By Peter Claver Oparah
And so, the famous #BringBackOurGirls has transmuted to #BringBackJonathan? Quite ingenious; of the type that has rendered Nigeria prostrate and made it the butt of the ribaldry of the outside world today.By that miraculous act was meant a permanent seal on the fate of the same campaign that captured the entire world as it berthed. It was the campaign to force our sluggish government to action and possibly secured the release of the 200 Chibok secondary school girls taken into captivity by the ghoulish insurgent group, Boko Haram.
Today, it is over 150 days since the incident happened. There is nothing on ground to suggest that the girls would soon regain their freedom. Indeed, the Nigerian officialdom and its standpatters are fighting frantically to consign the issue to the expansive dustbin of Nigerian history and they have almost succeeded. Gradually, Nigerians, so afflicted by very poor retentive minds, have almost completely forgotten the Chibok girls.
Let us recall that for some weeks after that horrific act, the Nigerian government remained mute on the issue. It is even instructive that the kidnap of the girls happened a day after a bloody bombing of the federal capital, Abuja where nearly 100 people were killed. The massive death was not enough to deter Jonathan and his PDP from mounting a needless campaign rally in Kano the following day. It was the day Boko Haram struck in Chibok and walked away with hapless schoolgirls taking their examinations. For the two weeks that the Jonathan government kept mute over this egregious crime, it was living in doubt, which is a grave indictment of its capacity to steer the country. It had so politicized the fight against terror that it was minded to dismiss terror attacks as the antics of his enemies and the opposition to wrestle power from it.
To the regime, what matters is power and how to retain it. During this period, Boko Haram gained innumerable footing ferrying the girls to God knows where. The best that came from Nigerian officialdom when this was raging was an embarrassing claim by the Nigerian military that it had rescued the girls. This turned out a grand ruse and reinforced the rickety nature governance and its accouterments have suffered in Nigeria.
It took the launch of the #BringBackOurGirlshashtag and the ensuing campaign to rouse the Jonathan regime from its sleep occasioned by a self-delusory denial state. The rage the campaign provoked in the international community was so enormous that world figures, statesmen and celebrities signed on to the campaign.
The position of the international was so dawning and derogatory of the Jonathan government and its capacity to handle simple issues that it was forced to admit the enormity of the problem. it could simply be summed in the scathing remarks of US Republican candidate in the last presidential election, Senator John McCain thus; “We shouldn’t have waited for a practically non-existing government to give us a go ahead before we mount a humanitarian effort to rescue the girls.” It was a real Golgotha for the disoriented regime and the It reluctantly admitted that indeed school girls were kidnapped. Browbeaten and crest fallen, It lapped up international offer for assistance and started several weeks behind the Boko Haram abductors, to try salvage an already messed up situation.
But the regime never forgave the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners led by inimitable former Minister and former Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili. It never suffered their task gladly and as the international concern over the kidnapped girls ebbed, the government turned its attention to how to rubbish the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners for exposing its rump to the entire world. First, it tried to use the police to dislodge them from where they mounted a permanent sit in. Again, it arrested its leaders. When these seem not to deter the resoluteness of the campaigners, it sponsored some hoodlums to take the fight to the campaigners and these, like the paid robots they were, unleashed violence and grave damage to the campaigners in the presence of the police.
The government was to up its ante against the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners when its leader, Ezekwesili, was detained at the Abuja airport on her way to London. She was quickly released over the international outrage this act of impunity immediately provoked. Then, Marylyn Ogar, the spokeswoman of the Directorate of State Security, who is fast cutting the notorious image of a PDP partisan war-farer, launched into the idiotic campaign of calumny against the leaders of the group. Even at that, direct personal attacks were launched on the person of Ezekwesili by paid agents, hirelings and apologists of the Jonathan government and these proved futile in containing the determination of the leaders of the campaign.
Nigerians still believe that if even a fraction of the attention the government placed on the campaigners was sincerely turned to the rescue efforts of the girls, we would have had a more cheery picture regarding that incident today. But the government was rather consumed with the desire to haunt the messenger than with genuine concern to rescue the abducted girls. The American intelligence hands that were drafted in at the height of the rescue effort recently complained that they were frustrated by the huge level of corruption that has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian security system that it cannot do much with the rescue of the girls, as Nigerians eagerly expected.
As a last ditch effort to blot out the #BringBackOurGirls campaigns and permanently delete it and the abducted girls from the subconsciousness of Nigerians, the government and its supporters launched a #BringBackJonathan campaign and proceeded to overrun Abuja with loud and glossy banners and posters bearing this message. In concept, it was a deft effort to mock, ridicule and indeed consign the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to the fast receding mindset of Nigerians. That is the Jonathan regime’s way of dealing with the recalcitrant Chibok girls issue. But it proved a fatal error. Like most of the moves and calculations of the regime, it proved to be a tragic faux pas that will certainly injure and hurt the Jonathan comeback dream which informed this assault on the campaign.
Even as one wonders what we should bring Jonathan back to do, in the face of the mediocre governance we have had under his watch, it is good that he and his handlers made this false move because it stands to play back the #BringBackOurGirls campaign right on track and challenge a government that has so naturalized failure on its failure in not only securing the release of the hapless Chibok girls but also the security of Nigerians.
Peter Claver Oparah via firstname.lastname@example.org