Commentary: A Spark Finally Ignites in Nigerian Abduction Crisis

It took weeks for the world to focus on the kidnapping of more than 275 young women in Nigeria, but perhaps some good will come from the international scrutiny.

Posted: 05/08/2014 03:58 PM EDT

It was April 15 when roughly 275 young women were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in northern Nigeria. The kidnappings were immediately claimed by Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist organization whose leader vowed to sell the women into slavery.

The story was relegated to the back pages of newspapers and scant coverage, if any, by the television media. But in the weeks since then, the kidnapping has somehow become a story of international significance. It has been a leading topic on news programs throughout the world, with coverage from the giant media organizations.

Beyond that, the kidnapping has become a cause for everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to the realm of social media and the “#BringBackOurGirls” campaign that has spread from campuses to civic organizations. Demonstrators have taken to wearing red T-shirts to highlight the plight of the abducted young women and to demand their release.

There is a great temptation to ask the question: What took the world so long to get on the bandwagon of this horrific tragedy? And there is no shortage of theories. The world’s leading media organizations are not necessarily moved by stories of tragedies involving young women in Africa. To add to that, many would rightly claim that Boko Haram is seen as something of a fringe, off-the-radar-screen terrorist organization, certainly not generating the kind of attention of, say, al-Qaida.

Moreover, even the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, took weeks before addressing the topic. And, once he did, his comments were particularly tepid and hardly offering much in the way of reassurance to the families of the kidnapped students. "We promise that anywhere the girls are, we will surely get them out," Jonathan said. Not words that showcase a fighting spirit.

But there is another perspective that is worth considering. In a world where there is so much going on, so many stories dominating the news, it is worthwhile that the story of these abducted young women has become such a center of international attention at all. The fact is that news stories often need time to become absorbed by the media, let alone by the public.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott
was not a major news story in its first days, but it served as a point of great revolution in the 20th century. Hopefully, the international attention will finally push Nigeria’s president to take some action that will lead to finding these girls and returning them to their families. Hopefully, it will also cause the world to devote greater scrutiny to Boko Haram and not write it off as some fringe group. Hopefully, it will lead to trained investigators from a number of countries to work with Nigerian officials to finally, completely settle this highly alarming case.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

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(Photo: US UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

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