Chibok, an ongoing tragedy
There are certain things that happen in our beloved Nigeria that can only be described as farces of, well, Nigerian proportions.
It has been over a week since a large number of young girls were abducted from -Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, and we still have neither:
- An accurate figure of how many girls are actually missing, and
- An exact report of their location.
Here is what we know: we know that they are in the Sambisa forest. We know that there are over 200 girls missing, based on the varying figures supplied by different sources. But now, ten days since their abduction, our military forces have not recovered a single girl and delivered her safely home. We can only rely on hearsay and we have heard that some of the girls have escaped, but we cannot say how true that is. I must note here that it is unbelievably irresponsible of the government that till now, we cannot say exactly how many were taken. The school principal says one thing, the parents say another, the government spokesman has the figure he prefers, while the international press is peddling theirs. It just shows the basic level of disarray among those who should be handling this case.
It is very disturbing that for a tragedy this huge, the federal government can only be described as being complacent. We cannot see anything tangible being done by the military forces that are sworn to serve and protect all Nigerians, including these poor girls. Reports abound of the parents of these girls combing the forests themselves – these untrained and unarmed men and women, largely farmers and traders, armed only with cutlasses, bows and arrows and sticks- in the search for their children. These people had to raise and donate N13,500 each to pay vigilante groups who would conduct a separate search, which turned out to be fruitless. These people have had to suffer the trauma and anguish of not knowing, as well as spending their meager resources to do all they can to recover their daughters. I can only imagine the sort of fear they have been living in, in these past days. They have received threats from these monsters saying that they would kill the girls if they (the parents) keep searching.
Just yesterday, the women of Borno State declared that they would go into the Boko Haram den to ‘appeal’ to these men to set their daughters free. This is the level to which these desolate mothers have fallen, this level of risk and rashness. As inadvisable as I find this, I cannot say that I really blame them. They certainly cannot place their trust in a government who asks them to remain calm and keep praying, and they cannot bear to sit home and twiddle their thumbs until a miracle happens while their daughters remain at the mercy of possible rapists and certain murderers.
Around the time the story of this horrible kidnapping first broke, I remember that two daughters of a House of Reps member were also abducted by unknown gunmen. The police in the area of the incident released a statement where they more or less vowed not to rest until both girls were returned. Now, if we all agree that all lives are invaluable, why then this seeming inactivity from the federal government? We cannot deny the fact that if the daughter of some prominent official was part of these 200 or so girls, the flurry of activity would be dizzying. The President has reportedly declared that he would provide 6,000 (six thousand) troops to protect the foreign delegates to a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa from May 7-9 at Abuja. One has to wonder if the Nigerian people of the north and indeed, these poor girls are not good enough for the protection of these troops.
In the midst of this deplorable affair, we are saddled with politicians who, instead of uniting to tackle the common enemy, are gleefully using this dreadful incident as political leverage. Accusations are flying left and right and across both party and ethnic divides, as if that is the foremost issue. If you, as a political figure, know those in government who are connected to this horrendous sect, then name names and provide proof, instead of making thinly-veiled oblique accusations whenever you ascend a podium. It is the height of shamelessness and insensitivity to use the lives of endangered people to push your party or ethnic group forward. The likes of Adamawa State Governor- Murtala Nyako- have terribly disappointed Nigerians even further with this behavior.
Perhaps the most worrying facet of this issue for me is the lack of concern and indignation over this mass kidnapping, both home and abroad. One cannot really blame the foreign press for not taking it as seriously as it is; you cannot take paracetamol for a man who acts like he does not have a headache. We have become conditioned to aberrations in Nigeria and our shock threshold is nearly unreachable. Yes, some of us are appalled. But the truth is, majority of Nigerians carry on as usual, including the press and those in power. The government continues to conduct its usual activities of ribbon-cutting and providing sound-bites. Why, we did not even get a token national broadcast from our president over this incident. When nothing is sacred, all is consumed.
There is a part of me that carries the hope that the government and army are staging an underground, hush-hush operation to recover the girls and we have been kept in the dark in order to preserve the element of surprise. However, knowing the present administration as we have come to know them, it is highly unlikely, unless said operation consists of intense fasting and a call to prayer. We need for them to step up this time, prove skeptics like me wrong and save these girls. Every single day counts.