In April, Boko Haram, an extremist group in Nigeria that opposes western education, kidnapped over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and women and more kidnappings have followed. Thus far, the government has not located the girls. NPR is following the story.
Nigeria native Benjamin Ola Akande is the dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University. He is following the situation closely, and was in Nigeria about three months ago.
Akande says that some of Boko Haram’s tactics do not make sense to him. “They aren’t killing other people. They are killing their own people. They’re killing fellow Muslims, they’re killing Christians. They’re sort of indiscriminate killers.”
“It’s off the front page of the media newspapers, but the reality is that it is still in the hearts and minds and the reality for many Nigerians,” says Akande. He says that many girls are being kept home from school because parents are afraid their children will be killed or abducted if they go to school.
“They are winning. It is sad to say that, but clearly they are,” said Akande. In the long-term though, he does not expect Boko Haram to be as successful. “My long- term prognosis for [Boko Haram] is this: they are a nuisance, they are an obstruction, it is not going to last.”
Akande believes that the Nigerian government will be successful once they develop an organized way to work with the U.S. and French governments. He says that intelligence from such countries will be vital, and that Nigeria will be unsuccessful handling the situation alone.
Why Should St. Louisans Care?
Akande says St. Louisans should care about what is happening in Nigeria not only from a humanitarian point of view, but from an economic one as well.
Boko Haram’s area of influence is spreading. They haven’t reached the south of the country, where Nigeria’s oil comes from but, Akande says, they will eventually. A great deal of U.S. oil is imported from Nigeria, so when you fill up at the gas station, you are likely buying some Nigerian oil. If Boko Haram becomes active around the oil fields, it will disrupt production and translate into higher prices at the gas pump.
“I believe that from a humanitarian perspective, the people of St. Louis have been remarkable in addressing [humanitarian issues] … St. Louis cares,” said Akande. “I’m an optimist. I believe that the girls will return, and when they return they will tell a story. And it will be a story of how they were able to overcome.”