Nigeria’s Girls and the limits of Hashtag activism

On April 14 234 teenaged Chibok girls were abducted from their boarding school by Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Northern Nigeria. Nigerians themselves seemed slow to take notice and the rest of the world even slower. But when CNN and co finally did so it was like overkill. Below is a collection of tweets, mainly from Nigerian writers chronicling and reacting to the mainstream media coverage of the abduction and the hashtag campaign that started in Nigeria and its diaspora.

As the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria and its diaspora intensified mainstream media suddenly came on board with high profile personalities like Michelle Obama and others posing with placards that shouted #BringBackOurGirls. Predictably it wasn’t long before some bright spark started hijacking the hashtagged statement as evident in the two images below, of Michelle O and Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s Opposition Leader.

Andrew Holness, Leader of the Opposition, Jamaica

  1. Hmmm. When malaysian flight was missin a lot of Naija celebs were praying for them and sharing opinions. Missing girls… silence.
  2. Creating child soldiers. Possible explanation. Shudders.
  3. 200 girls are missing in Nigeria – so why doesn’t anybody care? | Anne Perkins  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/200-girls-missing-nigeria-care-sewol-tragedy 
  4. How were BH able to transport 200 girls from one location to another in a state swarming with soldiers? #BringBackOurGirls
  5. Must read: A schoolgirl’s incredible story of escape from #BokoHaram mass kidnapping in #Nigeria  http://ow.ly/wbMq0  #BringBackOurGirls
  6. The world mobilized to find Malaysian Air Flight 370; can it not also do the same for 200 girls?  http://is.gd/C9bkqj  #BringBackOurGirls
  7. See my people :D@abubakar47i: Our Mothers in the Kaduna procession today #BringBackOurGirls pic.twitter.com/VvubuK3Oqw
  8. What matters now is that those girls are rescued. Whether by negotiations or by military action
  9. @leidychichi The girls have been taken away from Nigerian soil. Protests are to get intl awareness and military support.
  10. 200 girls forced into slavery and you can just act like it is nothing? Haba!
  11. Photos: Waje, Seun Kuti, Other Celebs Hit The Streets Of Lagos For #BringBackOurGirls Campaign  http://nblo.gs/Wuto4 
  12. If you’re in or around #London on Friday, 9th of May, join us at the Nigeria House #BringBackOurGirls . 10am – 1pm pic.twitter.com/PBLwaqBiBp
  13. The protests in Nigeria are democratic. This American “help” will lead the opposite way: more militarism, less oversight, less democracy.
  14. 234 chibok girls. 45 Murdered Buni Yadi boys. 100 in Damaturu. So a select group of Niggas can get power and renew Billion $ oil licenses
  15. The operation started from 11pm till 5am. all these while, calls were put across to the JTF but no response. #Chibok234
  16. After the operations, the assailants allegedly loaded their victims in about 3 trailers, 4 busses & a number of trucks. #Chibok234
  17. Their movement was slow and in about 2 kilometers away, one of the vehicles developed fault & they took about an hour to fix it #Chibok234
  18. Our security man’s sister made her own escape when they got to their 1st destination. a village not far from #Chibok.
  19. They also said that #Chibok is a xtian dominated town and that most of the kidnap victims are xtians. #BringBackOurGirls
  20. The story will not be complete without a mention of Mr.Bitrus Madu. He lost 5 daughters, he is currently on admission. #BringBackOurGirls
  21. In Nigeria as part of team covering missing girls. Tweet me questions you want put to officials.#BringBackOurGirls pic.twitter.com/d0YE4Bm8pb
  22. Because everybody must be seen to “care.” No context, only sentiment. RT @chrisbrown: #BringBackOurGirls pic.twitter.com/ec0n8kwZeH
  23. I understand the impulse to “do something.” But Boko Haram is irreducibly complex. Makes Kony look like child’s play.  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27249097 
  24. These are difficult conversations to have because we’re good and we care. We don’t want to be interrupted during the fervor of our hashtags.
  25. Part of the horror was that the girls were ignored. An opposite problem now is CNN’s heavy sensationalist interest.  https://twitter.com/clancycnn/status/462621487694757889 
  26. Patience Jonathan: “Nigerian women, don’t demonstrate again. If you demonstrate and police do you anything, you are on your own.” #Surreal
  27. Fitfam for the mind. @elnathan urges you to “wake up and smell the moringa”…  http://elnathanjohn.blogspot.in/2014/05/jonathan-needs-moringa.html?m=0 
