…my point is that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe…I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
The world has had its attention on France the past few days and so, while the BBC reported on events related to the attack at Charlie Hebdo, there was just a note, scrolling at the bottom of the screen, that a 10-year old girl had suicide-bombed a marketplace in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Early reports said 10 were dead, later it was revised to 16 and the last number I saw was 19.
Nigeria is thought to have had the highest number of terrorist killings in the world during the previous year: 3,477 killed in 146 attacks.
Other Nigerian girls between the ages of 10 and 14 have had bombs strapped to them and have been sent into marketplaces and crowds. The government claims none of the girl bombers have come from the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in April of last year by Boko Haram. There were reports (as yet unsubstantiated) that the girls were sold.
Boko Haram militants follow the Sunni sect and seek to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish a hard-line Islamic state. We in the west may wonder why anyone would be attracted to Boko Haram’s philosophy, but in oil-rich Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and the world’s seventh-largest human population (half its population is 14 years or younger), 60 per cent of the populace makes less than $1 (US) per day and corruption is extensive (Transparency International ranks Nigeria 143 out of 182 nations). The country is almost evenly divided between the Christian south and Islamic north and most of the money lies not in the agricultural and Islamic north (70 per cent of Nigerians work the land), but in the southern oil fields.
One of Boko Haram’s most significant issues pertains to education – many Nigerians are anti-western education, perhaps as a legacy of British colonial rule (secular state education is conducted in English). True education comes only from religious education, Such things as modern farming methods can be suspect. In 2009, sounding much like an American Republican senator, Boko Haram’s first leader Yusuf Mohamed told the BBC that, despite being well-educated himself and possessing a lavish lifestyle, he opposed Western education, rejected the theory of evolution, claimed rain is not “an evaporation caused by the sun”, and the Earth is not a sphere
She was a girl. Ten years old. She was not the first. No one knows her name. She was black. It was Africa.
It was the third time since November this marketplace was targeted. The city of Kano had four bombings in one week. It is not on our mind. It is Africa. They are black.