Abdulkareem Baba Aminu has written for Bleeding Cool reporting on comic conventions and from the Nigerian comic book scene. Today, he writes about something very different.
The Chibok girls are a sore subject for me, and many millions of Nigerians, and other well-meaning people globally. When the current scourge of my country, Boko Haram, kidnapped those girls as they prepared for their final exams in school, it sparked global outrage, and even then-first lady Michelle Obama carried the #BringBackOurGirls placard for an image that touched hearts worldwide. Some of the girls have been rescued, some freed after a ransom was paid, but over a hundred remain with the bloodthirsty terrorist group.
Taken from a school in a sleepy village called Chibok, in North-East Nigeria, the teenage girls also captured the world’s imagination, and were even featured in Mark Millar’s excellent ‘Huck’, where the titular hero saved them from the terrorist group and gave them candy to boot, all in an erroneously referenced Sambisa Forest, written then to be in North Africa, as opposed to the actual West Africa.
Also, the Black Panther, with paramour Nakia, in his movie saved the girls, or at least some of them. These were all heart-warming portrayals that made worried Nigerians smile.
Now, Boko Haram (which translates from the Hausa language to ‘Western Education Is A Sin’) has splinter groups with varying degrees of viciousness, but all with a demand for their own completely Islamic state. Which is ridiculous, because Nigeria’s population is roughly 50-50 between Muslims and Christians. And actual Islam would never demand for such a thing. But that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
So, on the 1st of March this year, during an attack on a Red Cross facility in Rann, Borno State, many health workers were abducted, including Hauwa Leman. Her story exploded onto the news, because a friend she had called during the attack listened in on the spine-chilling incident, as it happened. He shared the clip on Twitter, and when I listened to it, tears rolled down my cheeks. She was whispering and crying, worried about her parents, even at a time like that which she faced. The door was broken in, and a thuggish voice barked at her, and the terrified 24-year-old screamed. The line went dead, and I was heartbroken, along with millions of people who dared press play on the clip.
How could this happen? How could the bloodthirsty reign of Boko Haram be allowed to continue? How could the Nigerian government not do enough? How can other powerful nations stand and watch while this continues to happen? Some of these questions, I know, are clichés. But death, no matter how often, could never be a cliché, more so when it’s the blood of innocents that is spilled. Time passed, and other deadly attacks and battles came and went in different places.
Then a little over a month ago, on Sunday the 14th of October, the terrorists issued a rude reminder, that they had issued a deadline for their demands (their commanders freed from government’s custody, etc.). There wasn’t even a peep from the government, and yesterday, Monday, the news hit that Hauwa was forced to her knees and shot in the head, at close range. Again, tears rolled down my cheeks, for a family who would never hear their daughter’s voice, or see her alive again, and for a life that has been interrupted by mindlessness.
Fast forward to recent times, specifically last Monday, November 19, a senior officer, Lieutenant-Colonel I. Sakaba, and almost fifty of his men, were attacked by Boko Haram insurgents, in an incident whose narration reads like something out of a horror comic book, underscored by the terrorists’ propaganda video which showed them murdering soldiers in cold blood. Sakaba was a fine officer, and has been doing tons of good work in the theatre of war. So also the other officers and men who died in the attack. But the funny part? (And I don’t mean ha-ha funny) As I write this, his wife is yet to be notified officially. I can’t even begin to express how sad that makes me.
Many are quick to blame the Nigerian military, sometimes to ridiculously creative and equally desperate degrees, but the truth is that they are under-equipped, and in dire need of modern tech and training, so there’s a limit to what they can achieve. And while the blame game continues, Boko Haram edges on, onslaught after onslaught, to further their reign as one of the deadliest groups in history.
I have lost friends, close and dear, to their mindless violence, so the tragedy is very, very close to home for me. But the biggest tragedy? That would be how Hauwa’s voice haunts me. But then, I don’t think her voice haunts those it should, as much as it does me.
Even the most emphatic reader will no doubt wonder how, and why this article is being published here. Well, after I posted about my grief on Facebook, my Bleeding Cool boss Rich Johnston asked me to write about it. “Write something. I don’t care about the relevance. I will run it. You never know who will be reading.” So, here it is. It might not do anything, but it is something. Which is more than what many people – even whole governments – have ever done.
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu is a newspaper editor and award-winning journalist based in Nigeria. He has reviewed comics, novels, movies and music for a variety of platforms and is currently the Editor of the Saturday edition of the Daily Trust, one of the most influential newspapers in his country. You can follow him on Twitter: @KareemReal