By The Late Dimgba Igwe—published 10 years ago


“Stop pretending that you are a human being!” a victim of sexual abuse tells her abuser. They might not exactly be able to utter such words to their captors, but this is likely the thought that would be going through the mind of hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents.


Pastor Dimgba Igwe                                Chibok Girls

But perhaps, the only trauma that would make these innocent girls even sadder in their captivity is the absence of news of any attempt at their rescue. According to the parents of the abducted girls, so far, there had been no known official effort at rescuing the girls, despite the enlarged security meetings. Ironically, the last known effort at rescue was the suicidal gambit by the desperate parents of the abducted girls who went two kilometers into the Sambisa forest, only to be advised to turn back because it was a suicidal venture.

Related News

The plight of the Chibok girls in a way evokes memories of the ordeal of women in the Biafran enclave shortly after the war.  In 1971, the news came to us in the bush where we had lived for ten months that the war was over, that Biafra had surrendered, that we were free to return home to rebuild our lives. Starved, outgunned, outmanned and outnumbered, we the Biafrans were reduced to daily battle of personal survival rather than expecting military miracle. The fact was that if the bullets didn’t get you, starvation could, and a man’s greatest daily battle was to survive to the next moment.

The news of the end of the war was, therefore, a great relief. Tentatively, people began sneaking back into their villages to see things for themselves. The reports were mixed. They met other survivors, some reunited with relations whose whereabouts were unknown. But in more cases than not, our homes lay in total ruins. Family houses were now reduced to rubble.  Still, it was better to be back. And alive. But for the young women of Biafra, it was the beginning of another war. A war against women which spread to almost every family. The victorious Nigerian soldiers wielding their guns so menacingly, were on the hunt for personal war trophies—women.

If you were a woman, especially younger, married or single, you were in danger. You were hijacked as soon as the soldiers sighted you. A wild scramble for women ensued among the soldiers. A Hobbesian scramble where the strongest won the trophy. The most senior soldiers commandeered the female booty first and the others scrambled for the rest.

My maternal uncle had married a woman from the north, Mariam, and they were much in love. Mariam survived the war with us in the bush. But on the first day she returned from the war, the soldiers took her. My uncle who spoke fluent Hausa, tried to argue for his wife as much as Mariam protested her abduction. For his pain, my uncle nearly lost his life as the soldier’s bullet missed him narrowly. For days, he wept like a baby, especially as the soldier who now took over his wife was still domiciled in a barrack within our village.  Some men who dared challenge the abduction of their wives, girlfriends or sisters were openly tortured, often stripped and whipped in the village square before being thrown into detention. A man actually died protesting the abduction of his wife.

If the soldiers were pleased with the woman they’d abducted, they simply declared that they have “married” them. That’s all, no ceremonies, no further ado. In turn, the women so “married” enjoyed the privilege of regular meals, something Biafran returnees could not boast of. During and after the war, food was scarce and everyone scrounged for food anywhere you could. After the war, the loads of Biafran currency at our disposal were useless. With no money to buy food, survival was still a tricky business. Some of us fetched water and firewood for the soldiers in exchange for foods, often a leftover from their regular military rations.

So many of the abducted women forcefully “married” to the soldiers soon began to bear children for their abductors. In time, the women adjusted to their new reality, but that was only for a while. Years later when civility was restored, many of such marriages never survived, although many children were produced from their union. But the stigma of their abduction and insinuation of being defiled by strangers remained with the women, ruining future marital life of many of such women.

In wars, women bore the brunt of savage abuses. In Bosnia, thousands of Muslim women were gang-raped by Serbian men, some of them forced to rape the women, not only to humiliate the enemy, but to impregnate them with a Serbian blood.  In Rwanda, while everyone else was hacked to death, beautiful women were spared as sex slaves. It was the story of one of such sex slaves recaptured ten years after that gave our Dele Olojede his Pulitzer Prize. A woman who had been repeatedly raped by men who killed her entire family found herself pregnant and gave birth to a son from her rapist and killer of her parents and family members. Looking at the child filled her with absolute horror. What would she do with this beautiful son of a rapist and a killer who murdered her parents and raped her? Why keep the child who so reminded her of his monstrous father and her horrible ordeal? She’d burst into paroxysm of rage against the child, then remember that the boy was innocent of her father’s crime. Her emotional swing from extreme hatred for her son and maternal love of the innocent baby created a classic moral conflict which Olojede masterly captured for New York Newsday.

The forceful abduction of hundreds of teenage secondary school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents played into this typology. The speculation is that these girls would either be turned into wives or sex slaves. As one of the parents interviewed in the Punch put it, the Boko Haram insurgents selected mature girls for abduction, ostensibly to turn them into wives of the insurgents. But, what fate would befall the younger girls? Perhaps, there are pedophiles among them too?

That is to say that despite their religious pretensions about what constitutes “haram” or sinful abomination in their version of Islam, these are no religious puritans at all, but mere sexual animals not any better than the soldiers who abducted the conquered women of Biafra.