By Jide Afolabi, Jos
Many disbelieved the news even the then government under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan until the renowned Cable Network News, CNN, carried the story.
The story shook the entire world to its very foundation to the extent that supports and solidarity were pouring in from distinct countries and leaders.
Advanced countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany to mention but a few, all offering technical and intelligence assistance to Nigerian government with a view to urgently rescue the young girls.
World Leaders were not left out in the popular #bringbackourgirls# campaign. The likes of United States President and wife, Barack and Michelle Obama, United Kingdom Prime Minister, David Cameron, United Nations Secretary General, Ban ki Moon and host of other leaders carried the campaign’s placard and #bringbackourgirls# hashtag broke the internet from Africa to Europe, America to Asia, Pacific to Oceania. The campaign singular purpose was to urgently rescue the girls.
There were protests across the world with Unity Fountain, Abuja, Nigeria as the headquarters of the campaign, demanding the unconditional release and or rescue of the Chibok girls.
The innocent young girls mostly aged between 14 and 17 were preparing for West African Examinations Council (WAEC). They were seeking knowledge which has been termed “western education”. This knowledge seeking effort is their albatross to the terrorists, their abductors who believes that “Boko” – book is “Haram” – forbidden or prohibited.
The evil, vampire Shekarau faction of Boko Haram were happy at their exploits and the tears rolling the frustrated cheeks of the parents of the abductees.
Ironically, while Boko Haram were exhibiting their ecstasy; families, friends and loved ones of the abducted girls were in sad mood while politicians saw a political point to score especially at a time that general elections were less than a year away.
The then major opposition party, All Progressives Congress, APC, exploited the situation vis-a-vis other security and national issues affecting the nation under what Nigerians referred to as clueless government to the fullest.
At that material time, Nigerians were living in perpetual fear, unsecured, unproductive and hopeless. No fewer than 21 local governments were under the control of the dread terrorist group, Boko Haram. In fact, they had their headquarters in one of the captured LGAs in Borno. They had their flags, logo, armies and judicial system. They were their own government. We had a situation of state within state. Nigeria was in shambles and mess.
A year later in 2015, Nigerians voted the kleptomaniac, clueless government out. Nigerians did not just voted the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan out of power but voted the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, out in what has been described as a political Tsunami. Nigerian voted change.
The arrowhead of that “change” was a slim, tall, aged, goggled retired Daura General, Muhammad Buhari and his lieutenants. His campaign was hinged on three critical sectors – economy, security and anti-corruption.
He had the confidence of the masses. He was referred to as “Mr. Integrity”. He was loved, trusted and believed. He won the election by defeating the incumbent Jonathan, first of such in our political history and sworn in on May 29, 2015. His famous “I belong to nobody, I belong to everybody” speech resonated across the globe and rekindled Nigerians hope.
He was seen as the Messiah they have been waiting for. However, economy that plummeted in his first one year in office which led to hyper inflation and other security challenges especially, herdsmen attacks and kidnappings made it dawn on all that after all, he isn’t son of Mary neither was he born in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea. He was born in Daura, present Kastina state in North West Nigeria.
While government has repeatedly claimed the “technical defeat of Boko Haram”, “degraded Boko Haram” and premature victory over the dreaded monster, the February 19, 2018 abduction of Government Science and Technical Girls School, Dapchi, Yobe state exposed the Buhari led government that Boko Haram is not only still potent but had capacity to inflict and wreak more havoc.
Just like 2014 abduction, this is also coming a year to another general elections. The target, mode and choice of location of the abduction appears similar.
However, in fairness to Buhari and his APC led government, appreciable gains have been made in the fight against insurgency. The Boko Haram caliphate has been destroyed and handed over back to Borno state government, all territories have been recovered, daily bombings and killings have been contained and large scale attacks have been brought to an end.
But the recent abduction has again awoken the fifth columnists, masters of conspiracy theories. Immediately after the abduction, aspersions were cast on the government. Buhari and his security Chiefs were lampooned, their tactics were criticised. As it was in 2014, politicians saw the ugly and unfortunate event as opportunity to rejuvenate their fading popularity. The entire event became politicised.
No one can defend such insensitivity by the government to allow the abduction to take place given the 2014 experience. It is condemnable, unfortunate and most insensitive. No serious government would allow such to happen again.
But unlike the 2014 Chibok abduction, the government owned up that the girls were truly abducted and did not allege the opposition of being the brain behind it unlike 2014. We also saw a spontaneous response by the government by directing almost entire assets of our military to Yobe state and its environs. We saw Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, Director Generals of other security agencies and other top security brass and government officials mobilised to the state. All efforts were geared towards immediate rescue of the girls not leaving negotiations option out in the rescue plan.
After about three weeks of lampooning the government and demands for immediate rescue of the girls, the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, who abducted the girls returned them to their village, Dapchi with parents, government officials and community members waiting in excitement to welcome their daughters back home.
According to government’s report, 104 out of the 110 abducted girls were released, 5 died and 1 other boy was also freed. A Christian girl named Leah Sharibu was held back by the sect because she refused to be forcefully converted to Islam.
Many people especially, politicians and their supporters have criticised the negotiations that led to safe returns of the girls. Some even alleged that they were kidnapped by the government in order to score political points as we approach 2019 general elections. While some argued that why was our military asked to stand down while Boko Haram returned the girls. Some also alleged that it was Buhari that kidnapped them, kept them somewhere and released them later just like some of the Chibok girls that were released through negotiations last year.
This is not only unfortunate but inhuman. One may be quick to ask, where has our humanity gone? The same people who criticised the abduction are again criticising their release. Is it because none of them have their kids among them? Would they have been mindful of how their kids were freed if it concerns them? This is simply inhumanity of the highest order.
By the way, who told them that such negotiations and practices are only limited to Nigeria? For your information, this is a standard practice in every part of the world where such incidences have occurred. How many of the overnight critics are aware of how much the French government paid to abductors of their national? What of the Niger government when the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife was kidnapped by Boko Haram? Are these critics expecting the government to leave the girls with terrorists because we would not want to negotiate with terrorists even when such slim window of opportunity opens?
While we all believes in different school of thoughts, any thought that does not put human life first does not worth following.
A very relevant example of what our government did is the almighty United States.
When a veteran, U.S. soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was abducted by the Taliban, US government released five senior Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for one soldier.
In fact, the released Taliban militants were given a royal treatment. A US utility helicopter, Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinok took the freed Taliban’s to the terrorist group. Did the US after the exchange, bomb the Taliban convoy and 5 senior commanders released? The answer is NO! The question is, why? This is because in such exchange, clause for guarantee of safe passage is always inserted.
Even in hostage situations, clause for guarantee of safe passage is always inserted. Have we forgotten that the innocent Leah and several other hostages are with these dreaded terrorists? Could the Nigerian government jeopardise future negotiations and risk lives of innocent Nigerians in Dapchi and those still being held captive to prove that we have the capability of taken the terrorists out?
It was at the grand finale of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Week in 2017 in Osogbo, Osun state capital that the Oluwo of Iwo, His Imperial Majesty Oba Abdul-Rasheed Akanbi, Telu 1 told the gathering that any “Orisa” – deity – that collects human being or any human part as sacrifice does not deserve to be worshipped and be immediately discarded.
To paraphrase this, any principle, philosophy, political party or policy that does not put human lives first must be jettisoned forthwith. Lives are and must be sacred.
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