Chibok Girls: The Deafening Silence, By Dele Agekameh
I think the government should stop these grandstanding and self-glorification and speak out on where the Chibok girls really are. Otherwise, the Boko Haram war has not been won.
“On Saturday, May 10, 2014, Wole Soyinka, professor and Nobel Laureate, appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s programme, Hardtalk and added his voice to the growing international discourse on Nigeria, especially the issue of the disappearance, on April 15, 2014, of more than 250 schoolgirls from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. Among other things, Soyinka said: “The Nigerian nation-space is poised on a knife’s point; it is failing, but not beyond redemption. The rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and the outcome of the National Conference would help define the country’s future.” Today, more than one month after, the opinion canvassed by the Nobel laureate remains fresh in our national psyche as the issue of the abducted Chibok girls remains unresolved.
The country has been thrown into one huge, dramatic macabre dance since that midnight hostage-taking by the Boko Haram terrorists. The incident has drawn both the anger and dagger of civilised humanity all over the world who have continued, in unmistaken terms, to condemn it as sordid and barbaric. Regrettably, two months down the line, what we have been witnessing are empty talks and promises of a phantom rescue operation to free the girls from their captors who are in no way ready to relax their stranglehold on them. With various pressure groups mushrooming daily all over the place, the whole thing has now ascended a crescendo of pulsating emotional gyration, ventilation of anger and global condemnation. Perhaps, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the entire global community is united in solidarity with the country.
Many foreign countries have offered and are still offering assistance in several ways to help the country in its bid to rescue the abducted girls as well as defeat the terrorists who are now holding on to the country’s jugular. Everybody seems to be eager to get the girls out of the gulag. Unfortunately, days have turned into weeks and months, and nothing tangible or cheering has been on the horizon about the girls’ return to reunite with their loved ones. For the parents and relatives of the unfortunate girls, hope has turned into despair, and a big nightmare with no end in sight.
While all these are going on, the military, saddled with engineering the release of the girls, appears to be stuck. On May 26, 2014, Alex Badeh, an Air Marshal and Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, told a curious nation that the army have located the abducted girls. He said this while addressing members of the Citizens Initiative for Security Awareness (CISA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), who were on a solidarity campaign to the Defence Headquarters. He assured them that everything was being done to ensure the girls’ safe rescue but he quickly chipped in that the military would not use force in the rescue operation. His words: “We want our girls back, I can tell you our military can do it, but where they are held, do we go with force? Nobody should say Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We can’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back. So we are working. The President has empowered us to do the work and no one should castigate the military”.
Good talk. Except that many weeks after this promise, there is hardly anything to show that those girls are getting nearer to their freedom. In the first instance, many people opine that what Badeh said was very unprofessional in that it was tantamount to playing into the hands of the enemy. Or else how does one view such a statement which is like giving away what should have been a closely guarded secret, while the army strategises to free the girls? Why announce to the whole world that the army was aware of the location of the girls? The terrorists’ response will be to simply relocate the girls further into the wilderness to avoid any surprise from the army. This is why people believe the statement was either totally uncalled for or grossly lacking in military diplomacy.
Now, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has come up with yet another suggestion that he could reach out to Boko Haram on the fate of the school girls, but regretted that the Federal Government has not given him the green light to act. In an interview on the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation last week, Obasanjo said: “I have ways of reaching them (Boko Haram) but I have not been given the go ahead”. The former President expressed fear that some of the schoolgirls may never return home but added that the terrorists might free those found to be pregnant or have given birth. He also expressed worry that the girls might have been separated and kept in different locations.
Earlier last week, some newspapers reported that the parents of the abducted girls had become disillusioned about government’s efforts to free the girls. In fact, some of the parents are said to have died heartbroken, while others have relapsed into all forms of depression as a result of the continuous absence of their loved ones. As they say, he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. But for how long would these parents remain traumatised?”
The above is an extract from an article titled: “The ‘forgotten’ girls of Chibok”, which was first published in this column on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Since then, nothing reassuring has been heard on the fate of the unfortunate girls. I remember when the article was first published a few months after the abduction. I received several SMS alluding to the fact that it was too early for anyone to say that the Chibok girls had been forgotten. But those who know this country called Nigeria well should know better. Nigeria is such a beautiful country, well endowed with human and material resources. But our greatest problem is leadership. The other is that all the good things that God has provided for this country are either mismanaged or stolen. That is the tragedy this country is confronted with.
Now, with the Chibok girls still at large, we are being told that the war against Boko Haram has ‘largely’ been won. I think that is on paper. The fact that there is an escalation of Boko Haram attacks in some next door countries, must be a cause for concern. Three days ago, the terrorists resurfaced again in Maiduguri. So, it is not yet Uhuru after all. Besides, the Chibok girls are still marooned in the forests in the North-East or some other places within and outside the country. It is rather dispiriting how they seem to have been forgotten. Nobody seems to be talking about them any longer.
Last Friday was Christmas. Surprisingly, in all the goodwill messages from the leaders of this country, none mentioned anything about the Chibok girls. Yet, they all canvassed for peace. Peace? So that they can steal the nation blind as they have been doing? How can there be peace when those who are the tormentors-in-chief of the common man are the leaders themselves. Is there any common man involved in the scandal known as Dasukigate? Is there any common man involved in the oil subsidy fraud? Is there any common man involved in the pension scam? I can go on and on.
In less than 48 hours from now, we will all be chorusing Happy New Year. Can this be meaningful to the Chibok girls and their families? What is New Year to the families when they are still in the dark over the fate of their loved ones who are yet to be accounted for? I think the government should stop these grandstanding and self-glorification and speak out on where the Chibok girls really are. Otherwise, the Boko Haram war has not been won!