The Chibok Girls, By Dele Agekameh
The good news is that it is quite unusual for a major catastrophe in Africa to enjoy such a global limelight as the Chibok schoolgirls’ affair. It is quite commendable for Oby Ezekwesili and other activists who have stood in the rain and sun these past three years to demand for justice.
Perhaps, if not for the event that occured on the night of April 14, 2014, Chibok would have just remained in the back waters of Borno State where a majority of the inhabitants just tend to their pastorial duties to eke a living. But all that has changed. The story of Chibok community that neither produces oil which, by any standard, is an international article of trade that easily attracts world attention nor is even home to any of those sky-scrappers adorning the landscape of most sought-after European cities, has now become a topic of discussion all over the globe.
History can be made through the good, the bad and sometimes, the ugly. For Chibok, the community has snitched into global attention through the bad and ugly spectre of its recent past. That casual night of April 14, 2014, no fewer than 270 students gathered at the premises of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in preparation for one of their final exams that would see them graduate from the school. Then, all of a sudden, there was bedlam.
A group of misguided individuals, possibly indoctrinated into a deadly religious cult called Boko Haram or ‘Western education is bad,’ swooped on the students, and in one fell swoop abducted 270 school girls, loaded them into waiting trucks and drove out of the school compound. As the column of vehicles tore into the night, moving as fast as possible to avoid either any interception or detection, news of the abduction filtered into the village and threw the general community into turmoil. That started an ordeal both for the school girls, their helpless parents, the Nigerian government, the international community and many activists who rose to the occasion.
Today, three years on, with almost 117 girls already released by their captors, it appears tremendous progress has been made to secure the release of the unfortunate girls. Now, the girls are being rehabilitated to enable them live a normal life once more as normal human beings, after their ordeal in the hands of the terrorists during which time some of them became sex slaves and even bore children for the terrorists who they may never see again. In that case, they may have to live with certain stigmatisation from their community and people around them. For some of them, going back to live a normal life might be an uphill task as they may have been exposed to certain reckless and unproductive lifestyles revolving around sex and drug addiction.
This is the more reason their relatives and parents should be properly co-opted into their rehabilitation process, rather than the present situation whereby they are isolated and taken far away from home. There is nothing like getting acustomed to your natural habitat. Even if their handlers believe they have more to gain by living outside their immediate community, they should do it in such a way that they are allowed unfettered access to their families and relations, rather than keeping them like ‘prisoners of war’.
Right now, the army has no clear exit date as enormous human and material resources are being poured into the prosecution of the senseless war. For how long are we going to continue? Is the end in sight or it is going to be a campaign ad infinitum?
However, there appears to be some missing links in the story of these Chibok girls, of which only the government can provide honest answers to Nigerians who don’t really know what it cost to secure the release of the girls who have been set free so far. We learnt that an exchange of some Boko Haram top commanders were involved in securing the recent release of 82 of the girls.
Again, a British tabloid has reported that in addition to the freedom of the top commanders, a whooping sum of two million euros in cash was also included in the bargain. Although the Nigerian government has furiously denied this, but with the release coinciding with the second anniversary of the Buhari administration, the issue of desperation to showcase an achievement to Nigerians can not be totally ruled out. This is moreso as the release of the previous 21 girls captured was almost at the same time last year.
This is why some people believe the Boko Haram war is probably being orchestrated because as it is, it appears the entire thing is being muddled up. Right now, the army has no clear exit date as enormous human and material resources are being poured into the prosecution of the senseless war. For how long are we going to continue? Is the end in sight or it is going to be a campaign ad infinitum?
Nothing baffles me, or let me say many Nigerians, more than the screaming headline in one of the national dailies last Monday which read: “We’re teaching Chibok girls to speak good English.” In the story, the federal government said it had begun teaching the rescued schoolgirls how to speak proper English. Aisha Alhassan, the minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, who disclosed this in Abuja while recieving the recently rescued 82 girls, said the government has also employed 20 teachers to help the girls with remedial classes.
Recall that the schoolgirls were said to be writing one of their final papers, in either NECO or WAEC, when the abductors came calling. From the look of things, some people are saying the school could have been put to use as one of the miracle centres where pupils pay money to be assisted to write exams. A person just appears and writes the thing on the board while the pupils merely copy it down and pass on the paper at the end of the day. Otherwise, how come the schoolgirls, who had almost completed their secondary school education, cannot speak good English to the extent that three years down the line, they are now being taught how to speak good English?
The final and total rescue of the girls would underscore the importance that civilised society places on individuals, the ability of the state to protect its citizens, and the commitment the entire world has toward ensuring everyone is allowed to live in peace and pursue their dreams.
This is possibly lending credence to the widely held belief that the Boko Haram brouhaha is merely a smokescreen to persecute Christians. That is why many people don’t believe that what is going on is terrorism but systematic Islamisation. You cannot as a state sponsor terrorism and I believe what is involved in the negotiations is mouthwatering. That is probably why a brother to one of the rescued girls came out recently to say that the government is hiding something.
It was learnt that on the night they were abducted, the schoolgirls were driven to a place inside Maiduguri where they were camped for a few weeks before they were moved out to God-knows-where. Besides, whereas, the 21 girls earlier released were looking starved and forlon, the second batch of 82 girls were looking well fed. What are we doing to ourselves? What has changed between when the first batch of 21 girls were released and the second batch of 82 were released? How are their captors getting food and clothings for them?
The good news is that it is quite unusual for a major catastrophe in Africa to enjoy such a global limelight as the Chibok schoolgirls’ affair. It is quite commendable for Oby Ezekwesili and other activists who have stood in the rain and sun these past three years to demand for justice. Ultimately, the Chibok girls have become a symbol of the conflict in Nigeria and most of the under-developed world. The final and total rescue of the girls would underscore the importance that civilised society places on individuals, the ability of the state to protect its citizens, and the commitment the entire world has toward ensuring everyone is allowed to live in peace and pursue their dreams.
The Chibok girls have passed through what no other Nigerian may have passed through in recent time and still remain sane. The only thing we can do for them is to stand by them, provide for them the enabling enviroment to live their dreams and even surpass their earlier expectations. We must not fail them.
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