Nigerians are celebrating the recovery of the first of over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram extremists two years ago from the town of Chibok. But some are voicing concerns about the spotlight of public attention focused on the rescued girl.
Amina Ali was freed less than two days before she met the press. She sat before journalists in Nigeria’s Aso Rock presidential villa as President Muhammadu Buhari presented her and her newborn baby to the world.
It was a triumph for Buhari, who took office last year pledging to defeat Boko Haram.
But giving the media access to Ali so soon after her rescue was concerning, said Aisha Yesufu, a top strategist with the Bring Back Our Girls movement, which has advocated for the schoolgirls’ rescue.
“The whole media circus was like a circus," she said. "It was a bit distasteful. It should have been a private moment that she should have had with the president.”
A spokesman for Buhari declined to comment.
The Chibok girls are not the only captives of Boko Haram. Prior to Ali’s release, Nigeria’s military rescued thousands of other abductees from the country’s northeast.
Some of the returnees say they have been stigmatized because they are seen to be associated with Boko Haram.
Yesufu said the publicity around Ali’s return could be used to resist that tendency.
“This in its own way might even let the community know that, look, it’s not as if you can just throw her away," she said. "She’s welcome, and all other abductees too, are welcome when they come back.”
Shortly after Ali's arrival in the capital on Thursday, Nigeria’s military announced the recovery of another Chibok schoolgirl. She had been a student at the same school in Chibok, but it was later disclosed that she was abducted from a different community at a different date.
The government says both girls will receive health care and counseling.