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Is Dapchi a state conspiracy?


Soldiers (R) drive past a signpost leading to the Government Girls Science and Technical College staff quarters in Dapchi, Nigeria, on February 22, 2018.<br />Anger erupted in a town in remote northeast Nigeria on February 22 after officials fumbled to account for scores of schoolgirls from the college who locals say have been kidnapped by Boko Haram jihadists. Police said on February 21 that 111 girls from the college were unaccounted for following a jihadist raid late on February 19. Hours later, Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for Yobe state governor Ibrahim Gaidam, said “some of the girls” had been rescued by troops “from the terrorists who abducted them”. But on a visit to Dapchi on Thursday, Gaidam appeared to question whether there had been any abduction. / AFP PHOTO / AMINU ABUBAKAR

It is a robust measure of how much the President Muhammadu Buhari government has lost credibility that the abduction of 110 pupils of Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State has spawned conspiracy theories. Racked by unfulfilled promises, fervent backers of the Buhari government who were ready to vouchsafe the eternal integrity of the president no longer accept that his position can be trusted. They strive to ferret out what could be the real motive for the action or inaction of the Buhari government.

To be sure, we should not dismiss the purveyors of these conspiracy theories as sadists who inscrutably derive fulfillment from the suffering of others. As fellow citizens, they share the pain of the families of the abductees and the nation. They are not unaware of the agony parents are subjected to when a child they have sent to school to learn is abducted . They understand the gnawing anxiety of parents over the current condition of the abductees, whether they are alive or dead and whether they would see them again. Their worry is not unfounded. Still fresh in their memories are the ordeals of the Chibok abductees and those of their parents. For a long time, nothing was heard about them. Even after the rescue of some of them, others cannot be accounted for as they have died or the Boko Haram leaders have made good their threat to sell them off as sex slaves.

Thus, we would not dismiss the cynics among us as denuded of patriotism that should have made them to share the grief of their fellow citizens. Secure in the conviction that their perspective may not be far-fetched after all, they do not cringe before the prospect of the baleful consequences of culpability for hate speech that could be deployed by the government against them. They remind us of the fogginess in the government’s handling of the campaign against terrorism that has paved the way for the proliferation of conspiracy theories. We are reminded that the government declared triumphantly that it had defeated Boko Haram. It pointed out how no local government council was under the control of Boko Haram. But when the suicide bombings by Boko Haram persisted, the government was forced to change the narrative by saying that Boko Haram was technically defeated. Again, the same government declared repeatedly that the military was closing in on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. It even said later that Shekau had been killed.

But the narrative has since changed to that of Shekau escaping arrest. And beyond just countering the government and saying that he is alive, Shekau now appears in videos where he threatens to wreak more havoc. Worse, after announcing that Boko Haram had been defeated, the government has been asking for $1 billion to prosecute the anti-terror war. Yet, the same government does not want the citizens to ask about the fate of the remaining Chibok girls either still in Sambisa forest or any part of the world where they are in captivity. In this regard, the members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement have suffered at the hands of the government’s security personnel. They have been arrested, detained, tear-gassed and beaten simply because they have drawn the attention of the government to the fact that there is no security in the north-east yet. They have asked the government not to stop the search for the remaining Chibok girls .Thus, the Dapchi tragedy is a vindication of groups like BBOG and other citizens who have equally taken the government to task on security in the north-east.

But in the same northern part of the country where the government says Boko Haram has not been completely defeated, it is engaged in a manic rush to rebuild it from the terrorists-inflicted ruins . Both local and international resources are being massively deployed into the transformation of the region. And this is when the government has ignored the need to equally develop the Niger Delta and specifically to begin the cleanup of Ogoniland that has been ravaged by oil exploitation and exploration.

It is this atmosphere of ethical fluidity that has made the cynics to believe that the Dapchi tragedy did not just happen. They have not ruled out the possibility that what is considered as an accidental tragedy could be a chorographed abduction through which the government wants to shore up its dwindling image. This was why the military withdrew from Dapchi so that the abductors could have an unhindered access to the school. It is probably because the police were excluded from this conspiracy that they have been squabbling with the military over which security agency was supposed to be in charge of Dapchi when the tragedy occurred.

Again, was Dapchi not inevitable? The Buhari government has been deploying troops in different parts of the country to fight those it considers as threats to its continued existence. The government sees these enemies in the south-south, south-east and south-west. Consequently, it has sent troops to kill agitators under the rubrics of Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile.The same government has also possibly made available security personnel to protect Fulani herdsmen from being punished for their lawlessness.

There was the case of the herdsmen who were arrested in Edo State. But soldiers killed the vigilante who were guarding the arrested herdsmen and set them free . The same government has flooded Benue with soldiers and other security agents . They are not there to arrest the herdsmen who have killed over 73 people and are bent on violating a law to protect all. They are there so that herdsmen can keep on raping and killing. And when the victims dare try to shake off their yoke of oppression by the herdsmen, then the soldiers and other security agents would swoop on those they consider as armed militias .It is no wonder then that after they have been thinly spread like this, there are no military personnel to fight Boko Haram and protect school pupils in the north.

The security apparatus of the nation is controlled by northerners. At their security meetings, it is not likely that they would be objective in such a way that they would consider the interests of other parts of the country like those of the north. This bias was demonstrated during the Benue crisis. The heads of the security agencies might have advised Buhari against the necessity of visiting Benue if only to commiserate with the bereaved citizens .If the Buhari government were altruistic in its leadership of the nation’s security apparatus why has it blithely refused to restructure it despite the unrelenting criticism of its obvious ethno-religious lopsidedness ? If the security apparatus as it is today were so effective, it should have demonstrated this through some measures as regards Boko Haram by now. It should have identified the source of its funding and stopped it. It should have been effective in providing security for the north-east that lives under the spectre of Boko Haram attacks . And why was it so easy for 110 girls to be abducted without being intercepted by security agents? How did they get trucks to abduct the girls? Granted that it was after the military was withdrawn that the Boko Haram kidnappers struck . But it is not unlikely that Boko Haram members did their surveillance under the nose of the military personnel before they were withdrawn. Why did they escape the attention of the military personnel ?

The grand conspiracy theory is that the government has deliberately kept the girls somewhere. It would rescue them and later use this victory as a campaign stunt ahead of the 2019 election. Whether this conspiracy theory and others are far-fetched or not, the government has itself to blame. It has so much to do to prove the cynics wrong.

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