About a month ago, on account of a long overdue re-basing of the gross domestic product (GDP), the Nigerian economy surpassed that of South Africa’s to become Africa’s biggest economy. Rich in resources, especially oil, investors are expected to take advantage of Nigeria’s new found status, pouring in millions of dollars, notwithstanding the widespread poverty (Nigeria ranks 153rd out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index), corruption, lack of proper infrastructure and poor governance, among other issues.
The GDP revision was widely expected, however, it made global headlines. A week or so later, on 15th April 2014, something else happened in Nigeria, that seemingly escaped the glare of the worldwide media until recently. 257 girls were kidnapped from their school dorm by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram (the name loosely translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’), as they believe that the girls had no business being educated.
Its been three weeks since the disappearance of the girls, but I only read about it THREE days ago. It wasn’t because I had inadvertently ‘missed’ the news. It was because the world had been too pre-occupied with other issues (Malaysian airlines disappearance, Ukraine crisis, Brazil World Cup) to pay any attention to the fate of these school girls. International media coverage on this dastardly act had been relatively frugal until after #BringBackOurGirls took social media (twitter) by storm and world leaders including the Obamas, Kofi Annan and their likes condemned the act and lent support to the campaign. This shows the media’s apathy. Makes me wonder, would they be as silent if this event had occurred in the US or Europe? Until and unless such issues are taken up by the rich and famous or the social media forces them to sit up and take notice, stories like these are always going to be buried.
The #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter was started by Nigerians a week after the kidnappings, in order to spread awareness and get their government to take immediate action. The hashtag has apparently been tweeted more than one million times. Since then several other campaigns have also been underway urging people to join the growing outrage against Boko Haram and to get international agencies to secure the release of the girls. There is a Tumblr page created by Amnesty International, Change.org is running an online petition and there is also a Facebook page which you could ‘like’ and lend your support to. Besides these, demonstrations and rallies are also being organised in cities across the world. Its time we all did our bit.