Return to Transcripts main page


Nigeria's Nightmare for Girls; Imagine a World

Aired May 6, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Nigeria's nightmare continues today; eight more girls were kidnapped by gunmen going door-to-door in the northeast village of Warabe. That's after the abduction that shocked the world when more than 200 girls were snatched from their school three weeks ago in Chibok in the same area.

From the United States to the United Kingdom, to the United Nations, outrage and pledges of help to the Nigerian government and the White House has just announced that President Obama says no effort must be spared to help find those girls.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our embassy is prepared to form an interdisciplinary team that could provide expertise on intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiations, could have facilitate information sharing and provide victim assistance. It would include U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officials with expertise in investigations and hostage negotiations.


AMANPOUR: Now the name Boko Haram means Western education is a sin and the group's leader surfaced yesterday in a chilling video claiming responsibility and making such outrageous threats that they're still reverberating around the world today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I say Western education should end.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Western education should end.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nigerians are furious at the terror group and at their government. For days, they've taken to the streets to protest the failure to rescue the girls and to rein in Boko Haram's mounting threat to the nation.

Bombs have rocked the capital, Abuja, the latest last Thursday, which killed about 20 people. It took three weeks for Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, to utter even a word in public about the mass kidnapping, though he had told me last year that Boko Haram had to be brought down.


AMANPOUR: Do you see Boko Haram as a major existential threat?

GOODLUCK JONATHAN, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: Definitely. Boko Haram is not content. It would be a threat not only to Nigeria but to West Africa, Central Africa and, of course, to North Africa.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we hope to have an exclusive interview with Nigeria's minister of information, but first one of Nigeria's most prominent voices has called and has been calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to step up to the plate. And he of course, is the internationally renowned Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, often called the conscience of the nation.

He joins me right now here in the studio.

Mr. Soyinka, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: You heard that leader of Boko Haram say the most outrageous things by Allah, I have the right to sell these girls into slavery. There's a market for them. Western education must be -- must be taken out of this country.

What do you make of what's going on in your country right now?

SOYINKA: It's a situation which has been left to fester. It was addressed very late and very casually, very lackadaisically. And now it's become not just a national problem but a West African problem because it's a force which destabilizes the entire nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's a good thing and should your president accept the offer of help that the United States is giving, military personnel, hostage negotiation experts, all sorts of advice and probably materiel on surveillance and other such things?

SOYINKA: President Jonathan should have asked for it from the very beginning. I don't believe in false pride. The history of the movement which -- to which Boko Haram belongs or which it is a part, a tendency, that quote-unquote, if you like, "philosophy," is one which is a menace to the entire world, is not a Nigerian affair alone.

So there should be no hesitation or approval of the language by the president.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think they have hesitated? Look, it was you who called for the president to confront this and speak to the nation, address the nation. You did that last week. Only this weekend did he follow your advice and actually spoke to the nation.

Why has he been, in your words, in denial?

SOYINKA: It's not only he; it's the advisers around him. It's a certain section of the nation, some of whom enjoy, for various reasons, a nation in a state of chaos. They profit by it and if I thought them are guilty of provoking the situation. There's a measure of guilt and also a measure of gloating that the government of the nation is in serious trouble.

So it's a mixture of motivations.

The person who has no excuse is the president of the nation.

AMANPOUR: I want to bring up some things that we've been watching. For instance, we've been watching these demonstrations by the -- by the parents inside Nigeria, plus many, many concerned activists and citizens. We've seen these demonstrations now spread to Washington, London and elsewhere.

But we've also heard from a father and some parents of these children, who were -- who were abducted three weeks ago. I want to play you what one of the fathers told CNN by phone shortly after the kids were kidnapped.

Well, do you know what, we don't have that.

But what he was saying was we know that had the government moved quicker, they could have rescued our girls.

Why do you -- what is going on?

He says, you know, the government doesn't care, quote, "about the poor people" of this country.

SOYINKA: You know, I probably have more questions than you have. For instance, I'd like to know why we are not allowed to see the faces, the humanity of these girls who have been abducted. Why is it that their pictures are not on the pages of the newspaper?

