Hidden Roles Mediators Played In Securing Chibok Girls’ Release

  • The authors say proceeds from the book will be used to fund educational needs in Chibok, especially for the families of survivors.

When terrorists successfully abduct a group of civilians and hold them hostage for a long time, public discussions often suggest that the road to their rescue is straightforward, typically involving the swift deployment of military muscle. But as Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw show us in their recently released bookBring Back Our Girls: The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria’s Missing Schoolgirls, this is far from what truly happens.

In 414 rich and riveting pages, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) writers share details about the April 2014 Boko Haram abduction of nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls in Borno, Northeast Nigeria, and the struggle for their release. 

Leafing through those pages, one will come to understand the significance of that event and the subsequent #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) campaign, not just for the small community of Chibok and the kidnapped girls, but also for the insurgent group’s fluctuating stamina, the change in Nigeria’s central leadership, and the general security landscape in the Lake Chad region. 

The authors show how forceful approaches to rescue can backfire and how making victims of abduction famous through social advocacy may not always give desired outcomes. 

Importantly, the book brings to the world’s attention the covert roles played by conflict mediators, Nigerians and non-Nigerians, who risked their lives to bring the warring parties to the table of compromise while prioritising the safety of the abducted girls.

These mediators, the authors noted in the introductory pages, included Qur’anic scholar Tijani Ferobe, Swiss diplomat Pascal Holliger, terrorism analyst Fulan Nasrullah, then freelance journalist Ahmad Salkida, former Boko Haram disciple Tahir Umar, and lawyer Zannah Mustapha. 

Many of them worked closely with senior government officials behind the scenes to get the Chibok schoolgirls released. But it was not easy navigating between government bureaucracy, the ego of a sovereign nation, inter-agency rivalry, the unpredictable narcissism of a terror kingpin, among a host of other factors. The intrigues that came with paddling through those bumpy waters are vividly spelt out in Parkinson and Hinshaw’s book.

“Speculations should not becloud the fact that there are many well-meaning patriots including myself that are working quietly day and night for peace,” Salkida, now CEO and Editor-in-Chief of HumAngle Media, had tweeted on May 26, 2014.

Three days later, he posted another cryptic message on the microblogging platform: “It’s enough challenge to be Nigerian, difficult to commit to serving Nigeria like the soldiers on the frontlines and extremely distressing to love Nigeria.” His tone was that of a man who had resigned to fate after losing a protracted battle.

Unknown to a lot of people, at this time, Salkida was travelling between countries at the behest of the Nigerian government, leaving his job and family to leverage his contacts within the insurgent group and strike a deal that would favour the girls. The BBOG campaign had shaken the internet and international community. Prominent figures, including those at the White House and top echelons of other foreign governments, were putting pressure on the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to get the schoolgirls out of captivity.


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