Tuesday, 23 August 2016



Terrorism is on track to define the world we live in today. And today does not simply refer to this particular day or that particular hour, but quite nearly a generation now if not more.

Tune into your radio - it's ISIS in the middle East. Switch on your television , it's all about some draconian regime in Syria. Plug into the internet, it's wars and rumors of wars in Africa: Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in Somalia. Each situation tapping into the inherent fears of mankind, coalescing our moments into one perpetual shudder of fright.
In a way Nobel laureate Toni Morrison (taking her out of context), was echoing the invasive nature of fear in her book "Song of Solomon" when she wrote:
        "What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?
                          Toni Morrison (1931 - )

May be for us this could be transposed: What difference do it make if they are 'winning the war against Boko Haram or not --- especially when we still have over 200 of our girls being held hostage; especially also, when the army has 'killed' the Boko Haram Leader, Abubakar Shekaru many times over, but every now and then the man seems to conveniently resurrect elsewhere.

Think about this for a moment: Just last week Boko Haram, through CNN and all the major international media houses, transmitted a video showing the girls still in captivity. That Boko Haram could produce that video showing that some of the Chibok girls are still alive may, I admit, be an indication that the group's strength has indeed been degraded by the long 'onslaught ' on it by the Nigerian army. Indeed this is what the army would have us believe.

On the other hand, the reason for that video may really be all too sinister; It may simply be -- another weapon to inflict fear on Nigerians and remind Northerners that they (Boko Haram) were still out there and could strike anytime. Indeed news filtering from the Chibok Area today August 23rd 2016, indicates that Boko Haram has struck again and abducted some more villagers.

While this is a national fear, and I believe that after the outrage that followed the airing of that video last week, parents within that territory must have returned to their shells even more wary and frightened. For me however, there is a personal fear : My fear is of a deeper nature, centred around a story that made local and international headlines two days after the Boko Haram video hit the media.

  The headline says: "AMINA: I MISS MY BOKO HARAM HUSBAND".
To put this in perspective, Amina Ali Nkeki is the only girl as far as we know that has escaped from the Boko Haram stronghold in the Sambisa forests.

For me that headline immediately sent alarm bells screaming. First let me say this: I empathize with Amina. As a parent myself, I feel for her deeply as any normal parent would. I can only imagine the mental trauma she is going through beneath the facade of superficial tranquility.

As one who had in my own very early adult years, spent years aways from family who were caught up in a war zone -- not a word from them-- the media and grapevine awash with stories of one man's dehumanizing treatment of men, women and children-- stories and images of rape, torture, amputations, all on compact discs -- the agony of not knowing whether they were alive or not and me being powerless to help. As one who experienced these too, I can say, yes indeed, I do relate to what young Amina is going through emotionally and psychologically.

It is for this reason that my heart sinks that we, here in Nigeria, collectively lean too easily on the shoulders of a simplicity that's hard to understand. Let me situate this properly. After some 2 years in captivity, Nigeria's Army declared one day that they had rescued one of the 'Chibok girls' taken hostage by Boko Haram . The circumstances of that discovery or rescue were shrouded in some kind of mystery. The discovery/rescue came at a time when labour was about to embark on a national strike as the cost of petrol jumped out of the reach of the masses. And Civil Society Organizations danced rigorous reasoning in the hallways me media blitz. Amina and her Boko Haram husband became stars. And then all went quiet.

Herein lie my worries: While superficially we believe everything is now alright for Amina, my heart tells me there are deeper issues tugging at the young woman's inner core.

For her, the trauma of her experience in captivity did not end with gaining freedom, rather that trauma is living with her every day. The evidence is in a living , breathing, baby-- one she has to support, and care for -- one who reminds her consciously , unconsciously and subliminally about the distressing experience she went through in the Sambisa Forests or wherever it was Boko Haram took the abductees to .

For Amina to have said these words : "I want you to know that I'm still thinking about you , and just because we are separated doesn't mean I have forgotten about you." ( Courtesy CNN) , clearly indicate there are deep seated 'inflammable' emotions that could spark a conflagration if not handled properly. Amina's quiet proclamation is an emotional scream for help. She is a young woman who needs complete, exhaustive, medico- psychological evaluation and support.

Amina's quiet proclamation is an indication that her reintegration back into society has not turned out as she had hoped for.

For those of us that think a little differently from the way others think, this is exactly where the danger lies. If at this stage, at this point in her life Amina is quietly longing for what was, and not looking forward to what brilliant possibilities lie ahead of her despite all that she's gone through, this carries a certain scary message and leaves behind a medically disturbing sign-- anhedonia.

The implication of this is terrifying. The questions that arise from this premise are not simply frightening, but very frightening:

 Could Amina be at that point in her life where she is extremely susceptible to the radicalization? Is she at that stage in her life when psychological infantilism is taking over and she is beginning to feel an emptiness inside and a certain desire to cling to her 'husband' -- that man who was once in the group of her captors?

Is she at that point in her life when the sane society that we live in is about to lose her because we do not remotely understand the depths and intricacies of her emotions and situation? For God's sake she belonged to sane society once! We cannot all pretend all is well and exploit her in our media shows without crying out with her for the help she needs.

 We all cannot afford to sit and watch while we lose her to the other side. She has passed on the message to us. It is our duty to help her and help any of the others who may one day escape from their captors. Amina needs a careful, supportive medical and psychological help. It's the least sane society can do for her. May her cries be on all of our consciences.

And while we think about this, may we also remember these words from Baroness Margaret Thatcher:

            "We must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the           oxygen of publicity on which they depend."
                      Margaret Thatcher (1925 -2013 )
                       British prime minister.
                     Speech to the American Bar Association, London

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