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Dapchi: Not time to gloat


Alabi Williams

The dramatic return of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls who were forcefully ferried by elements of Boko Haram terrorists, to some unknown hideout, was cheery news last Wednesday.

For the parents, they couldn’t have asked for anything better, after one month of anguish.

No parent would have their two eyes securely closed for a moment, knowing that their loved children are in the hands of some terrorists, whose mode of operation is brutish.


That, perhaps, explains the jubilation and excitement that greeted the terrorists as their convoy of 11 trucks reportedly arrived town.

Reports say the natives had prior knowledge of what was to transpire, and parents of abducted girls waited eagerly to behold their children.

Some folks had abandoned the town, knowing full well that Boko Haram could not be trusted, especially when security personnel in town had been told not to be confrontational.

But those who stayed back had a good time of it. The terrorists, they said, were ‘friendly,’ only warning them not to return their children to school. Western education to them is forbidden.

One excited man narrated: “We waited until about 8.00a.m when we saw the Boko Haram bring our daughters back to town. It was a very happy moment for us. We played with the Boko Haram boys. I shook hands with them and even snapped pictures with them and they left.

One thing they told us was that we should not send our children back to Western education. They told us that what they did was not terrorism, but just to teach us a lesson. That if we dared send the children back to school again, they would abduct them and not send them back to us.” Brainwash!

Sadly, five of the girls were said to have died during the stampede on the day they were captured. They were given mass burial, reports announced. The accounts are not very reliable, because there are usually no official confirmations.

Newsmen who reported early to town to catch a glimpse of the mood were barred at the town gates. Apparently, government did not want critical and independent accounts of the return of the Dapchi girls, and that left the media to rely on scanty narratives of mainly excited witnesses.

Again, that has led to the motley of unverifiable and embarrassing accounts in the social media.

Not minding the poor handling of their return, reuniting with families after 30 harrowing days in the den of Boko Haram, and not having opportunity to wash their bodies in those long and humid days, the excitement in Dapchi was not misplaced.

For those five innocent girls who were not accounted for, their parents need all the consolation government and society could afford. The remaining girl, Leah Sharibu, who was reportedly returned by Boko Haram to their hideout for refusing to denounce Christianity, remains a moral burden for this government to discharge.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic, which President Buhari swore to defend, permits Miss Sharibu to practice the religion of her choice. So, as long as she is not returned, so long will there be nothing to boast about in Dapchi.

Dapchi, again reminds us of long-drawn issues of internal security, which are compromised by ethnic politics and religious bigotry.

The onslaught visited on Nigeria from the Northeast began as a collaborative effort between politicians and clerics to use religion for political advantage.

As the story went, former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff enjoyed some romance with some Islamist who ran a sect in some Borno suburb at that time.

Everything seemed fine, as the relationship was mutually beneficial. At some point, leaders of the sect were offered portfolio in Modu’s administration, until matters went out of hand.

An account has it that what was promised the sect during campaigns turned out not an easy thing to offer. The sect felt betrayed and commenced their attack of public assets, beginning with the Police.

It was at that time President Umar Yar’Adua deployed the military to snuff out the irritants, leading to killing of Mohammed Yusuf. His followers went berserk and have refused to be consoled.

What began as a municipal misunderstanding between the sect and some politicians in Borno State became a burden for successive governments at the centre to manage, willy-nilly.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to first deal with variants of this trouble in the Plateau, where tussle for land has taken on the garb of religious and political restiveness.

Yar’Adua did not suffer encumbrances of religion and ethnicity, which enabled him to face the sect determinedly. He ordered a crackdown, which dispersed the sect into Sambisa and other remote places.

Former President Jonathan was lethargic, having being weighed by sentiments of religion and political survival.

The military men he put in charge of Boko Haram were more ensnared in its filthy lucre, than in the urgency to liquidate a menacing malignancy.

In addition, Jonathan was hobbled by same political intrigues that allowed the sect to gain foothold. It was difficult to decipher the level of sincerity and commitment of those in government in Abuja and in the three frontline states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

Intelligence reports were compromised, such that the terrorists took advantage of government’s communication system to infiltrate and interfere, with severe consequences for government.

The poor management of Boko Haram in the Jonathan days provided political weapon for the fledgling opposition to offer a different approach to dealing with the problem. The offer to send Boko Haram packing within a few months greatly evoked voters’ interest in the Muhammadu Buhari candidacy.

The Jonathan government did not receive any form of moral assistance from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the battle for the Northeast.

Instead, opposition state governors made roadshows and publicity stunts of their solidarity for embattled Governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima.

Shettima himself poked fun at the ragtag manner the Federal Government handled a thoroughly compromised war. He was the most hit and he knew where the shoe pinched.

At the end of the day, the insurgency and its management was used as assessment for the Jonathan Presidency, in addition to other criteria. He failed! As the Buhari government came, people thought the end of Boko Haram had come.

He quickly relocated the Army Command Centre to the war theatre, more as a psychological booster.

That yielded a quick push into Sambisa and the insurgents dispersed into northern Cameroon and into other neighbouring countries. That necessitated the pact with those countries to facilitate a rounding up of the terrorists.

This is the third year of the Buhari government and Boko Haram is still a menace both in casualty figures and damage to peace in the Northeast. And what is more, the audacity of the insurgents has not suffered the required degradation to qualify claims by the government.

The Dapchi case is bizarre and difficult to put down. Four years after the Chibok incident, it was a rude shock that the insurgents could walk away unchallenged with over 100 girls and this government was unable to sound coherent on what happened.

First there was denial, that abduction took place, yet it was agreed that some schoolgirls were missing. It could not be ascertained whether they were abducted, according to Police, but they were missing all the same. Maybe they went on excursion with Boko Haram mountaineers. Propaganda malfunction!

Then Governor Geidam of Yobe erroneously announced that the girls had been safely returned. Then began accusations and blame trade, between government and security personnel. And then for 30 days the girls were gone.

There is nothing to rejoice over, whether you are in the opposition; and nothing to gloat over whether you are in government. Truth is, Nigeria has never been this insecure and that should worry everybody.

It should worry more the religious zealots who engineered Boko Haram and their politician friends who have created the huge socio-economic disequilibrium in the Northeast. Members of the traditional institutions who luxuriate in obscene opulence at the expense of the poor also share the blame.

And I insist it’s not time to gloat because we haven’t seen end of the tunnel!

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