  28. Let us be clear, the government was never going to do anything about this; the girls were abducted the same day…  http://fb.me/2Geo64IIq 
  29. The thing with surrealism as a form of government is that the unexpected move is exactly what you must expect. You must adopt mirror logic.
  30. Delighted to welcome all the new Nigeria experts.
  31. Boko Haram Leader Shekau is meant to be under pressure from Nigerian military & he’s able to record a full 1 hour video? I am CONFUSED.
  32. @gbengasesan Top 10 countries spreading #BringBackOurGirls worldwide; Nigeria (33%), USA (28%), UK (14%) pic.twitter.com/UlEU77vxnL
  33. “May your house be on CNN.”—Bosnian curse
  34. And if international help is needed: why is Uncle America the default? What about ECOWAS? African Union? Other partnerships? UN? EU?
  35. Wow! I still can’t believe all this CNN action is about my country Nigeria; I thought I slept on a flight and woke up in Iraq!
  36. To use a Nigerianism, the traffic in some bits of Abuja tonight “does not have part two”. Translation? It is truly horrendous.
  37. Who did dis? *holdslaff* I said who did dis? *burst* ROTFLWTMB #diarisGodo! pic.twitter.com/geQRxkvqUm
  38. The story behind the story: Nigeria itself has been missing for years.
  39. @elnathan Sometimes I wonder if Nigeria is run by smart people who r purposely deceiving us, or by idiots who r really trying their best.
  40. To agree on sorrow, even in the absence of other agreements, is not nothing.
  41. @soniafaleiro @vikasbajaj Wearily deletes New Yorker app from his iPhone.
  42. Lots of armchair gossip by people hinting that they know who funds Boko Haram. The reality is that it is still a mystery
  43. The Chinese have also offered to help Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls . I never knew the Chinese for this though…
  44. History counts its skeletons in round numbers. A thousand and one remains a thousand, as though the one had never existed. —Szymborska
  45. Boko Haram killed more human beings yesterday than the total number of girls they kidnapped three weeks ago. Horrifying, and unhashtagable.
  46. For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.
  47. Remember: #bringbackourgirls, a vital moment for Nigerian democracy, is not the same as #bringbackourgirls, a wave of global sentimentality.
  48. “‘We’ are not the ‘we’ that ‘we’ imagine ourselves to be.” This piece by @zeynep says so much so well:  https://medium.com/message/3c3ab5d1dc0e 
  49. Unlike some, I have no problem with the world adopting #BringBackOurGirls and the use of the word “our”. I think that is important.
  50. Now you have two sisters. RT @elnathan: I have one sister. I noticed that one of the Chibok girls has my sister’s exact name and last name.
  51. I am always worried when people in government also use #BringBackThegirls. YOU are the ones we are asking to bring them back!
  52. The girl in this viral photo from #bringbackourgirls is not Nigerian. And she wasn’t abducted.  http://wapo.st/1nvIcb0  pic.twitter.com/J8OL1lzAJn
  53. If energy does not shift hashtag into a larger political movement, next week there will be another loud sterile hashtag #bringbackourgirls
  54. 1. Spurious photos 2. White lady claims she started hashtag 3. Americans collect money in girls’ name #ff White Savior Industrial Complex
  55. There has been a long catalog of atrocities and betrayals; #bringbackourgirls contains, for Nigerians, very many grievances, not just one.
  56. BUT: I do think the domestic and international scrutiny are both putting a floodlight on Nigeria’s light-averse government.
  57. This perhaps is the international community’s role: serve as witness to what Nigerians must mostly do themselves, and amplify Nigerian work.
  58. @tejucole I am concerned about timing of concern from the west, It could be a ploy to make Nigeria like Iraq, there is oil after all
  59. Really all that remains is for Goodluck to take a selfie with #BringBackOurGirls on an A4 paper or crested on his bowler hat.
  60. I will sleep. And if I wake and see Mama Peace in a selfie with #BringBackOurGirls ashoebi I will not be shocked. This is afterall, Nigeria.
  61. @tejucole why throw cold water on genuine expressions of outrage and concern? Global indifference would be worse no?
  62. @Abu_Aaid: “@tejucole urges us to keep this at the back of our minds as we help #BringBackOurGirls. pic.twitter.com/MXE41Rc748#Fact

     

    So my sister came visiting. Her biggest annoyance in this whole matter is that Malala has intervened. “Nigeria is better than Pakistan!”

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