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Published On: Wed, May 7th, 2014

Politics made the loss of 273 girls possible

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boko-kidnap-School-Chibok-girlsBy Garba Shehu

It must have dawned on many of our readers by now that more than the speculated issue of the lack of equipment and motivation on the part of the Nigerian security forces, politics, the game of power made possible the painful and indefensible loss of those girls. If anybody is looking for an authority on this, they should go to the speech of the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan. Rude Nigerians on the social networks may dismiss her as not being savvy or lacking in finesse or refinement. My admiration for her as in this case is in the fact that she shoots from the hip. There are no pretensions about her. I don’t call that crudity. Thus, when the whole world was puzzled by the inaction, and the fact that the leader of nation from which 273 girls were stolen had not publicly said a word, his wife, the one with whom he shares the same pillow and so the most qualified person to know what resided in the deepest recesses of his mind let the cat out of the bag. She cried on television as she narrated the tale of conspiracy against her husband, presumably by devilish actors masquerading as political leaders and charged at the grieving mothers that they were lying as there was no girl missing.

The Punch quoted the mother of the Nation asking the distraught audience she put together, including a set of representatives of the girls’ mothers “… Will you believe that any children got missing?” and the women in attendance chorused “No”.

When they steal cows, (not to talk of human beings) as rustling takes a gradual hold in these parts, the first thing the owner does the next morning is to trace the footmarks and follow. They don’t wait for three weeks to do this.

It is clear from here that the slow reaction to the abductions was simply on account of politics and the desperate greed for power, which was shown by the President scurrying around to secure a further four years in office, adding to the six he has nearly spent without doing the work that justifies it.

If they come now or if they are finally brought back, the girls will in probability return as transformed. It is a syndrome akin to child soldiers. I am seeing beyond pregnancies, which is not ruled out. Those unlucky among them may come back diseased – HIV-AIDS, hepatitis, VDs and mental illnesses arising from trauma.

Two important developments hold a little hope that government’s insensitivity may give way to meaningful action to bring succor to the grieving families and the nation.

One is the publication of the list of the abductees by the official of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. This should have the instant effect of imbuing the claims of the grieving parents with credibility, that their children and wards had indeed been stolen. Even before Mrs. Jonathan, doubts had been expressed by many, if any girls had been missing at all. It was, nonetheless a monumental disaster for Mrs. Jonathan to have ordered the arrest and detention of the three women sent to her as representatives of the inconsolable mothers.

The second advantage gained by “we the people” is the effective campaign by Nigerians and others on the social networks using hashtags as #BringBackOurGirls, which has reached tens of millions of people and has drawn international attention to the abductions.

This has in turn warranted the keen interest on the issue as shown by the lavish coverage of the rallies taking place around the world. All the major networks – CNN, BBC, Sky, and Al-jazeera have demoted important stories such as the trial of Pistorius and the unfolding events in Ukraine in favour of this one.

Sadly for Nigeria, a great opportunity to win the favour of investors on the heels of the re-basing of the economy through the World Economic Forum starting today will be over-shadowed by the issue of the stolen girls and the two recent bomb blasts around the capital Abuja. Activists threaten that they will crowd out the summit from the Twitter. The two incidents of kidnapping and bombing have justifiably raised alert and risk levels around the federal capital. These acts of terror need to be investigated and those behind them speedily brought to book. Important lessons must equally be imbibed by government and citizens alike. It is clear by now that the 15-year rule by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has totally ignored the safety of the common man. The police is kept away from their primary duty and have become busy protecting politicians. Senators, governors, local government chairmen and the heads of government companies and departments have V.I.P. security at the cost of the common men. Security is at very low level everywhere in the country.

While it will be uncharitable not to give recognition to the security services for commendably curbing some of the planned attacks in spite of the poor equipment and motivation that they bear, the larger body of citizens must rise to the new challenges of intelligence gathering. The only way we can save ourselves is by learning the importance of neighborhood security, which builds up to overall national security. Nigeria is large and her population is equally large. Freedom to most ordinary Nigerians means the right of everyone to come in, settle here, do whatever they wish to do and because we are so many, nothing can be monitored.

Shameful and criminal acts of terrorism must be denounced especially by Muslim leaders whose religion is being defamed by these actions. The world’s big powers should come forward and help rescue these girls before it is too late. Any pretentions to Imelda Marcos, by surrogacy or imitation by the First Lady will only serve as a distraction. This must equally be discouraged. Above all, our government needs to conduct its affairs in a way that places national interest about narrow, selfish political interests. Otherwise we will all be dead by the time someone emerges in 2015 with the certificate as having “won” the election.

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