Three months after 276 young girls were stolen from the “safety” of the private Chibok School in Northern Nigeria by armed insurgents of Boko Haram, one native of the region with a deep understanding of the history and geopolitical dynamics, said the real story has not been told by the mainstream media. According to Ebuna Naka, a successful businessman who made millions importing hair relaxer into his homeland during the jheri curl fad, and whose family served in politics, medicine and owned two hospitals, there is a back story that underlies the kidnapping.
From 1967-1970, Nigeria was engaged in a very vicious and bloody civil conflict known as the Biafran War which resulted from tribal factionalism and the pull out of colonial powers from the nation.
The civil war ended when all the factions convened a meeting (Naka was present). An informal agreement among the political elite in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was made and stated that the presidency and the vice presidency should alternate between North and South after every two four-year terms. For example when the president is a Christian Southerner, the vice president is an Islamic Northerner.
In May 2007, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was sworn in as president of Nigeria and three years into his term began to fall ill. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Yar’Adua’s extended absence from the country for medical treatment made many Nigerians anxious and generated calls for Yar’Adua to formally transfer power to his vice president, Azikiwe Jonathan, better known as “Goodluck” Jonathan.
As concerns mounted and there was no word from Yar’Adua on the request to transfer power to his vice president, members of Nigeria’s National Assembly took matters into their own hands and on Feb. 9, 2010, voted to have Jonathan assume full power and serve as acting president until Yar’Adua was able to resume his duties. Jonathan agreed and assumed power later that day, but it was unclear whether the assumption of power was constitutional.
When Yar’Adua returned to Nigeria on Feb. 24, 2010, it was announced that Jonathan would remain as acting president while Yar’Adua continued to recuperate. The next month, Jonathan asserted his power by replacing Yar’Adua’s cabinet. The president never fully recovered, and died on May 5, 2010; and Jonathan was sworn in as president the following day.
According to The New Yorker, widespread violence broke out in the North when Jonathan’s presidential appointment was announced, with some residents claiming the assembly election was rigged. The next election is planned for February 2015.
Traditionally Northern presidents funnel resources to their constituents and Southern presidents do the same. Naka says this is considered an equitable distribution of the wealth. However, the North interprets Jonathan’s actions to remain president as a way to continue sending all the government funding to the South. The North is saying “now it’s time to take care of us—provide hospitals, water, food—we are hurting, and you can afford to take care of the North.”
According to a United Nations report, Nigeria has overtaken South Africa in 2013 as the country with the highest gross domestic product in Africa. Oil revenues have turned this country into an economic powerhouse. At the same time, Nigeria remains one of the most unequal societies in the world with the World Bank estimating it to be one of the poorest countries when it comes to wealth distribution.
Looking at education, Nigeria is the country with the highest percentage of children not in school, according to a study by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The sheer size of the country and endemic corruption has caused certain areas to become completely marginalized and neglected. There is the traditional division between the Northern and Southern areas, carefully taken care of in the country’s political system, with power-sharing agreements at the center of a precarious balance in what is essentially a battle between different elites fighting over the administration of Nigeria’s enormous economic potential.
In the context of vastly expanding wealth on the one hand, and a continuous marginalization of areas and communities on the other, it is easy to foretell the rise of radical currents of resistance, of which Boko Haram is, at present, the most prominent.
“It might be hard for you to understand as an outsider, but the reason there was no revolt here in the U.S. of this magnitude with the African American population is because they give you something,” Naka explained. “You have public education. Maybe it stinks in the inner city but at least you have a school for your kids; they have free lunch. The U.S. is the only country in the world where poor people are fat. There are no fat poor people in Northern Nigeria. There are no schools. No roads, no clean water, no toilets for the poor in Northern Nigeria. So many resources are leaving Africa at discounted rates. If Africa could get a fair price for its goods, there would be no poor people in Africa.”
According to Reuters, since 1960, $400 million in oil revenue has been stolen from the government. There are currently billions in surplus in the government coffers. However, according to reports there is $60 billion in audit and another $67 billion that is unaccounted for.
Boko Haram represents the country’s Northern region and despite media reports, that the conflict is a Christian vs. Muslim issue, Naka says the true tension is the result of unequal distribution of resources.
Naka believes Boko Haram sees the Chibok school girls as the children of the Nigeria’s rich who have stolen revenue from government exports—money which should have been sent to the North to build up their infrastructure.
Naka says, the North’s attitude is “we are dying anyway from malaria and dysentery so… we have nothing to lose.”
There is speculation that teachers and administrators at the school may have been aware of the impending abduction. Naka goes on to describe how on April 14, the head administrator was away from the campus during the abduction. When questioned about her absence, she stated it wasn’t unusual telling reporters that she suffers from diabetes and was obtaining medical treatment in Maiduguri, the state capital. When asked about the safety of her daughter, also a student at the school, she was safe at home and her absence was due to her mother not being at the school. The head administrator’s daughter would have stayed at the school that night, if it wasn’t for her mom’s medical appointment.
Another parent, Watila Simon, talked about the last conversation he hadwith his daughter before the abduction.
“I asked her, ‘Are you together with soldiers?’ She said ‘no.’ I asked about the police, and she said they were not with them, but that the girls were safe in the school.” Simon revealed that when he spoke with her, the insurgents were still attacking the town and had not yet gone to the school. “She equally told me that all the teachers had already left, and there was no elder person with them.,” Simon said it was on the realization that there was no one guarding the school that he told his daughter to take to her heels, if the opportunity arose.
“I told her that once the insurgents finished with the people in the town, they would turn to the school and she should run. When the sound of gunshots started in the town, the teachers were still with them but they later took to their heels, locked them in and ran away,” he maintained.
“She even told me that the teachers instructed them to stay put and not to run; then one of the teachers locked the gate so there was no way for them to escape. Simon added, “I knew that my daughter was in trouble immediately. I called her again and she was no longer picking up her calls. This was further confirmed the next day, when I called the people in town and they told me all our daughters had been carried away.”
Naka believes a green light to take the girls was given by someone of power; someone not happy with the treatment of the North and what he calls the “elite hustle.”
He supports his contention with the following paragraph which ran in the Los Angeles Times on June 23:
A teacher said the school was on holiday after second semester examinations with only newly admitted students coming to the registration. “I believe the casualty would have been much higher had the school not closed for holiday,” said the teacher, who requested anonymity for safety’s sake.
Naka says the statement that ran in the L.A. Times was completely watered down and incomplete. According to Naka, the abducted girls were being supervised by faculty members who locked up the gates that night, teachers who were in charge of their welfare. The teachers then fled running for safety, leaving them at the mercy of the terrorist attackers. “It makes me believe the teachers were in on the conspiracy with Boko Haram.”
Naka also believes that no one would have taken these types of measures unless they were connected to someone in government.
Interestingly, while most of the teachers were Northerners, the majority of the students were from the Southern region.
Naka believes the girls will be murdered if there is an attempt to rescue them. “These guys already have blood on their hands. However, I believe they know the world is watching.”
Criticism is mounting against Jonathan’s inability to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls and curb the growing militant insurgency. Even more so now after the parents of the kidnapped school girls refused to meet with him. The president was set to meet 12 parents of the abducted girls on Tuesday. This would have been his first meeting with the victims’ families.