The Nigerian Studies Association condemns the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls on April 14, 2014 and the lethargic, unfocused response of the Nigerian government to the nation’s demand for their return. We stand in solidarity with the missing girls, first and foremost, their traumatized families and communities, and with the people of conscience in Nigeria and around the world to demand decisive action by the federal government of Nigeria to Bring Our Girls Back. We also denounce the recent killings in the Chibok area and the bombings in Nyanya and Jos.
This on-going crisis must be understood in the context of a systemic failure of governance and the structural poverty that have gripped the nation for several generations, beginning most strikingly in the Structural Adjustment era and resulting in the divestment of the education sector, rural development, power generation, and public security. Such failures have produced large-scale insecurity, encouraging such groups as Boko Haram to flourish. Young people, the group most deeply affected by this history of deprivation, are most likely to join such groups as Boko Haram due to their disaffection and lack of opportunity. We must use the global scrutiny generated by the Chibok kidnapping crisis as an opportunity to honestly assess these systemic problems and hold the Nigerian government accountable to its citizenry.
Nigeria is a country that is blessed with innumerable resources, the most important of which are its human resources. All over the world, Nigerians are known as leaders in scholarship, the sciences, and the arts. Nigerians are recognized and valued for their intelligence, creativity, and optimism. Yet, the government response to the abduction of the Chibok girls, just like its earlier response to the fuel hike protests of 2011/2012, demonstrates that our government does not appreciate or value its own people, nor does it respond to their needs effectively. Soldiers would be willing to die for a country that takes care of them and their children; citizens would be willing to remain in the country to contribute to its development if they are ensured a sense of security and recognition for their contributions; workers would work hard for a country that compensates that work based on merit rather than on a system of patronage and clientelism; citizens would be willing to pay tolls and taxes if they could rely on their government to invest in infrastructure and provide basic social and civil services.
We call for the rescue of the Chibok girls and for the fundamental transformation of Nigeria into a nation where all citizens, regardless of class, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexuality, place of origin, or educational attainment can enjoy equal rights to peace, justice, and well being before the law. The Nigerian government should take as its first and constant priority the maximization of the security, progress, and well being of its people. This is a game changing moment; all Nigerians need to keep applying pressure on our government and demand better of its public servants. The first step to a new Nigeria is to Bring Back Our Girls!