Adokiye in a promo shoot. Photo: daXclusive/adokiye.com
Show Hide image

Nigerian popstar Adokiye offers Boko Haram her virginity for kidnapped schoolgirls' release

A rising star in Nigeria, frustrated at the fading news coverage of Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, has offered up her virginity.

Nigerian popstar and architect Adokiye startled fans this week when, according to Vanguard, she claimed to be willing to exchange her own virginity for the release of over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. The same group is also suspected of carrying out a further spate of abductions of at least 60 more women this week, two months after the first kidnapping brought international condemnation for the extremist group.

"I am older and more experienced," she told the paper. "Even if ten to 12 men have to take me every night, I don’t care. Just release these girls and let them go back to their parents.”

While many have taken to Twitter to praise her bravery, or implore her to withdraw the self-sacrificial offer, others have criticised it as an attention-seeking media stunt - and, inevitably, some have used the opportunity to question the truth of whether she was really still a virgin:

Adokiye may well be a rising celebrity in Nigeria, but she is also a UN ambassador for peace with her own charity - called #ADOCHANGE - which works with international NGOs on health and education projects. Speaking to the NS via email, Adokiye said: “[It is] for the less privileged children, the motherless babies. Kids who can't speak for themselves. Its mission is to stand for them and to make them live right.”

However, her claim that she would swap her virginity for the safety of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram appeared both drastic and insincere for a good reason - in March, she made the same offer to anyone who would buy her mother a private jet. When asked about this, she claims it was a "joke", that she "only used it as a figure of speech to show how much I loved my mum and would give up anything for her".

"My offer to Boko Haram isn’t a joke,” she writes, and she confirmed that she stands by her words:

With the help of my government, I will go to the forest and plead for the release of those girls. If Boko Haram were to contact me that would be scary and great but they should only do so if they are ready to release the kidnapped girls and take up my offer.”

Whether act of extreme empathy or publicity stunt, it highlights the sensitive issues that cloud the social status of female virginity. When asked if she thought her offer confirmed virginity as an exchangeable commodity, Adokiye responded:

As long as I am not offering it up for financial gains then it’s no problem. The virginity would have to go sometime, so if I can use it to save those kidnapped girls that would be great.”

Despite the flurry of news interest in the initial kidnappings in March - including a social media hashtag campaign that even Michelle Obama got involved with - Adokiye has been left frustrated and appalled by the way the news cycle has moved on. “The sudden silence of the media hype to get those girls freed is really scary and frustrating," she writes. "If the exchange of my virginity for the freedom of the girls turns out a success, then I do not see any problems at all." Since making her offer she has been tweeting at her critics, demanding they suggest something better if they're so appalled by her proposal.

Regardless, Boko Haram continue to terrorise the Nigerian state of Borno, whose inhabitants live in fear of further abductions. According to the UN, Boko Haram has forced approximately 650,000 people to flee from their homes.

Getty
Show Hide image

The world has entered a new Cold War – what went wrong?

Peter Conradi’s Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War traces the accumulation of distrust between the West and Russia.

In March 1992 an alarmist “secret” memo written by Richard Nixon found its way on to the front page of the New York Times. “The hot-button issue of the 1950s was, ‘Who lost China?’ If Yeltsin goes down, the question ‘Who lost Russia?’ will be an infinitely more devastating issue in the 1990s,” the former US president wrote.

Nixon’s point was well made. At that time, Boris Yeltsin, who had acted as the wrecking ball of the Soviet Union, was desperately struggling to hold the splintering new Russian Federation together. An empire, a political system, an ideology and a planned economy had all been shattered in a matter of weeks. Western diplomats in Moscow feared that millions of starving people might flood out of the former Soviet Union and that the country’s vast nuclear arsenal might be left unguarded. Yet the West seemed incapable of rising to the scale of the historic challenge, providing only meagre – and often misguided – support to Yeltsin. Between 1993 and 1999, US aid to Russia amounted to no more than $2.50 per person. The Marshall Plan II it was not.

Even so, and rather remarkably, Russia was not “lost” during the 1990s. Yeltsin succeeded in stumbling through the decade, creating at least some semblance of a democracy and a market economy. Truly it was a case of “Armageddon averted”, as the historian Stephen Kotkin put it.

It seems hard to remember now, but for many Russians 1991 was a moment of liberation for them as much as it was for those in the Soviet Union’s other 14 republics. The Westernising strand of Russian thought briefly flourished. “Democratic Russia should and will be just as natural an ally of the democratic nations of the West as the totalitarian Soviet Union was a natural opponent of the West,” the country’s first foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, proclaimed.

When Vladimir Putin emerged on the political scene in Moscow in 1999 he, too, made much of his Westernising outlook. When my editor and I went to interview him as prime minister, there was a portrait of Tsar Peter the Great, who had founded Putin’s home city of St Petersburg as Russia’s window on the West, hanging proudly on his office wall. President Putin, as he soon became, was strongly supportive of Washington following al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in 2001. “In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people – we are with you,” he declared. Russian generals instructed their US counterparts in the lessons they had learned from their doomed intervention in Afghanistan.

Yet the sediment of distrust between the West and Russia accumulated steadily. The expansion of Nato to former countries of the Warsaw Pact, the bombing of Serbia, the invasion of Iraq and the West’s support for the “colour” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine had all antagonised Moscow. But Putin’s increasing authoritarianism, hyperactive espionage and propaganda activities abroad drove the West away, as did his interventionism in Georgia and Ukraine.

Given the arc of Russian history, it was not surprising that the pendulum swung back so decisively towards the country’s Slavophiles. As a veteran foreign reporter for the Sunday Times and former Moscow correspondent, Peter Conradi is a cool-headed and even-handed guide to the past 25 years of Western-Russian relations. So much of what is written about Russia today is warped by polemics, displaying either an absurd naivety about the nature of Putin’s regime or a near-phobic hostility towards the country. It is refreshing to read so well-written and dispassionate an account – even if Conradi breaks little new ground.

The book concludes with the election of Donald Trump and the possibility of a new rapprochement between Washington and Moscow. Trump and Putin are indulging in a bizarre, if not grotesque, bromance. But as both men adhere to a zero-sum view of the world, it seems unlikely that their flirtation will lead to consummation.

For his part, Conradi does not hold out much hope for a fundamental realignment in Russia’s outlook. “Looking back another 25 years from now, it will doubtless be the Westward-looking Russia of the Yeltsin years that is seen as the aberration and the assertive, self-assured Putin era that is the norm,” he writes.

But the author gives the final word to the US diplomat George Kennan, a perpetual source of wisdom on all things Russian. “Of one thing we may be sure: no great and enduring change in the spirit and practice of Russia will ever come about primarily through foreign inspiration or advice,” Kennan wrote in 1951. “To be genuine, to be enduring, and to be worth the hopeful welcome of other peoples such a change would have to flow from the initiatives and efforts of the Russians themselves.”

Perhaps it is fanciful to believe that Russia has ever been “lost” to the West, because it has never been fully “won”.

John Thornhill is a former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times

Peter Conradi appears at the Cambridge Literary Festival, in association with the NS, on 23 April. cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi is published by One World (384pp, £18.99​)

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times