The World Economic Forum (WEF) may seem an unlikely candidate to become even unwittingly embroiled in frustrating efforts to rescue the more than 200 school girls kidnapped by the extremist and very brutal Boko Haram, but President Goodluck Jonathan made the WEF complicit in his failure to even attempt to rescue them because he did not want this shocking crime to dominate the headlines with a major Forum meeting starting in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Wednesday. That event will be chaired by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and will be attended by many world and business leaders including Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Founded by Professor Klaus Schwab the WEF describes itself “a driver for reconciliation efforts in different parts of the world” and its event in the Nigerian capital this week will give the organization a unique opportunity to make a difference and help ensure something is done to rescue the school girls whose plight Nigeria’s President tried to brush under the carpet, with his government even suggesting they had been rescued!
President Jonathan has already been embarrassed into going public about his government’s failure to act, with many protests in Nigeria, and many parts of the world, in response to accusations by the girls’ parents his government has made no effort to find or rescue them. All reports on the ground appear to confirm that with no evidence Nigeria’s police or army even tried to pursue those responsible. Even worse, to cover that inaction in his address to the nation the President accused the parents of not co-operating with the police.
Indeed, the President’s failure to act even extended to efforts to downplay the numbers with the authorities only last Friday, after the school girls were kidnapped on April 14, confirming that 276 were abducted, 53 managed to escape and 223 are still held by Boko Haram.
More worryingly reports are emerging that some of the girls may have been trafficked and enslaved – “sold as brides for as little as $12”. However, these shocking claims only confirm the need for urgent action on the part of the Nigerian government and the WEF meeting in Nigeria starting Wednesday in Abuja could be an important platform to maximize pressure for action to secure their freedom.
I am sure that Professor Klaus Schwab does not want the continuing disappearance of these school girls to be even remotely connected with the holding of a World Economic Forum meeting in Nigeria. However, he will have a unique opportunity on Wednesday to make clear that although the international media initially ignored this appalling crime that a school girl in Chibok Nigeria has the same right to an education as a girl in Zurich, New York, London or Dublin by publicly committing that World Economic Forum meeting in Abuja to helping to secure their release by all available means.
‘Boko Haram’ translates as ‘western education is forbidden’ or ‘western education is sinful’ -but either way, this very dangerous and reactionary group cannot be allowed to devalue the lives or infringe the basic right of Nigeria’s girls to an education. There can be no equivocation that this very dangerous and reactionary group is wholly responsible for this shocking crime in taking 276 school girls from their dormitories in the middle of the night. But if we fail to keep the pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan and his government we all become complicit, and Professor Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum on Wednesday hopefully will not forget that, and use the occasion to act as a platform to mobilize support to secure their release and underline that the right of Nigerian girls to an education matters.