Chibok Survivors and Multiple Narratives of Victimhood, By Jibrin Ibrahim
My heart bleeds for Chibok. Today is 84 days since terrorists kidnapped over two hundred girls, students studying for their examinations and there is no information of any serious effort to rescue and return them to their parents.
We can only imagine the trauma of their parents, and indeed all humanists, who have seen some of their daughters displayed on television with the threat that they would be sold into formal slavery in this 21st century of human rights. We can only imagine the pain of the parents and all humanists when it appears the alternative to slavery for the girls would be forced marriage and sex slavery. So far, seven of the parents of the girls have died from the strains induced by the trauma.
On Friday, the Chibok indigenes of Borno State under the auspices of Kibaku Area Development Association cried out to the Federal Government, the United Nations and the world about their pain in a press conference addressed by their Chairman Dr. Pogu Bitrus. He pointed out that so far, Boko Haram had carried out 15 attacks on the Chibok Nation involving 19 villages with over 229 people killed and over 100 injured. “Some of the victims of these attacks are parents and relations of the abducted girls, thereby adding more pains to the traumatic condition already inherent in the Chibok (Kibaku) Community.”
Bitrus said the inability of the federal government to provide adequate security in the area had further exposed Chibok town and its environs to greater danger and insecurity. The proof, he pointed out, is that more threats of terrorist action are imminent. As he put it, “As a matter of urgency, we wish to alert the general public and the international community that after the attack on four villages of Kautikari, Nguradina, Kwada/Kaumutayahi and Kakulmari on Sunday 29th June, 2014, which recorded 105 deaths, the residents of Kautikari and Kaya town have received what the Boko Haram sect termed final notice to attack Kautikari again by advising residents to vacate the village or face total annihilation on their next attack which has been promptly reported to the security agencies”. He further disclosed that Kaya town in Damboa Local Government Area attacked on July 3, 2014 received a stern warning from the Boko Haram insurgents after the attack to vacate their town; given that they constitute an obstacle on their way to invading Chibok (Kibaku) Nation. The Chibok Nation also expressed dismay over “the inability of the federal government to provide adequate security for the people.”
It will be recalled that on May 26th, the Chief of Defence Staff had informed the public that the military had located the hideout of the abducted Chibok girls and promised their release would soon be secured. Unfortunately, time continues to pass and yet we see no results on the rescue effort.
Yes indeed, time is passing and the agronomy of the parents and relations continue to grow. So far, seven of the parents of the girls have died of their chagrin. Is the Nigerian State and Government saying they will continue to watch as the Kibaku Nation is annihilated?
Already, looming famine is arriving in the zone as farming has been abandoned due to incessant attacks by the terrorists. In some parts of the zone, entire communities have had to abandon their ancestral land. Where is the State? According to Dr. Bitrus, in 90% of the attacks, the terrorists give advance notice of their intention to attack a community. These advance warnings are routinely passed on to the security agencies and yet no proactive measures are taken to protect these victims of terrorism. This absence of the State and its security agencies is the most painful part of the creation of these layers of victimhood.
The Chief of Defence Staff has told us that they have located the Chibok girls but we have also heard a Pentagon spokesperson, Rear Admiral John Kirby, who spoke on the US support to our government: “We don’t have any better idea today than we did before about where these girls are, but there’s been no let up of the effort itself.” As the Americans have said consistently however, it’s not their job to secure the release of the girls; it’s the responsibility of our Government. This has always been our position in the #BringBackOurGirls movement that the responsibility for this rescue rests with our government and our security agencies. Unfortunately, for the past six weeks, no substantive communication on the issue has come from the Federal Government or the Presidency. There are daily briefings from the Information Centre but all they say is that they are working on it. That’s not good enough, the parents of the girls and indeed the whole world is waiting for results.
Since the 30th of April march to the National Assembly, the #BringBackOurGirls movement has steadfastly sustained a daily sit-out at the Unity Fountain, (small advert), you are all invited to join us today at 3pm for our 68th daily sitting so you can be part of the agency in keeping this grave issue of the abduction of the Chibok girls as a priority focus of the Federal Government. My message to the government continues to be enough is enough, rescue the girls, stamp out terrorism and allow Nigeria return to normalcy. What we have seen however is the escalation of persistent attacks on Nigerians with more mass killings, more abductions and mass destruction of property in Chibok, surrounding villages, and the rest of the country.
Nigerians need to engage government on a serious discussion for an accurate assessment of the effectiveness of the ongoing war against terror. Why are attacks increasing and why is there no progress on the rescore operations for the girls? It is also important to improve the quality and content of communications received from Government. I believe that without compromising sensitive operational information, it’s possible to be more concrete about what is going on.
Nigerians are also keen to understand the degree to which the new counter insurgency strategy is being implemented and its adequacy and effectiveness. We have been informed that 20,000 troops have been deployed in the North East and it will be good to learn what they are doing and what has been the responses to reported claims about insufficient welfare and military assets. Where are we in terms of the conversation about the financing of our security operations and accountability in terms of spending the resources in the most cost effective ways?
As our movement said in its press conference last week, the time has come to convene a government-citizens’ national forum on national security as a pathway to rebuilding trust. This should help mobilize and unite the Nigerian people, especially communities and families affected by terrorism, against our common enemy: the insurgents currently terrorising and destabilizing our nation.
Dr. Jibrin, a senior fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, and Chairman of Premium Times editorial board, writes from Abuja.