is good looking and that since Boko Haram are black guys, liberals don’t want to call them terrorists. Huh? Every article I have seen refers to them as “islamists”, “jihadists” or terrorists, so this is a lie. Now I know Limbaugh is a clown, but he’s a clown with a lot of pull, and his supporters are spreading his nonsense. It’s really disgusting to warp the public’s reaction to Boko Haram into an American liberal and conservative binary just to push forward your agenda of hating “the left”. Unfortunately, salacious garbage like this spreads.
3. The “false flag” conspiracy Alex Jones watching people are sinking their teeth into this story. Boko Haram has been in existence for a while. This is not new. It is very real. I know people who have fled Abuja because of Boko Haram. Just because this is the first time you’ve heard about Boko Haram doesn’t mean they came out of no where. Thankfully, these false flag people can be easily dismissed because of their grade school analysis, which isn’t grounded in facts or reality will only make sense to fools. One guy actually messaged me and said (direct quote) “If this was real, how come no one ever heard about Boko Haram before these school girls were allegedly kidnapped?” I didn’t respond. Ok buddy, Boko Haram didn’t exist until last month according to your “research”. You’re really on top of things.
4. The white guy who spent some time in an African country who is now an “African expert”. They genuinely think a summer in the early 90s in a village building a well makes them an expert on all things African. They think because they went to an African country and maybe dated an African woman or two that they are now authorities on all subjects Africa. Salon published an article written by a guy who spent a little time in Togo with the peace corps over 20 years ago. I’m making a wider point here beyond Boko Haram articles and posts. My point is that many outlets give these know nothing white folks access to write. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re white. Could you imagine an African writing authoritatively on Europe because they went hiking across the Swiss Alps in the early 90s. It’s absurd, yet this is the reality with many white people and their “expertise”. We have to hear them constantly. Anne Hathaway is going around saying only 5% of Nigerian girls have access to an education.
5. I’ve noticed a sentiment that Nigerians are ungrateful on social media. It’s not that big, but it is there. Enough for me to see the commentary. Some Americans are upset that some Nigerians have vocalized their concerns about western intervention because they don’t feel the west is altruistic. This is a legitimate feeling for Nigerians to have, completely backed by reality and history. Nevertheless, it has angered some Americans. Now I expect white folks to be angry or to not really get it, but I was disappointed that some black and brown folks were angry too. Their tone towards Nigerians was hostile, paternalistic and implied that Nigerians should be grateful that the US and the west are helping and that the US is ‘damned if they do, and damned if they don’t’ and that Nigerians were begging for help. They think this way because they weren’t listening to all Nigerians. The Nigerians who vocalized their concerns were drowned out by the deluge of misinformation pumped out daily, people saying no one cares and no one is reporting this story and those that called for western intervention. They weren’t listening to concerned Nigerian voices.
6. It’s not that these Nigerians don’t want genuine help (of course they do), you just need to realize that there is history and baggage with foreign intervention, and it’s not something Nigerians (or any clear thinking individual) can afford to ignore. We know western “help” doesn’t typically come with no strings attached. This has been the western model of help, from the World Bank and IMF, to everything else. You will owe them. What you can’t pay back financially with interest, you will pay back by giving them unfettered access to your mineral wealth. If you’ve read any of the actual briefings the US has written about Boko Haram, the thing they mention repeatedly is oil and protecting it at all costs so it doesn’t get sabotaged by militants. Niger Delta militants don’t have the firepower, numbers or funding like Boko Haram, not to mention that they don’t kill thousands of innocent people, so they’re not as a big concern. Boko Haram is a real threat.
7. I want to ask these people who are upset at concerned Nigerians if they know the history of western intervention in black and brown nations that started out supposedly altruistically (usually to restore order, promote democracy, rescue and/or “liberate” women etc). If you’re lashing out at people who are concerned about the future of their country when they have previously dealt with “altruistic” western forces who end up exploiting and/or murdering their people, then you’re not looking to dialogue or even listen to them. As black and brown people, the reason why our diasporas are far and wide is because of marauding Europeans disrupting our lives, often coming under the guise of help. The reason why many of us emigrate from our homelands to the west is because we need to survive by either getting an education or looking for employment. Why do you think Nigerians in the diaspora are highly educated when compared to everyone else? Do you think if everything was great that they wouldn’t be back home? They’re not back home because home has been destabilized by corrupt leadership who are puppets for imperialist nations who were usually their former colonizers. It’s ripe for exploitation. We have been perpetually abused. Imperialism and puppet governments replaced colonialism post independence. So try to be empathetic and understand where the Nigerians who aren’t terribly excited about “help” are coming from before lashing out. Finding Nigerians who don’t agree with them doesn’t negate their opinions. After all, your own histories in the diaspora are not dissimilar. Not everyone within your ranks saw eye to eye on everything in the midst of your suffering. How would you feel if people dismissed your fears and concerns, and implied that you were ungrateful when the hand reaching out to ease your suffering is the same hand that used you as a punching bag for generations?
As an aside, I do find it interesting that some of the people who regularly decry the ‘military industrial complex’ have become their biggest cheerleaders. One wonders if they realize it.
8. People using Boko Haram for talking points, agendas, comparisons, jokes etc are awful human beings. Some issues should be no go areas. I don’t need you to explain what satire is or what jokes are. What I need you to do is grow the fuck up. It used to be that fools would compare things to nazis. If a woman was a feminist, ignorant people would say she’s a “feminazi”. If someone was a stickler for grammar, then they were “grammar nazis”. For a while, people did similar with the taliban. Now, they are doing it with Boko Haram. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson basically said that people calling someone out for racism are like Boko Haram. All this stuff is exhausting.