By Hussaina Ishaya Audu
Who against hope believed in hope – Romans 4:18a
The night is Thursday May 3, 2007. The setting is Praia de Luz, a holiday resort in Algarve, Portugal. The protagonists: Gerry and Kate McCann and their daughter Madeleine, whose fourth birthday is only nine days away. The plot, which merciless Fate triggers that night with a most unexpected and terrible occurrence can only be described as cruel, cataclysmic and hellish.While her parents are having dinner at a restaurant less than a minute walk away from the apartment they have rented, Madeleine is snatched from her bed by Evil, and disappears from the face of the earth without a sound, without a trace, without warning.
The night is Monday April 14, 2014. The setting is Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria. The protagonists: 276 faceless girls. The plot is the same. Well almost. Up to the cruel, cataclysmic and hellish part.While in their bleak and grim dormitories on a nepaless* night, 276 girls were snatched from their school by Evil. There was much sound, much fury. Their abductors were gun-toting fiends who infuse fear in their victims with menacing taunts and actions. There were warnings about the need to secure the school in light of recent events within the same region– warnings which went criminally and negligently unheeded.
Most certainly, our government has failed them. It has failed us. You can find a chronicle of the government’s ineptitude on the bringbackourgirls website (http://bringbackourgirls.ng/chronicle-of-false-narratives-and-inconsistencies-by-the-nigerian-government-over-the-rescue-of-the-abducted-chibok-schoolgirls/). We, however, cannot give up on our girls. Even without the leverage of government machinery there is still hope!
Look at The McCaans. They have refused to let go. Against hope, they have believed in the hope that Madeleine is still alive and she will be found. They have withstood the brutal indignity and wickedness of being accused of killing their daughter and staging the abduction as a ruse to cover their misdeed. They have endured the misery of false leads and dashed hopes, and have had countless opportunities to surrender to despair. Yet, they have refused to cower under the pressure of a fruitless harvest after over seven years and six months. They refused to give up even when they lacked the support of government machinery, and between September 2008 and May 2011 they trawled the darkness alone. In 2011, Scotland Yard set up a new inquiry, and last year October, the Portuguese reopened the case. 7.3million pounds later, the disappearance of Madeleine is still being investigated.
The tenacity of an audacious hope.
Like a search for a needle in a haystack the search for Madeleine continues.
Shouldn’t it be much easier to find our girls? 219 of them still missing! Surely 219 needles should be easier to find than one. You may miss the glint in the sun from one needle but not from 219. Especially when some of the girls have managed to escape and walked the long walk to freedom and lived to tell their tale. Wasn’t that an indication of porosity in the enemy’s camp? Shouldn’t some viable leads have emerged from debriefing these girls?
Obviously, the bringbackourgirls campaigners are right to continue to pressure the government and demand results. However, we can no longer put all our eggs in one basket and perhaps it is now time to consider a new direction and a different strategy.
The McCaan’s will not let the world forget Madeleine. If you don’t know what she looks like then you don’t live on this planet. There is even an artistic impression of what she may have looked like two years ago. The way to force the world to remember is to humanise the girls. It can no longer be a battle between the bringbackourgirls movement and the government. Let us see, no longer a cause or a movement, but individual girls with unique personalities and dreams. Show them to us. Let it no longer be about the leaders of a campaign or about an inept government alone. Let is now be about every single one of these girls. What are their names? What do they look like? What do those who know them have to say about them?
Humanise them. Tell us their stories. Individualise them. Use the media like the McCaan’s have done to keep these girls in our consciousness. Not the movement. People can take sides for or against a movement. They can decide to ignore a campaign. They can forget a hashtag. But it is much harder to forget a story, or a face.
Hussaina Ishaya Audu is a lawyer/school administrator based in Abuja.