I never had the courage to express what I have actually thought concerning the abduction of nearly 300 school girls in Chibok nearly two years ago. As a matter of fact, the closest I have been to telling it as it is was with an article I wrote some time ago in 2014 titled, ‘The hashtag should be #Bokoharambringbackourgirls#’. In that article, I thought that the focus of attention for the release of the abducted school girls was misplaced because everyone was asking the former president for the release of the girls instead of asking Boko Haram. In 2004, the bedlam of Beslan took place in Russia after religious fundamentalists took about 1,000 people hostage, with 777 of them being school children. For three days, the captors did not allow the children food or water. Twenty four hours after the incident, the Russian president refused to make a comment. He sent his men in instead. Consequently, the entire country began to ask Vladimir Putin, then Russian President for the release of the hostages. When the man moved eventually, nearly 400 of the hostages were killed and only one of the captors was taken alive. But I knew that nobody agreed with me then that it was wrong to be directing our anger at former president Jonathan. Everyone seemed to have agreed that the person we voted for to rescue the abducted girls was the president and not Boko Haram. One of the most popular aphorisms quoted to support the campaign was that the primary duty of governance is the protection and security of the lives of Nigerians. And who else should we be asking for the release of our girls if not the man who is chief security officer of Nigeria? That may be true but even at that, there are semantic and syntactic issues with the #Bringbackourgirls# slogan. For now, I believe that this is not the focus of this discussion, and something tells me that surely we shall have that debate someday.
But the realest reason why I have not had the courage to ask the #bringbackourgirls# campaigners to pack up and go home, is that a great many of the greatest campaigners are people I have had a lot of respect for. I tell myself this: if these people that I have this kind of love and respect for need a rocket scientist to tell them that we are very unlikely to get our girls back in one piece, would they listen to a knucklehead like me telling them so? I tried to say so to some of my colleagues who had also lapped up the rhetoric of the campaigners. They stopped me in my tracks with that same question that you get asked on Facebook: what if your sister, daughter, niece were kidnapped, would you be telling us to forget about them just like that? As a matter of conscience and with due respect to my humanity, I wouldn’t. But with the facts on ground as they are now, I would only look up to providence and not humanity for my daughter’s or sister’s release.
So what is the fact on ground today? Most of the girls are no longer girls but women and mothers already. On the 8th day of September 2015, the burden of saying it the way I just said it was lifted off my shoulders by Mr. President himself. Mr. President is Mr. President. He knows all, presumably and has the benefit of all the apparatus of state to be able to get a lot of hindsight into the weaknesses, challenges and strengths of our collective patrimony. Before he was elected, the rhetoric that flew hither and tither was that he had the derring-do, and would fly into Sambisa, flush Boko Haram out of the forest and ‘bring back our girls’ home and dry and in one piece.
But that has not happened four months after and the girls are still missing. The President has sacked former service chiefs, appointed new ones and given them marching orders to bring back our girls, end terrorism in the North East and reform the Nigerian army. Yet the girls are still missing and have not been accounted for. As a matter of fact, a great many of those who were making all the noise, are now quieter than mice, apparently because of the fact that most of them have been given political appointments for their roles in exploiting the #bringbackourgirls# campaign to bring down a government, or are being penciled down for one or two appointments.
So when people who are apparently thinking along the same direction with me asked Mr. President when he is going to bring back our girls, here’s what Mr. President said: “They (Boko Haram insurgents) have scattered them, and (they) are being guarded at dispersed locations. Most of the girls are Christians and were forced to embrace Islam. The sect’s cruel leaders have married some of the girls, obviously against their wish. Others have been left to practice their religion but their condition could hardly be ascertained. Both ground and air security personnel in the Sambisa forest could spot where the girls are, but since the insurgents have also kidnapped housewives and other women, no one could say whether they mixed them or how they dispersed them’.
Two to three days or a week after this cold and blunt admission of Mr. President’s assessment of the true condition of the Chibok girls, and which was reported globally and locally, I have not heard as much as a whimper or a fart from the biggest champions of the #Bringbackourgirls# crusade. I know for a fart that if Mr. Buhari’s predecessor had made this statement, all hell would be let loose now, and all sorts of wannabes would be on the streets and on Facebook screaming blue murder.
Therefore, since we have not heard from the #bringbackourgirls# crusaders and champions after this presidential admission of failure to rescue the poor ladies, we must take their silence for acquiescence and an endorsement of Mr. President’s position that it would be next to an impossible thing to get our sisters back in one piece the way the crusaders have been clamouring. Believe me, all of this could have been avoided if the abduction of the girls was not politicized and hijacked by interested parties the way it was.
Therefore, I will take a leaf from Mr. President and say it as it is: our girls were spoils of a war of attrition. They were pawns caught in a cross-fire between the Federal Government of Nigeria and a terrorist group. And they became collateral damage from day one after they were abducted. If you accuse me of insensitivity in saying this, I would agree with you absolutely that both Mr. President and I are insensitive people. Even Uncle Olusegun Obasanjo, a father and former president who was reported as saying that our girls, in the hands of a sex-starved, fundamentalist group with affiliation with ISIS, would have already become mothers is insensitive as well, no?
After having heard from Mr. President, I believe that the crusaders should close shop and go home in spite of his half-hearted assurances that something is still being done. There is actually a pocket of individuals in that group genuinely involved in getting the girls back but they too should know that the time to close shop and go home would be the minute before a revolutionary idea or movement begins to degenerate or breakdown. The international community expected a rescue attempt in the fashion of a Hollywood movie. But since that did not happen, their attention has shifted elsewhere. Why there is as at yet no rescue attempt as promised by PMB when he was GMB is because he will never be able to bring back our girls, alive or dead. He just said so.
Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku