This year’s Christmas was celebrated worldwide last Thursday. It is a significant day for adherents of Christianity. Apart from worship on a day like that, families gather to share the joy of the birthday of Christ. It is not uncommon for the exchange of visits and gifts among families and friends. In Nigeria, parents of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted some 259 days ago by Boko Haram fighters hardly celebrated that day. For nearly 300 days they have prayed and hoped that some miracle would happen that will bring back their daughters before a festive day like Christmas. This is heart-wrenching. It is unlikely that the plight of the girls or of their parents is likely to change soon. Their agony and grief is better imagined.
Many Nigerians have not relented in the pursuit of the rescue of the Chibok girls. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign mounted in the wake of the abduction has received global attention. Sadly the search for the kidnapped schoolgirls has so far come to naught. They seem to have been left to their fate as the government is seemingly complacent with the status quo.
Since the abduction of the girls, there have been reports of similar but less dramatic abductions.
We recall the initial euphoria that greeted the purported rescue of some of the girls by the military but separate denials by the parents on one hand, and the principal of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok on the other precipitated a frantic joint search by the parents and members of the vigilante in Borno state.
It is trite to say that the responsibility of the protection of lives and property of citizens from internal and external aggressors lies squarely on the government through the instrumentality of the police and the armed forces. While we commend the effort of the Nigerian troops in routing insurgents in parts of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, we are however worried when hapless individuals, moved by frustration, resort to self measures to protect themselves from armed insurgents. This is indeed lamentable. The end result, we must warn, may be a cure more deadly than the disease.
We recall, sadly also, that mothers of the abducted girls had reportedly resolved to head to Sambisa forest on a deadly mission to find their children after the authorities failed. This does not speak well of the armed forces. It does not speak well of Nigeria, either, which has a record of good performance in peace keeping operation in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Despite its feat in peace keeping and peace enforcement in different parts of Africa and the world, Nigeria has had difficulty in stamping out insurgency to the extent that individuals, some with sticks and dane guns, will have to defend themselves. The argument that the armed forces cannot use maximum force against citizens does not stand because we have had cases of extra maximum force applied.
The National Council of State ordered the armed forces to immediately find and rescue the girls before it gets too late. But six months later only defeating silence. As a matter of fact, the Chibok girls issue is hardly mentioned by those who should be in the forefront in the effort to rescue them.
The task of rescuing the Chibok girls now appears uphill. We are still optimistic however, that it is achievable. We premised our optimism on the repeated assurances by the military high command that they know of their location but are treading with caution. All the agencies involved should however, close ranks, collaborate and share information towards the rescue of the girls. Nigeria should welcome any helping hand from the international community as long as it does compromise the sovereignty of the country with respect to the rescue of the girls.