Buhari and His Dapchi Girls, By Festus Adedayo
Only God knows how President Muhammadu Buhari and his minders feel at the moment. The abduction and rescue of the 110 school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State has provoked ceaseless public scrutiny, jeers and scoffing skepticism. Dapchi has indeed put a smelly apron on the Buhari government. It is apparent that the government hasn’t acquitted itself properly in this matter.
Senator Marco Rubio stood ramrod in the midst of the rancorous audience. He looked at the audience’s insolent countenance like a subpoenaed witness in a murder case. He indeed had been summoned to the CNN-organised Town Hall meeting on the United States’ Parkland shooting on February 14. A grieving father of one of the students who was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting angrily confronted Marco over his insistent opposition to gun control. Another diffident student called the National Rifle Association (NRA) contributions to Rubio’s election campaign fund “blood money.” Then, one of the student survivors, 17-year old Cameron Kasky, was handed the microphone. With a grief-encrusted voice and the audacity of a fief-holder, he asked Cameron, a one time contender for the office of the most powerful president in the world, pointedly: “Will you collect donation from the NRA for the next election… for the sake of the 17 students killed; will you?” Rubio, even though not embarrassed or annoyed, merely waffled out an answer. He was consistently heckled and jeered. In an interview with Christianne Amanpour last week, on the activities of the students, Kasky said that he had no single compunction asking Rubio that damming question. “They are our representatives; we put them there,” he had said matter-of-factly.
In Nigeria, public office holders feel embarrassed and even scandalised by public scrutiny of their stewardships. It may not be unconnected with a phenomenon called the Kabiyesi mentality. In traditional Africa, the king could do no wrong; he was next to the gods. To Nigerian public officials, from the zenith of power and majesty where they stand, condoning enquiries into their acts from ordinary folks looks demeaning. Worse still, the character demanding account of stewardship may be one little scrawny rat who can barely afford one meal a day. The 17-year old Kasky put the issue properly in perspective: If you can’t swim, don’t dive into the river. This is why openness and accountability must be the apron that public office holders wear in their dealing with issues affecting the public.
Only God knows how President Muhammadu Buhari and his minders feel at the moment. The abduction and rescue of the 110 school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State has provoked ceaseless public scrutiny, jeers and scoffing skepticism. Dapchi has indeed put a smelly apron on the Buhari government. It is apparent that the government hasn’t acquitted itself properly in this matter. Unless Buhari truly desires to govern zombies and marionettes, the questions being asked by Nigerians on the abduction saga seem germane and fitting. The questions seem to confirm that a mess is dressed by the government in the cloak of a Salvation Army.
The abduction and the rescue leave so many unanswered questions in their trail. Just like the earlier abduction of about 200 girls from Chibok, this even has more yawning holes. Being the representatives of the people to whom the power to govern them is ceded, the state and its runners owe the people adequate protection. Once there is a doubt about whether this role is fulfilled, is fulfilled haphazardly or is fulfilled in its breach, it is incumbent on the people to ask questions. Which is what Nigerians are doing at the moment.
Governments, especially in Third World countries, have often hidden under the umbrella of national security to fool their people. Originally, national security is the security of a nation state, which includes the security of its citizens, economy and institutions. It is one of the fundamentals of government business. Originally, it was conceived to mean protection against military attack. Now, however, national security has widened to include non-military dimensions, chief among which are economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber security, etc. Thus, national security risks have gone beyond governments. The new perspective is a fitting reply to African military despots whose reading of it was security of the head of state. In the Dapchi abduction and rescue, national security is being fingered as culprit of the government’s hiding of some strategic facts from the people.
The reason why government cannot be allowed to, in the name of national security, leave Nigerians in the dark about activities like this is that, experience has taught the people that Nigerian governments are run by extremely heartless people who see Mammon and self in every governmental transaction.
Back and forth accusations are being made on how demonic characters called Boko Haram insurgents drove past several national borders and state-manned sentries to enter Dapchi. While the Yobe commissioner of police said the military that was hitherto guarding Dapchi curiously withdrew its sentries a few weeks before the attack, the Yobe governor harangued the military consistently in the wake of the abduction for abandoning its responsibilities. Is Dapchi bereft of any iota of security? Are its residents some Stone Age people who could not alert the security people that a number of suspicious buses were driving past in a convoy? And when the insurgents struck and were ferreting the girls into captivity, didn’t anybody see them? Was there no one to raise alarm? In the school, was there no one who owned a cell phone who could alert security officials? As we speak, there is no clue of someone who has been brought to book over this visible shirking of responsibility. As the Yoruba say in a very instructive proverb, even though the wasp and the bee disown culpability of assault on the farmer, his swollen face is indicative that some felon had stung him in the face. In a Buhari-led government, under which this heinous kidnap took place, everyone is going about their businesses unscathed.
