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Published On: Wed, Aug 27th, 2014

136 days after, where are the Chibok girls?

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Abducted schoolgirlsBy Ochiaka Ugwu

August 22nd made it exactly 130 days since over 200 school children were kidnapped in a sleepy town of Chibok in Borno State. Tracing the timeline of the kidnapped Chibok School Girls from the 14th of April when they were kidnapped by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents left most Nigerians with the impression that the leadership lacks the political will to rescue the abductees nor to confront the insurgents.

Only last week, parents of the abducted schoolgirls while observing 130 days of the abduction called for full military action on Sambisa forest in order to curtail the excesses of Boko Haram and ultimately rescue their daughters.

They also pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan to expedite action towards returning the abducted girls dead or alive for the proper closure of the matter.

Speaking on behalf of the parents, the Chibok community chairman in Abuja, Mr Tsambido Hosea-Abana stated that in the culture of their communities, when a person is missing for four months, a burial ceremony is organised for the person, adding that the parents of the missing girls were thinking towards that direction.

Hosea-Abana, who stated that the parents were already losing hope, even as some were already dead, maintained that the security forces both from Nigeria and the rest of the world currently engaged in the rescue mission were afraid of the sect and challenged them to attack the sect members and rescue these girls if they want to prove that they are not terrified.

Hosea-Abana also called on the federal government to empower the hunters and civilian JTF, who are ready to fight the sect members so that they can invade Sambisa forest as the excuse of losing some of the girls by the military no longer hold weight.

Dissecting this statement which could be as a result of frustration by the community gave the overwhelming impression of a system that does not care a bit about the welfare of its people, an authority that has no respect for social contract and extremely reluctant to take action to search for and rescue its own. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an interview revealed that for the first 18 days, President Jonathan did not believe that the Chibok girls had been abducted.

The former president argued that ferrying these girls away was such a huge logistics challenge for the abductors’, as they were burdened by a large convoy of vehicles and a huge number of human beings. Obasanjo noted that if action was taken within the first 24 hours, the girls could have been found and rescued. By deciding not to believe the story, the opportunity to rescue them was lost.

Though, confession of Obasanjo in a sense very strange, the abduction is a practical event and not one of belief or disbelief. Upon the fact there is state of emergency in Borno and it was said that there are 20,000 soldiers deployed in the zone. It was expected that soldiers as part of strategy to nip the insurgency in the bud would have a system of surveillance and informants that feed into an intelligence system. It would be difficult for the troops not to be aware of the movement of such a huge convoy even in their unenthusiastic state.

In that case, most Nigerians would assume that they must have informed the President that the abduction did happen and provided him the practical evidence. It does not make sense that the President would take the attitude of believing or not believing, he would have just investigated the evidence. It was akin to what happened on the Independence Day of 2010, when a bomb detonated at the federal secretariat and Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) claimed the act only for Mr. President to come out openly to debunk the claims by MEND saying it was certain the group was not involved, without proper investigation.

This mere assumption by some Nigerians however, might be faulty because all the reports gotten from the Chibok community was that the reports about the abduction and the path the abductors took with the girls were simply ignored by the various security agencies they passed on the information to. It was as if a decision not to believe the event happened had been taken collectively. They have no idea why such a decision should be taken if indeed that was what occurred.

Consequently, former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi had argued that the roadmap developed by the Kabiru Turaki Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North was jettisoned. He said that as a Committee member, he knew that they had made excellent recommendations including the establishment of a permanent body for continuous dialogue but their road map was never implemented and the opportunity to seek peaceful solutions was lost.

A human right activist, Shehu Sani who declined being a member of Kabiru Turaki led Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North sighting insincerity on the part of the Federal Government, said that an agreement was actually brokered to swap the girls for Boko Haram prisoners and moments before implementation, the Presidency called off the deal. It will be recalled that the British Minister for Africa had informed Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan will not negotiate with the terrorists. Security Experts were a bit irritated that a foreign minister was briefing Nigerians on the position of their own President but that’s the reality we live with today.

The Americans who had always sworn that they would never negotiate with terrorists had swapped five terrorists for one captured American soldier, and yet, they told us not to do the same thing. Meanwhile, a new development that got the attention of the world recently was that the United States will ride on the successful swap to open up broader negotiations with the Taliban. When the former governor of Adamawa State and Minister of Youth Development, Boni Haruna announced that the Nigerian Government was ready to talk to the terrorists and grant them amnesty, hardly had he finished, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati came hard on him for falling out of the Government line.

What Nigerians want right now is to bring back these girls and reunite them with their families. If the continued abduction of these girls does not move those in authority saddled with the security of the nation, nothing else will ever move them. We are saying that even if it means talking to the devil to get their release, Nigerians wouldn’t mind. That is why it appears to me that if we are told that the military solution might be harmful to the girls, which I agree with them, then the obvious solution is to negotiate and offer them something they value as it has been done in United States and United Kingdom. This outcome would be something all Nigerians, and indeed the whole world would value and commend the safe return of the Chibok girls to their families. It will go a long way to give the government much needed and sought legitimacy.

Sadly, it was learnt that only four members of the Brig. Ibrahim Sabo led Fact Finding Committee finally went to Chibok after weeks of reluctance to go to point of attack. When journalists spoke to members of the community however, they found out that they spent a total of forty minutes only in the town. This behaviour too portrays total insensitivity on the part of the committee and their pay masters.

If their principal term of reference is to find out what happened in Chibok, the general assumption would be that a significant percentage of the Committee members would go there, stay with the people and spend time to carry out their investigation. Staying for a few minutes and dashing out in their helicopter does not appear to indicate an intention to really find out the facts of what transpired. To spend one week in Maiduguri and 40 minutes in Chibok, was not only absurd but ridiculous indeed.

The only way for President Jonathan to win the confidence of Nigerians is to search and recover the Chibok girls. He would gain the massive gratitude of Nigerians if he does it. Nigerians would be reassured that he is in charge and capable of protecting them no matter the circumstance


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