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Published On: Sun, Aug 3rd, 2014

Chibok girls and Nigeria’s soul

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Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima, speaks to the Associated Press during an interview at the Government house in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Wednesday, Sept, 28. 2011. Security forces arrested a top commander of a radical Muslim sect who ordered killings in the northeastern city where the group's mosque once stood, bringing a new calm to the restive region, a governor said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe | 08024565402

I have been to many places in Borno state; but not Chibok. When news about the abduction of school girls in Chibok broke out, I immediately remembered Ibrahim Chibok whom I met in the late 70’s at the NYSC orientation Camp of Adeyemi College of Education Ondo town. Ibrahim was a lively young chap looking up for a bright future in his life. I also remembered Madu Soroma and Babagana Wakili. Somehow my friends at the camp were all from Borno.

We were all, like Ibrahim looking up to a bright future. He was posted to Owo, the hometown of my boss, Governor Adekunle Ajasin. I liked the town instantly because of Ibrahim. On our frequent visits there, he provided his hospitality away from the boring government routine and protocol. The palm was cool – Ogidi, the original. Sadly on my visit to Maiduguri after our service year, I tried to renew contact with my old friend only to be confronted with the news: Ibrahim Chibok is dead! I was shattered. Of the four of us, Madu Soroma is also dead. Only yours sincerely and Babagana Wakili are alive. A man of great humour, I am not surprised that he made a successful career out of diplomacy. He is now a senior Career Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Back to the Chibok girls, their capture and imprisonment is expected of the lunacy that is the driving force of the Boko Haram movement. For over five years now, the group has constituted itself into an outlaw, terrorizing a large chunk of the populace in the expansive North East sub region of the country. The killing and abduction of citizens in that part of the country is not news at all. The news in the case of the Chibok girls remains the scale and the fact that in a region where girl education is lagging far behind the rest of the country, visiting such cruelty on school girls carries many implications. After two weeks of seeming government inaction, the country and the world reacted in anger. Then the Nigerian military in an amazing display of deceit, perfidy and buffoonery all combined, announced that the girls had been rescued. It soon became clear that the army spokesman had concocted the story for reasons only him and the army hierarchy can explain. It is all part of the massive disinformation that has plagued the whole fight against Boko Haram.

The world media started giving lavish attention to the plight of the girls. World leaders started asking our own leader awkward questions; how can you be there as President and young school girls are held captive and you are doing nothing. On the day of the massive kidnap, the President was in Kano for a public meeting of his party, the PDP and was billed for yet another one in Yola the following week. The t breaks were applied on his politically induced itinerary only after there was a global indignation at his conduct.

The federal government’s failure to contain the Boko Haram menace is due to the failure of intelligence and the massive greed that has permeated all the facets of our national existence – including very sadly the military too. Boko Haram is a scourge to the ordinary Nigerian; but to the top echelons of our security architecture, it has become milk and honey. Lean and hungry looking generals and spooks have suddenly developed pot bellies and rosy cheeks – running and smiling to the banks everyday. Be that as it were, they are in no hurry to crush Boko Haram.

When Borno State Governor cried out that the Boko Haram insurgents are better armed and better motivated than the Nigerian army, he was greeted with a hail of criticisms from the Presidency. But bizarre things happen particularly in Borno with no rational explanation coming from the military as to why they happen. How did Boko Haram gain access to the Air Force base in Maiduguri where they destroyed a sizeable number of jet fighters? How can security be so lax in a war front that enemies have direct access to the arsenals of the people they are fighting? The same question applies to the tragedy of Boko Haram invading and overrunning the  Giwa barracks in Maiduguri.

The President recently applied to the National Assembly to be granted permission to borrow $1 billion for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram. This is coming on the heels of reports that his generals and other collaborators have pocketed the trillions meant for fighting the insurgency. We have not seen our President dealing with these bare faced thieves. In any case, Gen. Yakubu Gowon fought Biafra without borrowing a kobo from anybody. This was at a time Nigeria was making little if anything at all from oil.

The handling of the Boko Haram thing leaves much to raise our hopes. There is belief held widely in informed circles in Abuja that if you want the President’s attention on any proposal you must have the capacity to whisper into his ear that Boko Haram is plot by Northerners to demobilise his government and deny him a second term. If you do that, you get his nod for whatever scheme you present to him no matter how obnoxious and extravagant it may be.

Boko Haram is being perceived for what it is not and as long as this wrong perception continues, no amount of armaments or largesse can defeat it.

Why did it take the President so long to see the parents of the Chibok girls? One can understand the security challenges of going to Chibok for a Commander in Chief whose soldiers take to their heels once they hear Boko. You don’t even need to add Haram. They pick race and the civilians who look up to them for protection run after them. Did he have to wait for a 17 year old girl from Pakistan to prod him into meeting the parents of the Chibok girls?

It was good our President met the distraught parents. It is better late than never.  But what has come out of it?  A stinking scandal. The shit has hit the ceiling fan in the villa and the people in the presidency are all being sprinkled, generously. The story is that N100 million was splashed on the distraught parents, maybe as a hush fund. The parents are saying the money was edited along the line and they were given pea nuts. They say they have been swindled and the visit was a marvelous scam. The presidency claims it did not give a kobo.

The leadership of the Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA), the group representing the Chibok people in Abuja have denied knowledge of a N100 million Presidential gift to the delegation. Instead, they said that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Prof. Dan Adebiyi, after the visit, visited the hotel and sprayed over 20 million on the Chibok visitors.

I can see that this Prof in the Villa must be competing with Dangote.  How can he spray over 20 million Naira from his pocket at mid night and to complete strangers? The outside world must surely be wondering what the true meaning of Nigeria is when such incredible things happen here. I am listening bemused to these strange tales about Chibok, I remember my good friend Ibrahim Chibok, who like Swize Banzi is dead. When we met in the 70’s we had a lot to complain about our country. We thought we were in hell. With the benefit of hindsight, we were actually in heaven. When a country loses its soul as is the case with Nigeria now, HELL is then let loose.

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