With the prevailing existential threat and grim economic crisis terrorizing the world in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the sixth year anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls passed without much fanfare and national recrimination. The fact that no official statement was made makes one to wonder if President Muhammadu Buhari’a administration will ever bring back the girls
All told, the president should be reminded that part of his campaign promises in 2015 was that he would secure the release of the abducted schoolgirls. This is a covenant he should not break with the people. Buhari should also be reminded that the only way to stop the agonizing parents of the missing girls from crying is to bring their children back home.
On April 14, a delegation of the Borno State government visited Chibok with relief materials and messages of hope for parents, whose remaining 112 daughters marked their sixth year in captivity. Attention was drawn to Chibok after 276 students from the Government Girls Secondary School were kidnapped on April 14, 2014. This deplorable and devastating act of structural violence sparked global outrage and a celebrity-backed campaign #BringBackOurGirls, by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners. Six years seems a long time ago. It’s been six years since the Chibok schoolgirls were abducted in Borno State by terrorists from the murderous Islamic Boko Haram sect; and it has been six years of deferred hopes and tireless campaigns for their freedom amid empty promises by President Buhari to bring the remaining 112 girls back home. Their continuous ordeal despite repeated promises and assurances to bring them home is deeply shocking and inexcusable!
Despite assurances from the government that the search and negotiations for the freedom of the remaining girls are on-going; and that it is doing everything within its powers to rescue the girls, most of the school girls, about 112 are still not home. Yet, the missing girls of Chibok are unforgettable and will never to be erased from our consciousness. Honestly, the way Buhari has acted over this issue calls into question his sincerity and intentions because precedents in his policies and actions do not provide any basis for optimism. Buhari’s insipid response is a sad commentary on government’s appreciation of its basic obligation to its people and the extent to which it wants to be perceived and seen as a government of the people for the people. Smarting from a heritage of lawlessness and prebendal politics, Buhari has demonstrated a very low managerial quotient when it comes to going above and beyond the call of duty to meet the challenges of his office. The President’s apparent addiction to garrison politics bears witness to his apathy to the kidnapping of the school girls, which he perceives as a not in my backyard problem.
However, in all this, it is the security operatives, most especially the military joint task force, that should be held accountable for this inveterate display of failure. Despite all the huge security appropriations, the Nigerian military has failed the nation. It is disheartening that a ragtag band of less trained terrorists can continue to challenge the Nigerian state; dictating the terms of engagement in their confrontation with the Nigeria security apparatus; undermining State authority, wreaking havoc and killing civilians, soldiers and security officers with impunity. No army worthy of its name can allow this to happen. Even if the army pretends not to have a dog in this fight, the fact that army officers and military barracks have been targeted by Boko Haram is enough reason for the military to reassert its authority over the territory called Nigeria. Pride and the love of country demand no less.
Unfortunately, many security officers have proved to be highly unprofessional, unduly aggressive, alarmingly corrupt, incurably extortionist and generally unpatriotic. As matters stand now, there is need for an urgent robust military intervention to bring those girls home. The way forward, therefore, is for Buhari to stop playing the ostrich and making Nigeria the laughing stock on the global community. While it is arguable whether the government has done all within its powers to defeat the insurgency, the activities of Boko Haram reveals in bold relief the declining capacity of the Nigerian state to adequately fulfill its security and economic responsibilities to its citizens.
It is disheartening that the sixth year remembrance of the missing Chibok girls was without the national and global attention. In fairness, the world has changed both dramatically and drastically in the face of the existential coronavirus plague. Nothing else can be more urgent than combating the spread of a contagious pandemic killing over 5000 daily. There will be a time for proper accountability someday. Most fundamental now is the need for all Nigerians to keep hope alive even in the face of adversity. The soulless Boko Haram infidels just like the coronavirus are enemies of the human race and so they are evil, which we all must rally forces to defeat. It is the age-long interplay between good and evil, and the former must prevail over the latter. In the girls’ stories are metaphors of courage, unwavering faith and self-belief that Nigeria needs today more than ever. We cannot afford to relent in demanding freedom for all and end to terrorism.
In the same manner humanity has united to fight Covid-19, Nigerians must continue to mount pressure and speak up for the rescue of the schoolgirls as the non-release of the remaining 112 Chibok schoolgirls and Leah Sharibu remains a moral albatross hanging over the Nigerian state’s duty-bearers. The point must be made, with emphasis that the President must use the powers vested in him by the constitution to save the country from imminent collapse. The times call for strong and decisive leadership. Buhari’s lackluster and kid gloves response to Boko Haram is perhaps borne out of a naïve believe that he can negotiate with the terrorists. Events will continue to prove him wrong. As the world waits and hopes for the kidnapped school girls, Buhari must abandon his accustomed indecisiveness and lead from the front. Until he rises to the power and authority of his office, he will never be able to raise the nation from the throes of death to a new dawn of peace and prosperity. To regain respect in the comity of nations, Nigeria needs visionary leadership as an imperative for national survival.