In Nigeria, the government is too distracted with elections and corruption to launch any material offensive against the extremist Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. The group continues to abduct Nigerian school girls, and now boys, with impunity. Frustrated by the impotence of their political and military leaders to come to the aid of the girls, African feminist groups and parents, armed with sticks, have been left to wander into the Simbasa Forest themselves in an attempt to find their missing children. They are no longer alone. By using her fame, Nigerian pop idol, Adoyike Kyrian, has trumped the terrorist group’s momentum with her own unique offer. The singer said that she would trade herself to the group in exchange for the return of the girls. It is certainly a unique strategy to try to stop the kidnappings, gender-based violence, and terrorism that the leaders of the extremist terrorist group have been instigating against the country.
Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria for years. In 2011, Maiduguri made a blanket ban on motorcycles throughout the city because the group developed a nasty habit of using them to conduct drive-by shootings of security officers. The April 2014 abduction of some 200-300 school girls was not, then, the group’s first terror attack. That the extremist Islamic group specifically targeted the most vulnerable population in the society – school-aged girls – however, ignited international condemnation and launched a social media campaign the centered around the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. While the social media attention hasn’t yet resulted in practical assistance in returning the girls to their families, it has raised awareness of the gender-based violence that is being perpetrated against women and girls around the globe and particularly in Africa, where human trafficking is rampant.
The name of the group, Boko Haram, implies that western education is sin. The group hopes to see Islamic sharia law become the law of the land. Apparently the group believes that abducting school age girls and selling them into sexual slavery into the neighboring nations of Chad and Cameroon is the way to bring that about.
According to Vanguard, reports from a girl who escaped from the first abduction indicate that the young girls were already being used as sex slaves, being raped 15 times a day. The girl also said that the terror leader, Abubakar Shekau, had prized her as a wife because of her virginity. She said that her fellow classmates were given the choice to convert to Islam or risk having their throats cut.
Current group leader, Shekau distributed a video after the abduction in which he is says that people are either with his group, or with the other team, including but not limited to Obama, George Bush, Bush, Clinton, and… Abraham Lincoln. This anachronism is understandable given that he goes on the say that his vision is to reinstate a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria. In the video, he threatened to sell the girls as slaves, “by Allah.”
Adokiye is anything but a poster child for a caliphate’s modest female ideal. Not content with the results that the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was having, she turned up the heat on the social dialogue. The Nigerian singer told Vanguard newspaper that she would offer herself sexually to the men of Boko Haram in exchange for them releasing the school girls.
Adokiye has said that she is a virgin. Based on comments sections in articles written about this new turn of event and the general response in social media, much of her public has a difficult time believing that. A Google image search brings up multiple pictures of a scantily clad, 23-year-old young woman in various suggestive poses. Adokiye says that even if the men took her ten or twelve times a night, she would still exchange place with the girls.
Adokiye’s provocative offer has activated the ubiquitous online world of slut-shaming trolls. Not only have her claims of virginity come into question, but she is also being accused of using the Boko Haram abductions to promote her own career. This is not the first time the singer has used her virginity to create a buzz, after all. Adokiye is reported to have said, in the past, that the man who takes her virginity will have to buy her mom a jet. On the other hand, Adokiye has been selected as the Youth Ambassador for the Nigerian state of Ito, and the Nigerian government hasn’t come close to matching the pop idol’s sincerity in its approach to the situation. Somewhere between provocative public relations stunt and sincere entreaty lies the real motivation behind Adokiye’s plea. It remains to be seen whether the terrorizing influence that Boko Haram has had over the African nation can be trumped by the political and social pressure that the pop idol can muster.
To think that Adokiye would have the fame to garner as much attention as she has without her provocative presence is naive. To fault her for using her social influence to bring attention to the suffering of the missing girls is short-sighted. If the attention that Adokiye brings to Boko Haram creates the pressure needed to find out where the missing children are, or to bring the men who sold them into sexual slavery or murdered them to swift justice, then by all means, let her career soar.
Instead of waiting to see if the terrorizing influence of Boko Haram can be trumped by the pop idol’s appeal, people who criticize Adokiye could be joining the fight to get the girls freed. All of the energy that is going into criticizing her could be used, instead, to put pressure on politicians and military leaders to act on behalf of the girls and their devastated families. Adokiye supporter Jules Fernandez, referring to the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, said it best: