What moral right do we have to tell our children to go to school when we can’t protect them there? Yusuf Abubakar (Coordinator of the sit-out group Bring Back Our Girls)
Precisely, two years ago, on Monday, the 14th of April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from the Government Girls' Secondary School Chibok dormitories. 57 girls escaped while 219 girls are still missing. From April 14, 2014 to April 14, 2016; 18 parents of the Chibok Girls have died. The aforementioned figures are a snapshot of the Chibok Girls story.
Most Nigerians might recollect the time/period when the Chibok Girls story began to drum into our recollective skulls. For me, I began to take notice, some days later, when an On-Air-Personality Sope Martins was speechless on her morning show with her colleague Mazino of Smooth FM in Lagos. Some weeks later, on the 30th of April 2014, I was somewhere in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, unpacking my luggage and I noticed on BBC World that #BringBackOurGirls had become global and Mrs Oby Ezekwesili was to appear on a BBC programme. Who would believe that an incident in Chibok Town in Borno State would galvanise global momentum? Global momentum, which many believed would have resulted in action in rescuing the Chibok Girls.
I sidestepped writing about the Chibok Girls (because everyone was writing about it then and I decided to keep my thoughts to myself after discovering and observing other cultures’ high regard for the women folk). But my perspective changed when I met a top Nigerian-American official at Pfizer USA, who told me that writers did not have the obligation to keep mute. He also described the nonchalant attitude of government officials he had met in Abuja, who did not care about what the plight of the Chibok Girls might be. This I wrote about in my piece for the 100th day of their abduction which was on the 23rd of July 2014. Not forgetting the fiasco that transpired on Monday the 21st of July 2014, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja while Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili was about to board a British Airways flight to London to be on BBC HardTalk’s 100 days of the Chibok Abduction (watch the video).
Two years after the abduction of the Chibok Girls, stories of various dimensions have been coming to the fore. From how the military soldiers guarding that school were reduced, how they were recalled hours before the abduction, the tales of a long convoy of trucks to the school. The inability of the military to rescue the girls. How some of the girls had managed to pull themselves out of the trucks when they got to the forest by grabbing onto branches and hanging in there, according to Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times. Also, stories bordering on how girls and women who have escaped Boko Haram’s captivity and who are in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps (IDPs) are being marginalised and segregated and being seen as outcasts by other IDP inhabitants. And stories by Dr Stephen Davis, an Australian clergyman who had almost negotiated the release of some of the Chibok Girls but final talks broke down. The clergy man is adamant that the location of some of the Chibok Girls is not difficult to find for him, even on Google Maps.
A cornucopia of issues ranging from psychological problems, post traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs), teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, divided homes, missing parents, missing family members, missing children are issues springing up. And even sexual abuses in the IDP Camps as reported by Christina Lamb in her article in the UK’s Sunday Times of March 20, 2016.
Two years after the Chibok Girls abduction and after several assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari, his administration might be working to track down the exact location of the Chibok Girls (who reports have it that they might have been divided into groups) or what has become of them. But the truth of the matter is that information management with regards the Chibok Girls is not satisfactory. Like someone queried; who is the contact person in the Buhari Administration with regards the Chibok Girls? Isnt the government seeking assistance in terms of intelligence from nations willing to help?
The Buhari Administration can not be said to have succeeded come 2019, if the Buhari-led administration cannot give the Chibok parents, Nigerians, Africans and the world, a holistic report of what has happened to the 219 still missing girls from Chibok town. For the doubting Thomases, who still question the veracity of the Chibok Girls’ abduction; the Goodluck Jonathan administration set up a committee to look into the case, and it was reported the girls were abducted. But the findings of the committee have not been made public. Baffling.
