It has been emotionally zapping for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we actually hit 100 days, and still counting, since the abduction of our precious girls. Apparently we are the ones that were not prepared for this level of crime; but the abductors were, because it is definitely not child’s play to camp hundreds of hostages for 100+ days! This reality then forces one to ask: how long shall we still wait? That the 2015 general elections are just few months down the line makes it more difficult for the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners to have constructive engagements with some of the critical government/political stakeholders, who erroneously view the campaign through political lenses. It is high time government understood the important seats that citizens occupy in a democracy as well as the need to always use our most significant and available tool – our voices!
While I admit that this level of insurgency is new to Nigeria and that this current administration inherited the problem, it’d be foolhardy to wave aside the fact that this devilish crime has become awkwardly rampant in recent times and this is definitely unbearable for a democratically fragile nation as Nigeria. We also know this is a learning curve for us all, which makes it best that we avoid divisive efforts, rather a collective one where all hands are allowed to be on deck to combat this common enemy. This fight, however, must start from the top, as we cannot disassociate the huge negative impact of corruption on the eventual outcome. There has to be an holistic approach to end terrorism in Nigeria, lest we only pluck out leaves whereas the tree generating the leaves is deeply rooted.
Section 14 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is apt in conveying the angle of responsibility and the need to take ownership of this situation. It says: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…” The phrase ‘primary purpose’ indicates that above every other responsibility of the government, the security and welfare of the people must be prioritized. It also clarifies that the entity with the responsibility and constitutional authority to #BringBackOurGirls is the Federal Government.
Taking our protest to the insurgents, as advised, is a misdirected action to dignify an heartless group. Moreover, that we keep demanding #BringBackOurGirls from the government means we have reposed our confidence on them to achieve what we seek. Besides, we never voted a political party called ‘Boko Haram’ or a candidate called ‘ Abubakar Shekau’, so it becomes a sheer display of sarcasm to hear/read intellectual-shallow statements like: ‘take your protest to Boko Haram/Sambisa Forest.” Does the government realize that doing so invariably means that we have erroneously abdicated the responsibility of the protection of lives and properties to a deadly sect?
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign has received condemnation for being against the current administration and hostile in so doing. We must be guided and know that demanding accountability is totally different from being anti-government. We rallied and voted this particular government into power – I, particularly, voted for the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan, and this was because I believed and hoped that I, alongside other Nigerians in my shoes, would experience the breath of fresh air that was promised. So, when what is seen and experienced is a far cry from what was promised, it is only legitimate to ask questions and demand accountability.
I strongly believe in the maxim: injury to one is injury to all; hence my unwavering commitment to the #BringBackOurGirls cause. That the Chibok girls are not related to most of the campaigners and well-meaning supporters is definitely not crying more than the bereaved, as has been opined. We believe in the spirit of brotherhood where we are each other’s keeper; and we will never allow that narrative to see the light of day, where our locus standi and legitimacy is questioned. We are one Nigeria, and one Nigeria shall we remain. It is therefore my greatest hope that the current administration permanently break the lenses of politics with which the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is seen and judged, and come to a point where they appreciate the campaigners for altruistically risking it all to ensure the whole world beams its spotlight on Nigeria and join hands with us in the quest to #BringBackOurGirls, and end the broader issue of terrorism.
As we anxiously await the return of our girls, it is imperative to ensure that we have holistic readiness systems in place for their immediate process of reintegration. This, for me, is in three forms: Family Readiness: Immediate family members, and relatives of the girls must be emotionally and psychologically ready to receive and cohabit with them. 100+ days is long enough to cause some distortion in what they were used to before their unfortunate abduction. Care and patience must be displayed in helping the girls re-align back to their family system, and this can be achieved through choice of words, conduct, expressions, and ability to accommodate and correct any unexpected actions. Also, government must be ready and willing to assist families in their readiness by considering relocation/resettlement plans (where necessary) as well as financial support and assistance for sustainable income-generating activities, among others. The second is the Societal Readiness. It is important for the girls to return to a society that will empathize and not stigmatize them on the account of any abuse they may have experienced or blame them for not being brave enough to escape like others. The third and most crucial is the Institutional Readiness. It is essential that government consider the role of all three tiers of government in readiness for the return of our girls. The executive must ensure all relevant stakeholder institutions have in place systems to guarantee the girls’ immediate process of rehabilitation and reintegration in psychological therapy, education, health/medical, etc as well as security systems so that the girls can return to a safe and secured society and never have to fear a repeat, similar, or worse experience. The legislative arm must institute policies that will further protect them and others; for instance the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill. The judiciary must enforce policies and ensure correctional and punitive measures against the abductors and other insurgents. Our religious homes (churches and mosques) are non-government institutions with huge role to play in the reintegration of our girls, when they soon return.
I hope Nigerians know that we currently have 57 courageous ‘Malalas’ in Chibok (and 219 others in captivity) all waiting to be brushed up and showcased to the world to hear and be inspired by their stories of bravery, tenacity, and hope. I humbly ask that we always pray for the President and our leaders, so they make right decisions so that our girls can be brought back within the shortest possible time, and the challenge of insurgency/terrorism in Nigeria will soon be a thing of the past.
Bukky Shonibare is on linledIn