Earlier this year, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram launched an attack on the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga, virtually razing it to the ground and killing and capturing hundreds, according to Amnesty International.
Despite this, Nigerian-American student Ugo Anikpe said his fellow classmates hardly know anything about Nigeria or Boko Haram.
“What they know is Ebola, which makes me mad,” Anikpe said. “It’s a serious matter, because people are actually dying. “
Anikpe was in Nigeria at the time of the attack on Baga, and when the attack made international news, a few of his friends did call to see if his family was safe. Original estimates placed the death toll at 2,000, although more recent reports suggest that the actual numbers are much lower.
For a day, Anikpe said the attack was just a rumor passed from person to person, with no confirmation from the government or the media. He said it was difficult for him to wrap his mind around.
Nigeria is a relatively large country, over twice the size of California, and Anikpe’s family lives in the southeastern area, far-removed from the current reach of Boko Haram.
“It’d be like we’re here in Statesboro and then you hear that 2,000 people got killed in Atlanta,” Anikpe said. “That’s four hours away. How does that happen and no one knows?”
“My uncle and my aunt, they prayed about it every day. At dinner time, we talked about it,” he said. “So people are definitely worried, but it’s difficult to do anything.”
People in the areas of Nigeria that are untouched by Boko Haram suffer more from worry than anything else, Anikpe said.
“What if it happened to you? What if you’re sitting at home one day and you got a call that your little brothers and sisters were bombed because somebody thinks that their religion is better than yours?” Anikpe said. “I’m not asking you to go out and donate a million dollars or sit outside and protest with a sign, but at least listen, be educated and take it seriously.”
Anikpe said he understands that college students are not always the most well-informed, but as future leaders and decision makers, owe it to themselves to pay attention to the world around them.
In 2014, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan announced that Boko Haram had killed 13,000 people since their insurgency began in 2009. Human Rights Watch has reported that over 14,000 Nigerians have fled the country into neighboring Chad since the beginning of the year.