Take a look at the map of Africa that accompanies this article. Identify the country of Nigeria. Oh, come on, it’s right in front of you, just to the west of Cameroon, south of Niger.
No, that’s Madagascar.
Nigeria. Look for the missing $50 billion in oil reserves. See them? Well, neither does anyone else.
Hey, I know someone who can help!
In Nigeria, dictatorial presidents and central bank governors come and go, but one thing stays the same: and that’s my friends Shell, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Total and Texaco. The Multi-National Joint Venture Foreign Corporation Petroleum Gang! Some of the nicest corporate persons you’ll ever meet. And, boy, do they care about the West African environment. (Doh, just gave you a clue!) Just as much as the Gulf Coast and Prince William Sound.
Anyway, these guys could pick out Nigeria on a map blindfolded and hogtied in a bat cave. They just close their eyes and listen for the sound of those 1,500 oil wells pumping away in the Niger Delta.
Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil. Every. Damned. Day.
And guess where one-fifth of all that oil goes? Yep, rip off—I mean, thank—a Nigerian the next time you stop to fill up your gas-guzzling, made-in-America SUV.
Anyway, just thought you should know—I mean, now that you’re all worked up about the country that you can’t identify on the map—that while Nigeria is the largest oil producing nation on the continent of Africa, the average Nigerian pulls in a whopping $1,555 per year.
Don’t feel bad for Nigerians, though. Hell, that’s $4.25 per day! They’re lucky compared to lowly Mauritians who have hardly any oil and earn a mere $1,106 per year. Then there are Afghanis, who pull down less than $700 per year—and who have to stare at the sky any time they attend a rural wedding.
Anyway, not all is doom and gloom in Nigeria these days. In fact, throughout 2014, the “Giant of Africa” is celebrating its 100th year of independence from the United Kingdom. Very exciting—unless you’re world famous playwright Wole Soyinka, who was so upset that the current President Goodluck Jonathan was honoring former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha with a centenary medal that he refused to accept a centenary award himself.
Holy cow. Who was this Abacha fellow? Just your typical murdering, thieving head of state, who—you’re not going to believe this—had connections to The Family. You know, The Fellowship. Ahem. Cedars. Arlington, Virginia. National Day of Prayer?
Anyway, cut the dead head of state some slack. “Can’t a ruthless dictator have a friend?”
But, seriously, neither The Family nor any other fundamentalist Evangelical Christian organization had anything to do with drumming up support for Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, signed by President Jonathan earlier this year in January. Actually, though, you can’t lay all the blame for this law at the feet of the President, as 98% of the Nigerian population of 175 million human beings stands behind Jonathan’s presidential quill. Wow.
Man, this is depressing. Aren’t there 200 missing schoolgirls in some other country who I can worry about with tweets and memes?
Want to take another shot at the map? Nigeria. Think. Western Africa. Niger Delta; probably means on the coast. West of Cameroon. No, not there. Your other west! That’s Somalia.
Back to the drawing board.
Now enter Boko Haram, a pro-Sharia law paramilitary organization that operates in sections of Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger. To say that this group is controversial is like saying all Fox broadcasters bow three times a day toward Roger Ailes. Not only is Boko Haram opposed to all forms of Western influence, but they also can’t stand the “traditional Muslim establishment” nor even the government of Nigeria.
In short, they hate everybody.
Before you just write off Boko Haram as Lord of the Flies madmen (which I’m not disputing that they have become), it is interesting to note that the group acted more or less peaceably the first seven years of its existence. Then the wheels came off when Boko Harm’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, died while in police custody.
It’s been a fundamentalist bloodbath ever since.
But don’t worry. President Jonathan is on the case: “We promise that anywhere the girls are, we will surely get them out.”
Also, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assures the world that “we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes.”
Phew! Finally, we can all stop making memes.
As we speak, President Obama, Pope Francis and Ban Ki-moon are putting on their black leather X-Men costumes and boarding Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. They’ll be in Chibok by snack time.
And before you finish your mid-morning Fig Newtons, they’ll rescue the girls. But that’s just the beginning, because the Triumvirate won’t stop until that $50 billion in stolen oil money makes it back into the hands of the Nigerian people, until the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act is repealed, until petroleum companies stop shitting crude all over the Niger Delta. And when they’ve finished with Nigeria, they’re heading on over to Uganda, then Saudi Arabia, India, China, and finally to Texas, where they’ll lasso ole Number 43 (W.) and ship him off to The Hague.
Man, the problem really is that big, isn’t it?
It’s not just that most of us don’t know where Nigeria is on the map. We didn’t know where Syria and Ukraine were, either.
The problem is that while the kidnapping of 200-plus young women is indeed a heinous crime, crimes like this occur every day. Maybe not always on such a large scale; then again… Surely you remember the murder of 130 individuals by Boko Haram in June 2012. No? Perhaps the Izghe Village massage just a few months ago, where more than 100 were murdered? Hmm.
More often than not, crimes like the Bring Back Our Girls kidnappings are committed within that old familiar owl pellet of poverty, lack of education, environmental destruction, greed, fundamentalism, abuse of power, intolerance, etc.
So if you want to make a difference in this world—if you want there to be fewer Boko Harams and Shell Nigerias and Sani Abachas—you don’t have to go to Nigeria.
Get out and vote for the progressive cause, and while you’re at it, bring your neighbor with you. Advocate for education. Be willing to go the extra mile and hand over your extra cloak. Spend that extra few minutes planting a seed of tolerance in the mind of Joe Ignoramus. Spend more time reading about the world around you. In general, be a more active progressive.
I am not in any way making light of these brave young women who had their liberty ripped away from them. But their victimization deserves proper context. There exists a complex history behind this crime. And merely expressing indignation via social media isn’t going to bring them home.
Let us think on these things. Let us act on these things.
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