Chibok girls: Four years of trauma
It is still traumatic to note that four years after the wicked abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls by the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, 112 of the Chibok girls are still languishing in captivity, despite all assurances by the Nigerian government that they would be rescued and reunited with their families.
When the fourth anniversary of the criminal abduction was marked the other day with hopes of getting the remaining girls out alive fast fading, the collective humanity of all Nigerians was again challenged. All glimmer of hope disappeared, especially with the revelation, (in the week before the anniversary) by Ahmed Salkida, a journalist who has covered the insurgent group for a long time, that only 15 of the 112 girls were alive and that even the lucky ones were no longer in the control of the Boko Haram leader but had been married off to Boko Haram fighters.
Although the federal government has flatly denied Salkida’s account, the inability to bring back the girls even after the government claimed to have successfully negotiated the release of the kidnapped Dapchi girls does not inspire confidence in the denial of Sarkida’s revelation.
President Muhammadu Buhari had promised even at his inauguration in May 2015 that no efforts would be spared “to see that they and all other Nigerians who have been abducted safely regain their freedom.” That promise and the glimmer of hope it ignited now seem like another mirage.
This development has left not a few to wonder whether enough has been done and if these were the daughters of high-ranking politicians and government officials, they would have remained in captivity for four years. But unfortunately, these are daughters of poor Nigerian men and women, who struggle daily to make a living and to provide a better life for their children, amidst the hardships and economic challenges worsened by the impunity with which the leaders have run this nation for years.
What is more frightening is that the Defence Minister, Brig. Gen Munir Dan-Ali didn’t help matters the other day when his words also did not give comfort in the circumstances. The minister had noted that it would take years to rescue the remaining of the Chibok girls. According to him, “It was an eight to 10 year struggle by the U.S. intelligence and special operatives to get Osama bin Laden.”
This verbal recklessness can only worsen the anguish of the parents of the missing girls and Nigerians in general who have been appalled by the manner in which this issue has been handled since 2014.Certainly, there has been very little evidence that the past or present government has gone beyond drama and rhetorics to find the hapless girls. The nation deserves more intensity in the purpose of its leaders.
In May 2014, shortly after the tragic abduction, the influential Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Army of not acting on advance warning that the kidnapping would happen. The then information minister, Labaran Maku dismissed the statement as outrageous and promised it was going ‘to be investigated.’ The nation was never briefed about the outcome of the promised inquiry into the allegation of the Amnesty International.
It is comforting to see that four years down the line, the hope of parents and the outcry from campaigners who sought the immediate release of the girls have not dimmed. Meanwhile, there has been this perception within the populace that the government has shown over the period that the lives of its citizens can be toyed with. The Chibok girls are not the only victims of the insurgency and the number of children and women who may have been forcefully taken and never been accounted for in the area can only be imagined.
If government continues to show complacency after rescuing most of the Dapchi girls, abducted this year, people will be left with the impression that this nation has failed her citizens in more ways than one.
First, as it has been noted several times that this is an abduction that should never have happened at all had the government carried out its responsibility of providing the schoolgirls with the security that they rightly deserved.
Unfortunately, this is not a nation that places premium on human lives. However, since negotiation has emerged as the surest way of freeing the girls; it is an option that should be vigorously pursued. If mighty military powers like the United States and Israel could embrace this option to free their citizens in captivity, there is no reason Nigeria should not stick with it to free the girls.
Even the release of over 100 Dapchi girls rings hollow without the brave and courageous little Leah Sharibu returning home to her parents. That mass abduction of girls is still taking place in the zone despite full military presence is an indictment of the government, which claims to have “technically” defeated Boko Haram.
Although the government recently approved the withdrawal of $1 billion to fight the insurgency, it is clear that the war at this stage should be more about the deployment of intelligence. By now, the Nigerian military and their allies should know where Boko Haram is holed up, from where it launches its kidnap bids and the numerous suicide bombings.
While Boko Haram may have been chased away from most of the Nigerian territory it once occupied, a lot still remains to be done. There is nothing wrong in seeking more international collaboration on this, since the war on terror transcends boundaries. The benefits of collaboration are already obvious following the facilitation of the release of some girls held by the terrorists.
This is the time to court the friendship of countries such as the US, Britain, France, Japan and Israel as well as Nigeria’s neighbours. To rescue the girls and end this interminable war, there should be some seriousness in purpose and change of strategy. In the main, the Chibok-girls-in-captivity has become an open, disgraceful sore for the country.