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Published On: Mon, Dec 29th, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls and Our State

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By Jibrin Ibrahim

As 2014 ends, it’s clear that the story of the year is narrated by the Bring Back Our Girls Movement. It started with the abduction of the girls but soon thereafter became the signifier of the crisis facing the Nigerian State, which has been hovering between comatose and near death experience.

The story is, however, about the urgency and imperative of rebuilding a state that can carry out its constitutional responsibility of promoting the welfare of Nigerians and providing them security. On 15th of April, over three hundred girls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok while preparing for their examinations. It was not the search for education that created their problem. The source has been the extremist, wicked and anti-humanist ideology of the insurgents who abducted them.

The character of the insurgents was revealed last week when the story of Zahara’u Babangida emerged. This thirteen-year old girl was given by her father to Boko Haram to be used as a suicide bomber. Accordingly, she was sent on mission on 10th December to kill and maim innocent people in Kantin Kwari in Kano. It was only the detonation of the two other bombs by the two other girls she was sent on mission with that stopped her detonating her own bomb. The innocent girls used as suicide bombers need our sympathy because clearly, their action is dictated by a combination of brainwashing and threats of being killed themselves.

This is where we need the State. State response has been shockingly absent. A responsible State would have followed the insurgents in hot pursuit immediately the incident happened which would have made the likely recovery of the girls faster.

What has been most shocking about the Chibok abduction were credible reports that the communities affected were constantly providing information to security agencies immediately before and after the abduction on the unfolding events but no response was forthcoming. Indeed, the trip from Chibok with the girls was monitored by the community for 48 hours during which the abductors stopped to get food prepared, had vehicle breakdowns and spent time trying to fix them and burning them when they failed to do the repairs.

There has been an extremely positive outcome of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. It has placed the question of why the Nigerian State is not doing the work the Constitution stipulates – providing for the welfare and security of Nigerians on the table. Of course the response of the military establishment, mainly through the Director of Defence Information of the Defence Headquarters, Major-General Chris Olukolade has been to accuse the movement of pitching public opinion against the armed forces and projecting the Nigerian military in bad light and further heat-up the polity. The movement complained that the armed forces were refusing to fight and the response was to malign us for saying things that would strengthen the enemy. Today, the armed forces are prosecuting many men and officers for desertion and enemy action. If they had listened to the movement earlier, things might not have deteriorated to the level we find ourselves in today.

The question on almost every thinking person today is what is the state of the Nigerian State? Are we drifting into the abyss? Are we being governed and what is the state of governance in the country today? Our Constitution defines the purpose of the state as the protection of the security of Nigerians and the pursuit of their welfare.

Nigerians, however, know that they have to pay for their own security guards and even the bulk of the Nigerian police personnel are used to provide security, not for the people, but for individuals who can afford to pay for the services. Nigerian citizens are forced to provide their own electricity with millions of generators they purchase to power their houses and pollute the atmosphere. Hundreds are killed regularly through carbon monoxide poisoning as they bring these killer machines into the privacy of their rooms.

Of course health and education have largely been private and the state is completely disdainful of Chapter Two of our Constitution that directs it to provide for the welfare of citizens. The state of the Nigerian State is serious. The State is crumbling before our eyes and it is clear to me that a rescue mission is necessary. That rescue must take the form of a new approach based on good governance in which there is effective, transparent and accountable use of public resources to provide public goods for citizens. If those who exercise State power cannot use it to improve the lives, livelihoods and security of citizens, then they would have to be replaced. Bring back our State.

 Sent By Jibrin Ibrahim, Abuja

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