Aaron Schachter: The agony continues for the families of 219 missing schoolgirls in Nigeria. It's now been 100 days since the girls were abducted by the extremist group, Boko Haram. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan marked the occasion by meeting with some of the girl's relatives. The kidnapping has been an unresolved tragedy for the families. But they also have to contend with an ongoing Boko Haram assault on their hometown of Chibok. Several fathers of missing girls have reportedly been killed in the fighting. Chude Jideonwo is a Nigerian journalist and lawyer in Lagos. He says the parents meeting with Nigeria's president today didn't include others who wanted to be there.
Chude Jideonwo: None of the members of the citizen action group Bring Back Our Girls was allowed to follow the parents into the meeting, which was a bit worrisome. Members of the press were asked out of the meeting, which was also a bit worrisome because this is not even middle class parents. Not a lot of them have engaged on this kind of level before. But we want to hope for the best. This is their government. The government is responsible for the safety of citizens of the country and so one is hopeful that these parents will not be intimidated but that there will be some constructive feedback that will comfort them and give them hope that the girls will be back very soon.
Schachter: We learned today that 11 of the parents of the girls have died since their daughter's abduction by the Boko Haram group. That seems a bit shocking. Is that surprising to you?
Jideonwo: It is shocking, it is depressing, it's unacceptable but it's not altogether surprising. You must remember that Chibok is a relatively poor community. It has suffered relentless attacks by Boko Haram. There's been almost 1,000% reinforcement of security troops but the security troops are not doing much to instill confidence in the citizens. There are no major hospitals in that area, certainly none that have taken responsibility for the mental health of these people. There has been no government representation to comfort them or to otherwise engage them and support them through such a difficult time. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign has tried to do that but it is also a citizen-led campaign so it is neither funded nor equipped to perform the role of an alternative government. So the parents have essentially been on their own. They haven't even had any structured meetings with federal government officials to get a status update, until today, as to what exactly has been happening with their children. To that extent, it's not surprising that many of them have been defeated in spirits and eventually passed on but it is depressing because these are citizens of Nigeria who deserve better.
Schachter: In a cruel twist of fate, some of the parents were actually killed in another raid by Boko Haram.
Jideonwo: The country is beset by problems, of insecurity especially, across the board. So citizens daily have a sense that we're not safe. However, this stands(??) because of the sheer monstrosity that Boko Haram has dealt in this case and so we're all just praying and hoping and working and protesting and demanding that it doesn't get worse. But the truth is that, yes, Boko Haram has hoisted its flag in at least two villages in the north east. It's just a sad, sad state of affairs.
Schachter: Just over the weekend they grabbed what some are calling a major town of Damboa.
Jideonwo: Yes. The Nigerian government says that it's doing its very best to solve this problem and a part of me wants to believe that the government is trying to do its best to solve the problem. I think it speaks to a much deeper question of the capacity of our security forces, of the motivation of our security forces and the steady progress that we have allowed Boko Haram to make over the past few years in terrorizing citizens, so that it has built such a massive bulwark of confidence that it certainly feels that it can run down any village or any town that it desires in the north east. This is not just a problem of those missing 219 girls. It's a question of the total breakdown of law and order that does start with the government certainly but of course it's a responsibility to deal with. Every time Boko Haram attacks or strikes or takes charge of a village or anything else, it just reminds us that the war on terror is not one that we are winning on our own terms.
Schachter: I wonder whether this is still in the minds of most Nigerians. Are they thinking about these kidnapped girls? It's now 100 days after they were abducted.
Jideonwo: Many Nigerians have moved on. There was a sense that we have bigger problems to deal with or that we have other problems to deal with and this one seems to be intractable. However in the last week, and thanks to the consistency of the Bring Back Our Girls protesters in Abuja, it's back on the front burner, it's back as an issue of overriding national debate. Tomorrow it will be 100 days. The activities in conjunction with the (inaudible) Foundation, the United Nations and all of that, and so even if it wasn't a priority for Nigerians last week, it certainly is now.
Schachter: Chude Jideonwo is a Nigerian journalist and lawyer. He joined us from Lagos Nigeria. Chude, thank you so much.
Jideonwo: Thank you very much.