AMANPOUR: Well, why isn't it? Why aren't they?

SOYINKA: I told you, I have more questions than you have.

AMANPOUR: But is that a government restriction?

SOYINKA: It's a government -- it's obviously a government -- this is a government which is not only in denial mentally but is in denial about certain obvious steps to take. It's almost like childlike situations that if you shut your eyes, if you don't exhibit, you know, the tactile evidence of the missing humanity here, that somehow the problem will go away. It's an attitude which exists in the subconscious, even though it's not (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Let me play this poor father's sad comments to CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): They have a "don't care" attitude concerning the poor people in the nation. Had it been the government had taken any measure, I believe they would have to restore our daughters. They waited until after 11 days. They have to find them somewhere else. We parents, we don't know where our daughters are now.


AMANPOUR: You know, when you hear his voice and we just spoke about it, it really is -- does it make you feel sad?

SOYINKA: It's really agonizing, really agonizing. It's something which I never thought, even though I've been warning for years, it's not -- you know, for years about this menace, when it eventually escalates to this level, it's astonishing how one still feels, you know, literally eviscerated by the abduction of these girls.

AMANPOUR: You are a Nobel laureate yet I have said that you are the voice of a nation, maybe even a continent and a conscience as well.

Why is it that you've been warning?

And what exactly have you been warning about that hasn't been dealt with?

SOYINKA: I've been warning especially that the pinpricks of this movement are not confined to Nigeria. And that it should be recognized, those who understand the history of Algeria (ph), for instance, those who saw the career of the -- of the Taliban when they overran Afghanistan, those who cannot delude themselves that people are going to Somalia to be trained with Al-Shabaab, et cetera, et cetera, those who are conscious, what is happening in the rest of the world? Should have done five years ago. And they have been warned publicly. I've said it in letters that the pinpricks you see all over the world are consolidating into a situation of internal war, insurrection by this group.

AMANPOUR: What will that mean for Nigeria? You are, after all, the most powerful economy in Africa. But there's terrible corruption. A lot of the oil wealth is siphoned off right at the -- right as it comes out of the ground.

What does all of this mean for Nigeria? Are you worried about it?

SOYINKA: Oh, very much so, very much so. And the -- when we even talk about corruption, there's a need to specify it so because this revolt, if you like, this insurrection or whatever began in a certain section of the country.

And it indicates what has been happening to what eventually became the foot soldiers, the despairing imagery (ph), for instance, who've been under the thumb of the militant mullahs and who brainwashed thousands of these kids, who are food soldiers. They're the ones who cannot think for themselves any longer. And those who've started this movement -- this was started in fact -- their soldiers are (INAUDIBLE). They're out of control. The politicians who use that toxic brew of religion and politics to try and destabilize a nation, they are asking for help because those on the jury (ph) who've trained elsewhere, who become radicalized, even more than their handlers, understand that they are totally out of control. And they're on the first line of the victims.

AMANPOUR: You call for the government and the nation has called for the government to take action against Boko Haram. But -- and I want to quote you something that the United States special envoy said last year when I interviewed him about this.

He talked about the backlash because of government actions. He basically said, "We have received numerous reports of mass arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture and prolonged detention without due process of law. Many Nigerians believe that that excessive use of force by security forces has alienated local populations and fueled support for Boko Haram."

So on the one hand, you and others are calling on the government to get this in hand. On the other hand, a lot of backlash is being created by the way their scorched earth policy seems to be progressing.

SOYINKA: I'm calling there are not just for the nation to take action. I'm calling for the international community, the United Nations. This is a problem. This is a global problem. And a foothold, you know, is being very deeply entrenched in West Africa. If for instance, Nigeria with the assistance of France had not moved into Mali, and fortunately this is one of the advises which this government eventually took, but don't wait for Mali to come to Nigeria; go into Mali and stop them where they are.

