Book Title: The Chibok Girls
Author: Helon Habila
Genre: Political non-fiction/action/war
Global reformer Helon Habila returned to Chibok, Nigeria – undertaking a personal pilgrimage to honour all victims of the Boko Haram insurgency. On the 14th of April 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped by the jihadist organization. Reoccurring anxiety and trauma detach the victims from life itself. Grounded in human morale, Habila set forth to administer revolutionised dignity to the people of Chibok.
Short yet powerful, Habila wrapped the towns anguish in a 110-page handbook. Vivid imagery tantalized the readers’ mind into experiencing an emotional sandstorm of the stinging reality that is terrorism. Dehumanizing orthodoxy believed by Boko Haram, is practising Sharia Law and Salafism, through violence. Habila recalls his childhood perception of Islam to be “divine”, “respectful” and “able to accommodate tradition and diversity”. The quick read can be digressed as a call for action.
With brutal JFT soldiers positioned along every provincial Nigerian border – getting into Chibok (as a journalist) was arduous and threatening, yet Habila managed to network his way through the guards. Habila interpreted insight on how radicalism further promotes government corruption; religious hypocrisy; anti-educational rights and gender discrimination, in third world-countries.
Aside from the overall theme of terrorism, Habila illuminates a disadvantaged history of colonialism, in attempt to reason the ravaged violence praised by the jihadis. The underlying message of a culminating pent-up anger is lucid in understanding the brewing hatred a jihadist feels.
The protagonist analysis: Helon Habila (best identified with) Habila – a Nigerian novelist, grew up in Kaltungo Nigeria before immigrating to the United Kingdom to purse studies in journalism, and then to Washington DC. USA, where he teaches the skill of creative writing at George Mason University.
Habila shared a piece of his soul when writing “The Chibok Girls”, the reader saw a man battling to fall in love with a place he used to call home. His journey to Chibok led him to a saddened conclusion that Nigeria is not the place it used to be.
The first chapter expressed his roots in Christianity. Habila spoke profoundly of his love for God. His idea of devotion to the almighty conflicted with that of Boko Haram. A fundamental goal of the organization was to gain full sovereignty of Chibok (and then expand outward) – a conceived way to achieve this goal, was to capitalize on the existing tension between Christians and Muslims. Suicide bombings and executions were set off in churches by the jihadis, to taint a fully fledged war.
Whether it was the religious befouling or destruction of his homeland – Habilas’ child-like attachment to ‘his property’ provoked his need to find justice and peace.
Upon meeting the girls, Habila morphed into the typical father – his empathy resonated with the girls and their families. It can be understood that after learning the insecurity the girls endured, Habila would feel the urge to protect and reassure them of their safety.
One trait I disliked in his persona, was his sense of superiority amongst the people of Chibok. Often we are quick to play the hero, but forget the vitality of levelling with the victim – Habila’s impulsive arrogance to the situation at hand, left him clueless to connecting with the girls, without having to “transact” a relationship.
Towards the end, Habila shared his disgust with mankind in explaining that monsters are but the people we walk alongside. His abrupt ending left the reader vulnerable; incomplete and hollowed – a pinch of emotions the victims and girls felt during and after the insurgency.
Habila invoked a handful of emotions whilst documenting “The Chibok Girls”, along with these intense feelings – came fruitful wisdom. A centric theme of defence dwelled in the overall content. Growing up in a rapidly developing world, educating oneself on self-defence and understanding your rights, are keys to leading a liberal life.
The writing style was punctual, effective and shocking – the short sentences and limited paragraphs, symbolized the touch-and-go appeal of Boko Haram. The imagery of a nation in distress, is graphic throughout the book. In the beginning, a tone of men up in arms was set, the violence remained constant throughout the book, until the end where the hurried chase, left the reader knowing it isn’t the end.
The Boko Haram and jihadist organizations will always be etched into the girls’ minds – although the kidnapping ended, the nightmares have just begun. Its another day for the jihadis, another kidnapping, another killing, another girl. The rude awakening we all needed – “The Chibok Girls” is the necessary reality check the world needed.
As a person interested in psychological comprehension, I would have appreciated a further analysis on the aftermath of the girls’ “functioning” – perhaps an evaluation or interview conducted on the girls and their families.
The action-packed text is a must read in understanding the harsh realities behind terrorism. I would recommend “The Chibok Girls” to anyone interested in middle eastern war, political documentaries, feminism and human rights advocacy. It is an insightful grasp behind the mastery in the government vs. Boko Haram – the book is a confirmation of the world’s struggles, voicing out a call for help.