The Abducted 234: The Story that changes everything!
On the 15th of April 2014, the story of the abducted schoolgirls from a government girl’s school in Chibok, a local government area in Borno State, Nigeria was released, fast on the heels of a terrorist bus station bomb attack in Nyanya, Abuja. The country, recovering from shock and devastation, was thrown into further turmoil by the news. Turmoil, which is often greeted with routine exasperation, turned to concern, then worry, and now grave apprehension and disquiet.
The initial numbers released to the public by the military stated that the number of missing girls was 85, the number grew to 169 when the school principal cried out at the lackadaisical nature in which the news was being handled and the number hit the mark of 234 when parents got involved. At this stage, news agencies are struggling with the numbers, the inaccuracy of which only depicts the complete witless anecdote the government has slowly become synonymous with.
Getting on a flight from London to Abuja, Nigeria and travelling by road to Borno State was something that had to be done to determine, to an extent, the situation and mood in Chibok. What was discovered was certainly more gruesome than local and international media have reported in the past week and a half. The desolate and desperate faces say it all. The area is heavily militarized and it is unclear if the presence of the soldiers is to aid in the search or prevent the media from getting involved. First hand information can confirm that (a) there has been no thorough military operation aimed at rescuing the missing girls (b) the fate of the missing girls is unknown – though some residents fear the worst and rightfully so (c) the women in the area and the mothers of these girls have complained and some have paid vigilante in the area to search the Sambisa forest which is supposedly where these girls have been taken. Some of the parents have also joined in the repeated search for these girls.
Mallam Shettima Yau Haruna, a parent, who spoke on behalf of the parents confirmed that about 40 of the girls had been ‘rescued’ – which one should read to mean escaped captivity-and like other numbers, these are also unconfirmed and vary completely from military reports that a 100 girls had been rescued. The desperation can be tasted in the salty air of Borno state and the mayhem is only compounded by the fact that the notorious and murderous nature of the Boko Haram sect has become legendary.
The question is – how can 234 young girls be missing for over 2 weeks without a glimmer of hope, activity or news? The people carrying out the rescue operations at the moment are not armed to defend themselves, they comb the forest in tears and pain knowing that the possibility of the worst befalling their children grows with each passing minute.
The pain felt in relation to the abducted 234 is certainly shared globally, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, reportedly stated that Boko Haram’s strength “appears to be increasing”. These grave words may appear as obvious as confirming that the sun rises but it is a truth that should be considered with care.
The inability to ascertain the correct number of kidnapped girls is one that will not be discussed in detail, as I have probably written in earlier posts; the government’s failure in various facets of responsibility is one that has become routine and expected. What, however, is unacceptable is the attitude towards the situation.
Chibok has a population of about 66,105. If 234 girls are missing, this is certainly a number that should get the attention of the country. Telephone conversations with our National Assembly correspondent confirms that nothing has been done and while they resume from recess on the 29th, too much can honestly not be expected at this time.
The annoying lack of information, the gross sadness of the government’s apparent inaction, the insanity of the situation and the dread that tomorrow might bring the news that nobody wants to hear, is enough to make reporting and investigating this story, the news media’s priority. However, from my experience so far, priorities differ. We can only hang on to helpless optimism and hope beyond faith, that these 234 schoolgirls are safe, unharmed and alive.