This should not be baffling, when you remember that it had to take a trip by the Pakistani Girl rights activist Malala Yousafza, to Nigeria on the 90th day of the Chibok Girls abduction and soliciting a promise by President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with the Chibok Girls’ parents. Also baffling is the story that since the abduction, the governor of Borno state, Governor Kashim Shetima (in which Chibok lies) has not visited the parents. Instead, he sent the district chairman a bag of rice, 30,000 naira and some fabric, which he said was a gift from the president.
Also baffling is the picture and PR ops, former Finance Minister Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal had with some of the parents of the Chibok Girls, when she laid the foundation of a new building for the Government Girls College Chibok in May 2015. Pictures of the laying of foundation and with the parents were taken. But till date, the building has not been completed.
On the issue of amnesty cum de-radicalisation programmes for “repentant” Boko Haram insurgents, how can we as a nation via our government even contemplate pardoning members and fighters of Boko Haram-the world’s deadliest extremist group? A group that has used at least 105 women and girls in suicide attacks since June 2014? Heinous crimes against humanity were committed.
According to a global online publication, the Global Terrorism Index ranks Boko Haram as the world’s deadliest terrorist group. In its ever more violent quest to create an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, the group has killed more than 15,000 people, razed villages and forced more than 2m people to flee their homes over the past seven years. Living up to its name, which translates as “western education is forbidden”, it has also forced more than 1m children from school, according to UNICEF, burning their buildings and abducting thousands to work as cooks, lookouts and sex slaves.
Dr Ferdinand Ikwang, who runs a deradicalisation programme for former Boko Haram members and captives, told a reporter about a group of women and girls released in 2015. Amongst this group was a five-year-old who had been raped so many times that her pelvis had shattered and she “walks like a dog”.
No sane society (except the one where abnormality is the norm) would such happen and punitive measures would not be implemented. The "Operation Safe Corridor", a programme launched by the Nigerian Military headquarters to rehabilitate repentant Boko Haram fighters through camps where they will be offered jobs and training in return for undergoing biometric profiling. Around 800 fighters had already signed up, and that camps would open all over north-east Nigeria in coming months.
But where would they get jobs from? In the same areas they ransacked, burnt homes, raped people, killed people? Let us call a spade a spade. Boko Haram committed acts of rape, which is a weapon of war and probably committed genocide.
But reading the last 3 paragraphs of New York Times’ West Africa Bureau Chief, Dionne Searcey’s piece on Boko Haram, published on Thursday, April 7, 2016. Gives one a glimmer of hope about the Chibok Girls. According to Dionne Searcey; Boko Haram incorporated the lack of food into their training, Ms. Amos said. Several months ago, she said, fighters rounded up the women and took them to an old factory to view a set of plump, well-fed girls who had plenty of food and water. Follow our ways, the fighters said, and you can have enough to eat, like these girls. The girls, some crying, told Ms. Amos they were from Chibok, the Nigerian village where Boko Haram had captured the schoolgirls. American State Department and military officials said they would investigate the statements from Ms. Amos about the girls. “They were very fat,” Ms. Amos said, compared with herself and the other women who were being held, “and they had lots of water.”
On the 600th day of the Chibok Girls abduction on the 5th of December 2015, I wrote a piece published in The Guardian Newspaper; in which I wrote that “several months ago, I was discussing with a Rwandan diplomat stationed in the West and the diplomat went thus; Can a country give up on her girls? In Rwanda, children are a ”pearl”, when you lose it you search for it until you find even if it is under your dead body. A girl is the “future of humanity.” This statement left me thinking and wondering where Nigeria and Nigerians have gotten it wrong.”
In this writer’s moments of ruminating and soliloquising about the Chibok Girls, this question has reared its head on a couple of occasions; have we as humanity, disappointed the Chibok Girls. Yes we have. And the quote below amplifies this
“Every time a world leader gets up and says girls should go to school, they lack moral credibility when 219 brave girls went to school in a place called Chibok and never came back.” –Mrs Oby Ezekwesili.
Photo Credit: Gordon Brown’s Office