And France took the lead, we followed immediately in Nigeria -- and ECOWAS followed. So it's not a Nigerian problem alone. Now when people talk about corruption --

AMANPOUR: And that was, of course, when Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb --


SOYINKA: -- and Boko Haram was going to Mali to train, to refresh, to reequip and if Mali had stayed in the hands of Al Qaeda, it's a very different story.

The other thing I want to say is this: it's part of the denial when certain -- when fingers are pointed at certain events in the country without going back to understand how this had -- I'm talking about extrajudicial killing, for instance. It is wrong; it is condemnable and we condemned it. But to say that because a leader of the original Boko Haram was extrajudicially executed that that is why there is now this upsurge, this climactic action, this is part of the self-denial, of the denial of the real situation.

This Yusuf (ph) was a killer, a butcher. He should never have been extrajudicially killed, I agree. But this event, this rebel started long before the extrajudicial killing. And a man that they're trying to turn into a saint now, who's just a homicidal maniac, who killed non-Muslims, you know, at the snap of a finger, killed families and forced people to convert or give them a choice, convert or you'll be killed.

Now today I read about, you know, this Yusuf can assets (ph). He was a saint and it's only because -- and people have the wrong kind of self- deluding piety, oh, if only he had not been touched. This is nonsense. And the world is being deceived.

AMANPOUR: In that case, stay tuned because we're going to come back right after a break with more on this, Wole Soyinka. Stay right there.

Nigerian officials may finally be breaking their silence. We hope to hear from the minister of information when we come back and we'll have more with Mr. Soyinka as well.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now the deafening silence of the Nigerian government is truly outstanding and astounding, given the seriousness of what's going on and giving -- given how it's reverberating around the world to capitals all over the world.

We had hoped to bring you an exclusive interview with Nigeria's minister of information but we simply cannot get a straight answer as to whether he's going to turn up or not, having pledged to do so.

We continue our conversation with Nigeria's Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka.

Mr. Soyinka, again, we have tried to get the Nigerian government position on this and we've tried to give them a fair shake on this. They simply won't come to the table to engage.

And it's a problem. And you called the president out and criticized him for not confronting this and not talking to the nation for three weeks until he finally did this weekend.

Boko Haram -- you just talked about the leader of Boko Haram -- what did you make of the swaggering, glib, gleeful laughter of this leader when he just sort of appeared face uncovered to the world and said he was going to sell these girls?

Just give me your impression psychologically of what he's up to.

SOYINKA: Most bullies whether on a small scale or a national or international scale, they bluster, they do more of the same thing when they spy a community, a nation or a state, which is on its knees, which doesn't confront them directly. It's an --


SOYINKA: Yes. If you remember, when the first -- well, not the first, I mean, you know how far back one should go.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's been going on for a long, long time. The world suddenly got interested because this is 276 girls who were taken all at once.

SOYINKA: But before that, when the United Nations headquarters were blown up in the capital of a mission, you want to go further back? When the extreme Islamists literally sacked the capital, you know, under President Abbas (INAUDIBLE) because they claim that religion was offended because there was a beauty contest, going to go in on there, there have been numerous instances like this.

And when Yusuf was still, remember, a former head of state --

AMANPOUR: He's the original --


SOYINKA: -- appeased went on a mission of appeasement to Boko Haram family, asking virtually on his -- on his knees, please forgive and forget. But these were killers. I mean, those who killed the leaders should have been punished, yes. But we shouldn't go and appease killers.

AMANPOUR: Now with these girls, the longer this goes on, the fact that it's so public now, what do you think is going to happen to these girls? Are they all together, do you think? Have they been split up? Will they be sold? What do you think? I know nobody knows.

SOYINKA: I made a statement at the World Book Fair, at which I said confront the reality. It's painful; it's horrifying. I said these girls are going to be sold as sex slaves. I used that expression. I said let's not beat around the bush. We're dealing with a monstrosity. We're dealing with an affliction the like of which the nation has never encountered. Understand that you must go in quickly. You must act rapidly because these girls are going to be traumatized in a way in which -- which is going to blast the rest of their lives.

When they retrieve, I said, start getting ready experts who will assist them psychologically to get over this phase. So this charade we're watching, this gleeful obscenity we just watched from the leader of Boko Haram is something which I anticipated. It's shocking to see it. But it doesn't surprise me.

