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Published On: Mon, Apr 9th, 2018

Dapchi Girls release: The fear of PMB…

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By Ignatius Arinze

Nigerians of all shades of opinion and political persuasion woke up to a pleasant surprise on the 20th of March, 2018 when the news came that the dreaded Boko Haram has without a gunshot and most unexpectedly, released the bulk of the 110 Secondary School girls kidnapped from the town of Dapchi in Yobe State, some weeks back.
To many people, the news was like a hoax until reports followed that there were wild jubilations in the town of Dapchi, as many parents and guardians of the released girls were beside themselves with joy at the unbelievable event. When it happened that the news was true, many were thankful and grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for his negotiating and persuasive skills.
When President Buhari told Nigerians during outpouring of grief at the girl’s abduction that his administration would do everything in its power to ensure that the girls were released in the shortest possible time, many did not believe him. In fact most were skeptical in view of the very long time it took for headway to be made by the Buhari administration in the case of the Chibok girls.
It should be noted that the Chibok girls kidnap saga took place during the stewardship of an inept and corruption- ridden government headed by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan whose lackadaisical attitude towards governance included his denying the fact that a kidnapping took place. At that time, the Boko Haram terror group was growing in strength and influence and claiming jurisdiction over Nigeria’s territory in the North east because the then Commander- in- Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces, did not clearly know his responsibilities.
Thus with the Nigerian Army practically in disarray and lacking precise and specific instructions as to their responsibilities, the Boko Haram was able to have a field day. Therefore while then President Jonathan and his looting government debated whether a kidnap took place, the then Boko Haram which were masters of chunks of Nigeria’s territory took the abducted girls very far, unhindered into their hiding place, perhaps the notorious Sambisa forest.
Therefore a combination of the above factors gave strategic advantage to the Boko Haram during the ill- fated kidnap of the Chibok girls. Thus when eventually the slow- thinking Jonathan administration woke up to believe that indeed Nigerian School girls had been kidnapped, the Boko Haram had gone very far in hiding the girls and making a rescue difficult.
Compared to the Chibok abduction case, Dapchi though it caught our security personnel napping, the latter since the coming of PMB has developed a response system which has not been seen before within the nation’s security establishment. Immediately the news went round that School girls in Dapchi town in Yobe State had been kidnapped by terrorists, most security infrastructure in the North eastern part of the country which has been heavily built up under President Buhari were activated. The Nigerian Air Force flew several sorties with sophisticated aircraft and aviation mapping equipment which can track movement on the ground. Second, the army and mobile police force personnel trained in special operations went into action in hot pursuit of the terrorist kidnappers. Mind you, following the anti- terror coalition put in place by President Buhari immediately he came to power, the Boko Haram who kidnapped the Dapchi girls did not have the advantage of safe sanctuary in any neighboring country to Nigeria in the North east to hide the girls.
The situation that confronted the Boko Haram and the several girls in its custody was that it had no minute of respite as it was being watched from the air, pursued by land and shadowed by the Nigerian Naval Task force on Lake Chad. Coupled with the weakness of the group which had been technically defeated and which is also severely depleted in numbers, and factionalized, the abductors had no choice but to quickly agree to peaceful negotiations and quickly and quietly return the girls the way they took them. Failure for the Boko Haram to accept a quick settlement would have compelled President Buhari to order a fresh and devastating military onslaught on the marauding remnants of the terrorist group, which the latter could ill- afford.
The spectacular manner in which the Dapchi School girls were released has again brought to focus the exemplary leadership style and abilities of President Muhammadu Buhari. PMB as he is popularly called is quietly an efficient person who knows how to get round a daunting task and get results. This writer remembers the cool confidence and politically- suave manner he (PMB) told the former US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who visited him in Abuja, that Nigeria would prefer and employ negotiation to free the Dapchi girls, when the latter in the characteristic style of the Western countries, offered to assist Nigeria with the lethal means of securing the girls’ release.
The point made clear by the saga of the kidnap and release of the Dapchi girls is that even in negotiation with terrorists, the latter’s compliance level is heavily influenced by their perception of the level of effectiveness of the leader of the group which they are negotiating with. The Boko Haram based on the trouncing they have received under President Buhari’s administration have come to learn to fear the Nigerian leader as a no- nonsense personality who one trifles with at his own peril.
It is unfortunate that rather than celebrate and jubilate like the people of Dapchi town at the release of the girls except for a few, skeptics have gone to town to cook up all sorts of theories and scenarios. One thinks that as Nigerians we should recognize and applaud genuine effort and achievement and not to let politics becloud our sense of judgment. President Buhari has acquitted himself well as a scourge of terrorists in Africa, and a first- class anti- terrorism coalition builder. Nigerians should be proud of this fact and give him his due accolade.

This writer commends the President for giving firm orders on the release of thousands of our policemen doing household chores for so- called VIPs and the latter’s deployment to security duties to Schools and institutions of learning in the North east region of the country. To make the work of these security personnel easy, the Federal and State governments in security- challenged States in the North east, should embark on a general programme of fencing of all Schools and institutions of learning to place an obstacle in the way of the Boko Haram or any other group of criminals that would seek to play politics with the safety and liberty of our young School children.
Finally, there is a disturbing news making the rounds that one of the Dapchi girls was not released because she refused to convert to Islam. PMB should employ his best endeavors to ensure the safe return of all the girls without exception. Such a development if not quickly dealt with would give credence to speculation making the rounds that among the aims of the Boko Haram terrorists is to empty the Northern part of Nigeria of its Christian population. The President should prevent the outbreak of religious conflict under his watch as that would place a heavy burden on the country’s security architecture, and undermine the great role President Buhari is playing to bring peace and development to the region.

Ignatius Arinze is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.

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