In January 2014 the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 256 schoolgirls from northern Nigeria as part of its terrorism campaign which had killed tens of thousands of people. Boko Haram threatened that the attacks would continue until the government stopped interfering with traditional Islamic education.
The Nigerian government was heavily criticized globally for the perceived inaction in not “bringing back our girls” as the whole world watched and waited. Despite the government’s resolve, they were only able to rescue 57 girls in the first few months. The onslaught of criticism came from global celebrities and international media outlets, unaware and unsympathetic to the complexity of the problem.
LEVICK immediately shifted the narrative in the international media to what the Nigerian government was accomplishing, focusing on specific audiences including the Nigerian diaspora, embassies, NGOs, the USG, and the UN.
Using social and traditional media, LEVICK built on the factual narrative that the Nigerian government was doing everything in its power to bring back the girls and to counter misconceptions in the global media, including the fact that the government had already successfully enlisted the U.S., U.K. and France –three key allies in the global war on terror — to help militarily. LEVICK pushed the fact that Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, France, Niger, the U.K. and the U.S. had established the External Intelligence Response Unit (EIRU), and other model counter-terrorism measure.
Most importantly, LEVICK partnered with Malala, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, to speak out against Boko Haram and meet with Nigerian President Jonathan, an event which garnered global media coverage and fundamentally changed the narrative.
LEVICK set up speaking engagements for President Jonathan at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, the Washington African Summit sponsored by President Obama and the Council of Foreign Relations where he spoke about countering the threat of Boko Haram and the Nigerian governments national plan of action, which we co-wrote.
The continued focus and international support led to the discovery and return of the girls on six separate occasions from May 2016 through January 2018.
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