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Social media as Sambisa Forest


Amina Ali Nkeki was rescued with her baby by civilian vigilantes and troops on Tuesday

Amina Ali Nkeki was rescued with her baby by civilian vigilantes and troops on Tuesday

No one expected any victory parade following the rescue last week of Amina Ali Nkeki, one of the 260 abducted Chibok girls, from Boko Haram’s captivity. One person out of hundreds, and after more than two years in the insurgents’ custody, is naturally too little cause for cheer.

Yet, that feat must be appreciated beyond the number and should be within the context of a generally successful war on the Islamist malcontents of Boko Haram in North Eastern Nigeria since Muhammadu Buhari took power. The redefined purpose of the onslaught on the insurgents was to banish Boko Haram from our land, free our people from their captivity, regain our territories and secure them so there is never a haven in any part of Nigeria again for such insurgency.

Granted, it is not yet mission accomplished. But the Boko Haram terror infrastructure has been largely dismantled, territories once occupied have been recaptured, many hostages have been freed and the insurgents have been dealt heavy human casualty by the Nigerian security forces and the native vigilance groups.

Of course, this has not been without a huge price. While the cost in human and material losses to Nigeria is high, an undisputable banner of the insurgents’ success is the abduction and continued detention of those girls. The world has risen in unity against Boko Haram for this crime against humanity and Nigeria has committed a lot of resources to finding them. In fact, so much have the girls come to embody Nigeria’s fight against terror that no matter the level of decimation Boko Haram may have suffered in recent times, the ultimate trophy for the Nigerian state would be to find those girls and retrieve them from the terrorists’ claws in any form whatsoever. The pain of their abduction as well as mystery over their whereabouts is something all Nigerians feel intensely and personally, almost beyond description.

There is no way one can reflect on the plight of those young Chibok girls, imagine the state of the mind of each of the parents and not recoil in horror!

As a parent, you wake up daily to ponder the whereabouts of your daughter, you do not know if she is even still alive while you contemplate what some deranged blood-thirsty murderers could be doing or must have done to her over the past two years! This gut-wrenching feeling has been the lot of the Chibok parents, sending some of them into depression and even the grave.

When President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to bring the girls home was eventually followed by a candid admission some weeks ago that, even after his best efforts, he had no credible information on their whereabouts, a seemingly hopeless situation got compounded. But the nation balked at what could have been a grudging acceptance of permanent grief over the girls.

While Buhari’s pains and frustrations over the failure to find them were understood, Nigerians were unanimous in their insistence that giving up on the search should never be contemplated. Even the President’s words, which tended to suggest a resignation to fate, were roundly frowned at.

Then, last week, Amina was found! And two days later, another girl was reported to have been found. Even though a mild disclaimer followed that the second girl was not one of those abducted from the school, nothing ought to remove from the elation and the hope that others may be within reach.

Unfortunately, while any joy over the pleasant rescue of one or two of our daughters should, of necessity, be tempered by the reality that hundreds of others are still missing, such cynicism, even sneering, as has overwhelmingly enveloped the social media space over the find is shameful. It is, indeed, taking cynicism too far.

With an economy in tatters, living standards at the poorest and no respite from the pangs of rising cost of living, the reigning despair and disillusionment is understandable. With the sloppy manner in which the war against Boko Haram was initially prosecuted, the corruption that thrived on it and the near-humiliation of the Nigerian state by the insurgents, Nigerians may have one or two reasons to have a substantially reduced faith in their country.

However, finding any of the Chibok girls is a certain testament to the resolve of the Nigerian people not to be cowed by terror. And nothing about that calls for derision. It should send the right signal to all around the world that the current regime’s purpose is clear as far as the war on terror is concerned and that the men and women in uniform are not laying down their lives for nothing. While there may be many challenges before Nigeria, Nigerian lives still matter and the war against Boko Haram is a moral cause in which all Nigerians are united.

We may all be scraping for survival economically, but a buoyant economy alone cannot give citizens a sense of purpose or fulfillment. Peace and safety are vital too. And this is being achieved to a commendable extent.

More importantly, I believe we should never put up an attitude suggestive of ingratitude to our defence forces or mock the sacrifice of those bearing arms on our behalf, laying down their lives to keep us safe.

Be they members of the armed forces or the native vigilance groups who rescued Amina on the edges of Sambisa forest, the last stronghold of Boko Haram fighters, each victory they score should be acknowledged.

Apart from the hope such victories can raise for greater successes, they drive the point home to all of us that Nigeria counts for something, stands for ideals so precious that her sons and daughters are prepared to die fighting for them. When the seed of hope is not watered by appreciation of positive, even if minute, incremental realities, it tends to repeal itself or build into its very fabric greater despair than actually is. But Nigeria is not a hopeless case and the most important work for all Nigerians to do is not to make it one.

It is against this background that the rescue of Amina from Sambisa Forest should be appreciated. She has not only given us every reason to hope, she has even given useful information on the fate and whereabouts of the others.

And this is the point the commentators on social media are missing in their cruel suggestions of a ruse and all sorts of innuendoes about political machinations behind her rescue, with a baby in her arms.

In the best of climes, the social media, with all its titillating attributes of instant information, entertainment and commentaries, is often times not an introspective, engaging platform of ideas. In Nigeria, the situation is worse. The social media landscape here is not too different from Sambisa Forest, a jungle in which all sorts of nincompoops roam freely with so much scum swilling in their skulls. Decency of conduct is alien, the language is cruel, uncouth, cynical and spiteful, in the worst of English, and humanity is given little or no consideration.

That is the breeding ground for the insinuations and cruel innuendoes about the girls who were found near the insurgents’ stronghold last week. The suggestion that locating Amina and Serah was stage-managed for a positive outcome for the Buhari regime is an insult to the president, the height of insensitivity to the anguished parents of the Chibok girls and a mockery of the collective agony of Nigerians, not to talk of sympathizers across the globe!

Our hearts are still aching over the girls’ abduction. The tears are still running. The wound remains raw. Rubbing salt on it, as many social media commentators have done in the last few days, is adding insult to injury. This is simply unacceptable! The plight of those girls in captivity is not something to mock or play cruel games with. No way!

Finding one of them may not do much to lighten the pain in our hearts or reduce the burden on our conscience, but it should renew our hope that though it may take some time, the others can be found.

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