By Leslie D. Rose
It has been nearly a month since approximately 300 girls were been kidnapped from their school in Nigeria. In that time, many American media outlets have covered the story, with social media taking over with the #bringbackourgirls campaign, making the search for the young women just as much an American fight as it is a Nigerian effort to find their daughters.
Back in Baton Rouge, a barely publicized, lowly attended rally was held at Effum Bodyworks on May 3. Young girls created signs dedicated to the hashtag, and area activists spoke out on why this is America’s fight, calling the missing schoolgirls ‘our daughters.’ And while many agreed, there are some people who are fearful that American involvement will only worsen the social climate in Nigeria.
Samori Camara is one of those fearful individuals. A history professor at Dillard University in New Orleans and director of Afrikan-centered homeschool, Kamali Academy, Dr. Camara, who is well-studied and traveled on African culture, said he was shocked when he first heard of the kidnapping, but that his thoughts quickly shifted.
“I don’t know if it’s America’s fight,” Dr. Camara said. “America only does things that benefits America, and there is oil and other resources that this country would love to get their hand on. We must be very careful what we ask for – we certainly want our daughters back, but beware of who we ask for help.”
At LSU, where Dr. Camara studied English and African American Studies, is Nigerian student Lydia, who wished to only be recognized by her first name. She attends the university on an educational visa and is going for a master’s in human resource education.
Lydia said she is glad the American government has decided to help. Since her home state, Enugu, is not close to the terrorized areas, she said she didn’t grow up fearing attack, but that she is now fearful in general.
“Throughout my primary and secondary education, I never had to worry about being whisked off to an unknown destination by armed strangers,” Lydia said. “It shouldn’t happen to anyone. These girls have done nothing wrong, except work towards making themselves better people. I hope the kidnapping doesn’t scare off other girls who are getting an education.”
With such turmoil on her home country, Lydia said she would only return with her degree if the right opportunity presented itself. She said she is most concerned with how Boko Haram – the kidnapping terrorist group whose name translates to ‘Western education is a sin’ – has been able to facilitate such large attacks unscathed by Nigerian government. Recent attacks led by the group have been on churches, the UN headquarters in Abuja, military bases, government buildings and the February killing of 50 male high school students.
“I feel western education is a phrase they hide behind when carrying out their evil acts. They have a much bigger agenda and want to hold the country to ransom,” Lydia said.
Adaobi Duru, a Nigerian LSU student on an educational visa from Imo State, grew up far from the main attacks, but fears no less than Lydia for the overall safety of her country.
“We have a very patriarchal society in Nigeria,” she said. “Culturally, we believe that men should go to school while the women stay at home and cook, men have jobs and women have babies. For someone like me to have been able to move past the societal expectations of female and come here and get a PhD, it just goes to say that the system in place is failing the men. For this kind of thing to happen in a country like Nigeria, and for the government to allow this sort of atrocity [the kidnapping] to happen, it goes to say we have a failed system in place.”
Duru is working on PhD in media and public affairs and plans to return home upon completion. She received both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Nigeria.
“I have to go home – my country is going down the drain,” Duru said. “I think it needs good people with good quality education to come and try to fix things, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I stay back in the United States.”
Duru said she is thankful for U.S. action as she believes it will force the hand of the Nigerian government to respond to the mass kidnapping.
“With President Obama helping by sending out a team, I think the girls will be found,” Lydia said. “I am very, very hopeful at this point, initially I wasn’t because I didn’t think we had the system in place to care of it, but with international help, I think we can get them back.”
Both Lydia and Duru have heavily been a part of the #bringbackourgirls campaign on social media. While they agreed that the campaign is physically the smallest thing that can be done, they said it is helpful nonetheless.
“I do it to let the world know that something is going on, and we need help – we need the girls to come back,” Duru said. “But, the whole country shouldn’t be judged on what Boko Haram is doing in such a small part of the country – we are good, nice people.”