That's the nature of what these people have made themselves into.

AMANPOUR: And do you think it's right, the reports we hear about the first lady of Nigeria, criticizing activists who've been protesting in the streets and basically accusing them of bringing bad publicity and critcizing her husband's government?

SOYINKA: I made public statements about this woman who calls herself the first lady of Nigeria. I don't want to say anything more about her.

AMANPOUR: So OK. I won't push you on that.

There are many, many people who look at, for instance, neighboring Uganda, where we had Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army. They also took girls for years. It was going on for years. And it took years to get them back except for, for instance, that famous nun, Sister Rachele, I don't know if you remember, but in 1997, she followed them and brought at least some of them back, 30 remained.

This has been going on for a long time. It's afflicting different parts of Africa.

SOYINKA: I call attention to Joseph Kony --


AMANPOUR: And by the way, Joseph Kony's a Christian monster.

SOYINKA: And I'm very glad you mentioned, because I have mentioned Joseph Kony a number of times as a parallel to what is happening now so that it's to tell these Muslim fundamentalists that they shouldn't take pride in bestiality, that the Christian side also knows it. The issue's not religion. It's that fundamentalist fascism in which you feel that it's an act of domination, an act of domination. You prove what are you have in the environment in the little pond, you know, where you're operating. It's the same mentality entirely.

AMANPOUR: And for a long, long time, Nigeria as a whole wasn't as exercised as everybody is right now. We saw this stuff happening. It didn't affect the whole country. And the whole country wasn't up in arms and they weren't demonstrating in the streets.

Has this abduction changed the Nigerian people?

And what does that mean for the government, particularly for these upcoming elections?

SOYINKA: I think anyone at all with the -- with the humane trait in his or her makeup has got to take this government to task on any level because there are many things which could have been done. And I've stressed this over and over again, abduction, terrorism, suicide bombing, these are very difficult situations to deal with. But they're not unique. And it's easy to anticipate, especially if you're only a country and you have any sense of history, this is very easy to anticipate in what direction this will go. So those who are coming out in the streets now, they've always been conscious, to some extent. But didn't realize how soon the enormity of the action will catch up on them.

Now if you like, the worms are turning. Where it will end, I do not know. But one thing is certain: the president and his government cannot sleep easy after what has happened to Nigeria. It is not possible. Any either pretend or real indifference or denial has ended. I'm convinced about that.

But also the situation is now beyond the capacity of the government. That's why I say the situation must be internationalized.


Wole Soyinka, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

SOYINKA: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: And as you just heard, a very clear clarion call to the government, as we keep saying, we've been waiting for our exclusive interview with Nigeria's information minister; he hasn't turned up.

As we've said and as we've seen in Nigeria, trying to separate information from disinformation can be daunting. But it isn't unique to that government. In the Orwellian world of Vladimir Putin's Russia, freedom has become a dirty word. We'll explain when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, it was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking 13. So begins George Orwell's novel, "1984," the iconic tale of totalitarianism and government mind control. Now imagine a world where the clocks are striking 13 all over Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a page from Orwell's book, where lies are truth and war is peace, has issued a decree honoring more than 300 journalists for their, quote, "objective coverage of Russia's annexation of Crimea." It was signed back on April 22nd and it seems to be part of a larger campaign to reward the propagandists and to quiet the critics, because on that same date, Russia state Duma approved a new law that requires Internet bloggers with more than 3,000 visitors per day to register with the government, providing their real names and contact information. It also makes them liable for comments posted by anyone on their websites and social media pages. And while Big Brother is handing out medals with one hand and slapping down dissent with the other, he is also engaged in a war of words against so-called dirty words. A new law scheduled to go into effect on July 1st will ban swearing in films, TV, theater and other media, while books will have to carry warnings on their cover.

Fines will start at $75 per curse word and go up from there.

Apparently it's not enough to annex Crimea; now Russia's president has annexed the language of Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, all of whom made Russian literature the envy of the world, dirty words and all.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.