Quickly after Boko Haram released a video of the more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls praying, American security operatives arrived in Nigeria to help aid the rescue mission. This sudden appearance of a foreign government has raised concerns about American intervention.
Skeptics fear that if given an inch, America will go a mile in launching a full-scale military excursion in Nigeria. While the concerns of foreign military intervention are understandable given past operations like Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hard for Nigeria to deny the need for external help in this instance, given the government’s incredible incompetence.
The Nigerian government’s initial response to the kidnapping portrayed a weak state that failed in its role to protect its citizens. The day immediately following the attack, President Goodluck Jonathan was seen dancing at a political rally in display of shocking apathy to the emergency. Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell responded by commenting that the president lacked depth and was feckless. If there is any rule against foreign intervention, this is the exception that proves the rule.
In an article recently published in Reason magazine, Ed Krayewski fears that American intervention may reduce domestic pressure on the Nigerian government to maintain order in the Northern Haram-occupied territories while providing a rallying point for the benefit of the administration. However, several recent developments have made many Nigerians lose faith in their government’s ability to execute an effective rescue operation.
First, several #BringBackOurGirls activists were arrested in numerous cities. Naomi Mutah, a civil servant who led a protest in Abuja, was arrested, allegedly on the orders of First Lady Patience Jonathan because she was perceived to be tarnishing the government’s reputation at the recently-concluded World Economic Forum — since the protests were held close to its venue. Secondly, it was recently revealed by Amnesty International that the Nigerian government had four hours notice of Boko Haram’s plan, yet did nothing. As a result of this utter ineptitude, activists have made their demands clear and unambiguous that external expertise is welcome to rescue the girls.
Indeed, it’s important to remember that the call for help in rescuing the girls came from the Nigerian people themselves. Efforts had been made by the Nigerian administration to claim that things are not as bad as they appear to be, with the president holding contentious press conferences with an angry public. But these belated efforts to calm citizens’ nerves have not worked. In fact, a bombing was carried out in Abuja, the Nigerian capital some days after a recent press conference, as if in defiance of the president’s ineffective soothing.
The reluctance of President Obama to publicly address the crisis of the kidnapped girls and pledge support for the girls has brought charges of a moral failing on America’s part. Economist Dambisa Moyo argues that America’s inability to intervene reveals its lack of an operating philosophy to defend human rights, beyond those also tied up in strategic national interests. While it may be easy to condemn the slow response of the global community in general, it is important to know that America had no intention to play the world’s policeman. Condemning America’s slow response shifts the burden of responsibility form the Nigerian government to international powers.
The acceptance of military expertise from other states like Israel and France and the global effort being mobilized to rescue the girls shows that the problem is a global crisis that demands a global response. While external help is needed in this instance, Nigeria should not expect any country to be its global police in the future. Nevertheless, the rescue of the girls is the utmost moral imperative in this instance and thus external help is necessary. Every other fear for now is secondary to saving these girls.
Ajibola Adigun is a Young Voices Advocate and Nigerian human rights activist.