It is nine months since the Chibok Girls were abducted and the question is: Will some Chibok couples be grandparents without knowing it?
It is a harsh, even cruel question to confront a grieving and traumatised parent with, but we are past such considerations. After nine torturous months our eyes should be wide open, no looking to the Aso hills from whence no change has come.
BBOG (Bring Back Our Girls) issued a statement on December saying it is now apparent that Jonathan is not looking for the Girls.
This is probably for the record, for the day of reckoning when the story will have to be told and each person will have to state where they stood, because, what happened to 279 teenagers nine months ago will be a watershed in Nigerian history if for nothing else but the way the country responded to it. There may yet be more events that will eclipse it in violence and tragedy because that seems to be the path on which we are met, but as a dateline in Nigeria’s history, this event is set in stone.
Two hundred and seventy nine young schoolgirls, ready to make their mark in a community where the struggle to educate women is still a current reality, and the only ones rescued are those who took it on themselves to escape? This is an indictment on any entity that calls itself a nation.
BBOG is still meeting and peacefully protesting nine months later? Not a story you see often in Nigeria.
Like the advent of Boko Haram, the Chibok abductions are an indication of a level of dysfunction and disintegration in our nation state. It is no longer merely a lack of ability to organise ourselves to provide the basic amenities of power and water but seems to have reached a level of an inability to conceptualise ourselves as people capable of thinking through their own problems and embarking on a solution.
Time was when we focused on the basic issues such as, better infrastructure: roads, schools, hospitals, electric power, those elements that signify that the stability of the building blocks of the state is assured and the goals to be pursued are quality of life …
Today the core matter is not just the sanctity of the state, but its sanity. In the face of problems that include security and the economy Goodluck Jonathan’s inability to get a handle on any single issue is frightening and forebodes ill for the future.
This is why what Buhari has going for him is, anything but Jonathan and the PDP again. This party has been in power for 15 years and where are we? Boko Haram continues to seize territory and protection from crime really only belongs to those who can pay for it.
Seven years ago with Jonathan, among the reasons leading to his election victory was, let’s give the Delta its chance.
Today is should be clear there is actually no percentage in this business of zoning leadership, or giving every ethnicity its turn to ‘chop’.
What are the clearly articulated issues of the general election that is presently slated to take place in three months? Certainly not the two that have been mentioned here, security and the economy. The issues that party supporters are arguing about rest again on personality and character. The contention is that since corruption is at the root of Nigeria’s problems the APC presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari will be able to fight corruption because he is clean and either incorruptible, or uncorrupted. Well, that is just another prayer, based on the evidence of things, not seen.
Buhari has been head of state before. He seized power on New Year’s Eve, 1984 from a profligate civilian government, declaring that his mandate was to set the ship of state on a straight course. He did not succeed and it is my opinion that he did not understand how to do so. Hundreds of officials of the ancien regime were summarily detained, and subsequently, summarily released, verdict: course abandoned and about, turn. There were decrees aplenty some 22 in all, establishing military tribunals with no right of appeal that circumvented due process and Decree No 4, making it an offence under the law to criticize any member of government. The mass transit system contract for Lagos was cancelled at some cost in penalties paid for doing so. Retroactive legislation sent young men convicted of drug smuggling to their deaths before a firing squad. These acts are included in Buhari’s legacy along with declarations that made it quite clear this self proclaimed cleaner upper could not cut it, even with all the powers he arrogated to himself.
It is true that 30 years is a long time in which to look back and reform ones ideas and learn how to do better the things we attempted in our youth.
Is this the case with Buhari? Will he, should he win the election, understand that between him and Jonathan it is not a matter of choice, but a case of how for do, and that the imperative to govern better is based on very, very high stakes right now.
It is my contention that Nigeria does not need a saint as its leader, or a figurehead of incorruptibility flanked by others who do not even bother to make the same claim, were it even possible to find such. What we need is an effective person who can run an administration and has an understanding of the value of institutions, the efficacy of process, the definition of governance, the value of systems and a knowledge and interest in what is going on in the rest of the world. A leader who can distinguish between the present and the future, and plans with this in mind, would be so great to have.
Taking responsibility is the beginning of the road. The last word from Jonathan’s administration on the matter of the Chibok Girls and Boko Haram was: we are not at fault.
Question: Will Buhari be able to deal with Boko Haram more effectively because he is a retired military man? Because the Boko Haram he will have to contend with, should he win, is not the Boko Haram Umaru Yar ‘Adua faced eight years ago. There will be work to do here to set change in motion. There will be issues to be tackled, institutions to be rebuilt. Boko Haram will not be decreed out of existence.
If we needed anybody to tell us, what we have now is not the army that fought, ‘to keep Nigeria one’. Jonathan’s administration may differ with countries like the US on its analysis of the travails that plague our soldiers, but the bottom line verdict is the same. Define your army and you define the state of your state: no corps, no spirit.
The rifts that the rebranded Boko Haram has exacerbated, the new divisions it has created, the dysfunction that characterizes the exercise of power between the different arms of government and the rampant corruption that has led to dizzying heights of amorality in the behavior of people in power, have to be dealt with systematically. They will not be washed away by piety or mere campaign slogans or in a single election cycle.
So, into what setting will the baby of a Chibok girl be delivered, what world will it open its eyes to? Not in a clean comfortable hospitable bed with the welcoming smiles of happy grandparents, and overjoyed in-laws, dancing and ululating and getting ready to celebrate; Mummy and Daddy beaming because their New Year has brought the answers to their prayers.
Morning shows the day, we say.
What new generation or new iteration of Boko Haram will be spawned here with the children of abducted girls reared within the camps of terrorism? What will they have to aspire to? What kind of ‘citizens’ might they become?
Nine months and counting…
Amma Ogan, veteran newspaper woman and manager, writes from South Africa.