The Chibok Girls Dangle a Future, and a Hope, By Mbasekei Martin Obono
Today makes it the 86th day that our innocent and harmless girls were kidnapped, girls who were in pursuit of their dreams and happiness. Girls who had the hopes and aspirations of probably furthering their education to tertiary level; in those girls, there could have been a Professor Dora Akunyili. In them, I see a promise of producing an Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a mother Theresa. In those girls, could be a mother to one of the greatest leaders mankind has ever seen in Nigeria. In those girls, could be a wife to an inventor. In those girls, could be a woman who will rise from the obscurity of Chibok to the international scene, proffering solutions to our global problems. In those girls, lies our hope as a nation and peoples of the world.
82 days ago, our collective hope and promise of a better future was kidnapped by terrorists, it took the world a few days to respond. However, it took our government several weeks to believe the girls were actually kidnapped. In their usual manner, they politicized the hope and promise of our future. Not understanding the consequences and grave implications this event would have on us. It is a sorry state.
Boko Haram has in the past bombed our temples, our institutions, our security agencies, international organizations, and critical infrastructure but the world looked the other way. This time around, they touched the apple of our eyes – our girls. The girl child is very powerful; that is why when she is educated, she becomes like a quiver in the bow. An educated girl passes on her education with passion. She will later teach her children and her children’s friends.
Growing up as a child, my mother would sit with me to do my homework. If she was making a dress by her sewing machine, she would make me recite the multiplication table before I go out to play with my mates. Up till now, she still teaches many things especially in the bible.
Our girls are too tender to be allowed to see terrorists not to talk of being under their captivity for 82 days. Somebody has to do something. We have a government whose primary responsibility is public order and public safety as enshrined in Chapter one part two of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The international community has stepped in; the world has embraced Nigeria in comfort and consolation. We have been reminded that we are not alone in the fight against Boko Haram terrorist group. Powerful nations of the world volunteered to support Nigeria by providing either their boots or brains. The world was united as a people to bring back our girls. As most of us monitored the trends, the concept of our common humanity became more meaningful. It could have been anyone’s daughter, sister or friend.
The world has shown us that we are not alone. What we need to show to the world is an assurance that we have internal unity, courage, and commitment to bring back our girls. The campaign to bring back our girls started nose diving when certain elements introduced religious coloration and politicization to it. More than ever before, these are times where we need to be united against terror but before we do that, the Federal government must show leadership instead of engaging in propaganda.
Some of us read the report that the Presidency hired a certain US-based Public Relations (PR) firm to manage the unimpressive image of handling the kidnapped girls. I read the publication on Premium Times and took it lightly; only for me to read the President’s article on the New York Times, trying out some public relations stunts.
As a certified practitioner in the field of Public Relations with close to a decade of experience, public relations practice is not the same thing as propaganda, it is not about image making. It doesn’t exist in the variable of nothingness. PR is about image management; you don’t create an image that does not exist. PR techniques are used to enhance an image and bring it to the knowledge of its target audience. However, in the case of this administration, they have not done much to bring back our girls. Instead the government has asked the citizens to direct their anger at Boko Haram by asking the terrorist to release our girls. Who does that? Instead of summoning the security agencies in the country with an ultimatum to produce the circumstance surrounding the kidnap of our girls on April 14th, 2014, or better still ask them to bring back our girls, the presidency decided to set up a committee.
Several weeks after the committee was set up, a 45 page report was submitted to the Presidency, only for it to be discredited by some people at the Presidency and security experts because it didn’t put the blame on the Borno State government. Chibok has been under attack twice since after our girls were kidnapped. We are told that there are over 20,000 soldiers in Borno state today. But how can such a large number of troops be in a state and terrorists would be having a field day there? What is the welfare condition of soldiers fighting to protect the people in the crisis torn states and what form of compensation is available for their families in case something goes wrong?
Despite the military interventions, how are we able to protect rights of people in the midst of the crisis? How do we prevent extrajudicial killings and killing of innocent people? How safe are the agents gathering information for the security agencies? What is the progress level we are achieving in this war against terrorism? What are the rules of engagement between the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa governments and the Federal government and is there any actionable plan with dates fashioned out between the two? If any, is the plan in sync? What is the level of Inter-agency cooperation among security agencies and government institutions? What are the state’s government’s roles and responsibilities in reducing the insurgency level in the states? How willing are the state governors to provide information to the security agencies and the federal government?
What measures are the Federal and Borno governments taking to address traumatic stress the parents and families of the kidnapped girls are going through? Since the government claims they know where the girls are, is there any form of comfort or compensation they are providing for them pending when the girls are rescued? Surely, these governments owe the families of these girls a duty of care and they must ensure that the duty is not breached.
The aforementioned are the questions; among others that the presidency should be addressing instead of getting directly involved in public relations stunts without adequate deliverables. Any public relations stunts will be interpreted as propaganda, because that is what it is. All we want are our girls back; we want our hope and our future handed back to us. We cannot continue to live with the trauma of having terrorists sexually assaulting our girls. One can only wonder how our securities’ Chiefs are able to sleep at night knowing our innocent girls are being dehumanized on a daily basis without sanitary care and medical attention.
We need our girls back so that they can live their dreams and help in nation building. The delay in bringing back our girls is beginning to make our government and people in authority look like ours is a world still dominated by male chauvinists who care less about the girl child, her education, welfare, and aspirations. Mr. President, the buck stops at your desk, so please bring back our girls and don’t ask us to tell Boko Haram to release our girls because we never handed them over them, you are the custodian of our girls and every Nigerian. So, Bring back our girls now and alive by any means necessary.
Mr. Mbasekei Martin Obono, a law student at the University of Birmingham, sent this article from the United Kingdom.