The rescue story, as told by government, is even more mysterious. In the aftermath of its negotiation, the abductors, with their schoolgirl trophies, just drove in a convoy of buses into Dapchi like some matador. From the account reportedly given by the girls, they were, enroute Dapchi, flown from God-knows-where and equally ferried by boats. Which raise questions. Does Boko Haram now have its own airline? If it doesn’t, what is the name of the airline? Are the girls, secondary school students, as illiterate as not to be able to provide the name written on the jet? From where were the girls transported; Nigeria? If not Nigeria, since it was an international flight, from whom did the pilot seek clearance to leave the country of flight to Nigeria, the country of destination?
Oh, I forgot: national security would not allow the Buhari government to answer the questions above nor announce the amount involved in the rescue effort. Rather than say this, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed hit Nigerians with another bombast – no ransom was paid. This sounds very ludicrous. A terrorist organisation like Boko Haram, known for its deadliness, suddenly became so Red Crossly that it kidnapped 110 girls for about two weeks, clothed, housed and fed them and handed them over to our government, literally shaking government’s hands like they do at treaty agreement signing!
The reason why government cannot be allowed to, in the name of national security, leave Nigerians in the dark about activities like this is that, experience has taught the people that Nigerian governments are run by extremely heartless people who see Mammon and self in every governmental transaction. Till today, no one knows how much government has expended on this shady and cloudy Boko Haram business which has become a money-making machine for government officials and ostensibly, military big epaulettes. Not long ago, when the Buhari government requested for another $1 billion to fight insurgency, Nigerians cried foul. It makes sense that, in the thinking of these Boko Haram racketeers, the insurgency must not end so that their illicit earnings would be perpetually nourished. This is why the skepticism of Nigerians about Boko Haram abducting Dapchi and Chibok girls is growing higher by the day. Who says this whole drama could not have been a collaboration between some God-knows-who in government/military circle and some hirelings, with the aim of stoking the fire of their persistent bleeding of Nigeria’s national resources?
Story of Lerah Sharibu
If indeed the story of Lerah Sharibu, a Senior Secondary Student 1 pupil of the Dapchi school whose abduction and refusal of release by the dreaded insurgents, Boko Haram is not one of the padded stories on offer in the country today, then there seems to be hope on the horizon for Nigeria. While the insurgents handed over 104 others, Lerah’s non-release is said to be because she refused to denounce her Christian faith. She had reportedly held tenaciously to this, in spite of the menacing daggers of her abductors.
It is not the Christianity of Lerah that, for me, is an issue here. It is the fact that in a Nigeria where money and debauchery are the gods of the Nigerian youth, we can have someone holding firm to a positive ideal. This was why the lady law school student who last year refused to be inducted into the Nigerian bar except on her terms of wearing the hijab signposts an against-method which can be held up as a departure from the core mindset on parade today. Lerah reminds one of the “if I perish, I perish” story of biblical Queen Esther. Such stories are rare in a modern world where everyone is for themselves and God for us all. Critics of my stand may say this is the same mindset, even if negative, which informs bombers accepting to die for their God. But Lerah, for me, represents a fundamental departure from what we have today, one of the core foundations of developmental ideologies.
It is a shame that minefield-laced minds like Coomassie’s get to the highest offices in the land. Imagine how a policeman who possessed such a potentially explosive mind ever got to the top of the Nigeria Police Force. Imagine still what ethnic-propelled destructions he must have wreaked on Nigeria during his time.
I have read countless times the reaction of the secretary general of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) Dr. Kunle Olajide’s to an obtuse statement credited to the chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former inspector general of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Commassie. I came to the conclusion that, but for the fact that I lack the power and authority, I could have single-handedly awarded Dr. Olajide a Nobel.
Coomassie had said that Nigeria could not survive without the North. In Olajide’s reaction, he detailed how the North has been an elephantiasis-infected leg that Nigeria carries with great and excruciating burden. Nigeria’s hard-earned cash is spent in billions on curtailing a Northern-Nigerian monster called Boko Haram, at the expense of the rest of Nigeria; the bloodletting of Fulani herdsmen, on account of which Nigeria gains international notoriety, comes from the North; religious crisis of El-Zakzaky, for which Nigeria will sooner than later become a subject of Amnesty International’s lens, comes from the North. “Collectively, the North is home to all negative indices to the quality of life. Infant mortality is highest in the North. Illiteracy rate is highest in the North and the number of out-of-school children is highest in the North…” Olajide said, among several other artillery scuds which must have demobilised Coomassie’s dangerous mindset.
It is a shame that minefield-laced minds like Coomassie’s get to the highest offices in the land. Imagine how a policeman who possessed such a potentially explosive mind ever got to the top of the Nigeria Police Force. Imagine still what ethnic-propelled destructions he must have wreaked on Nigeria during his time. Now, compare this with a former Nigerian head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, who stormed Ibadan under Lamidi Adesina’s government to ask “why your people are attacking my people.” Now, compare both with the malady of Boko Haram insurgency of “my religion is bigger than yours.” Can you see any difference?
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.