What if the girls of Chibok are not found?
I would not even dare contemplate that our girls would not be found after being kidnapped for more than seventy days and seventy nights. But what if these girls are found? What happens if our dreaded fears come to pass and they have been physically abused? Are we prepared to deal with rape and torture victims? What if these girls suffer depression or harbour suicidal thoughts?
Call me an alarmist and a doomsday prophet all you want, but you should try to wear their sandals for a moment and imagine that the whole world knew your name, face and family and have watched you on television sitting behind Shekau – a man who sneers at the camera, threatening to sell you as sex slaves if you were lucky or marry you to terrorists if you were not.
Would you want to continue living after being rescued from the evil Sambisa forest when the whole world knows you and your story? How would you feel if all you ever saw was this monster’s face in every man you met for the rest of your life?
There is loose talk from government quarters about arrangements for counseling. Is there anyone talking to the parents of these girls? Are actual discussions being held with their parents to permit their long kidnapped daughters to go back into another government institution for post traumatic stress therapy because believe me, these girls are deeply traumatized and probably scarred for life. Has the government set up a rehab facility with trained trauma therapists and counselors on standby so these girls can get instant psychiatric care immediately they are rescued? Have they bothered to prepare their parents for the support roles they have to play in the rehabilitation process? Will we do things the Nigerian way by releasing them immediately to their parents only to attempt to admit them to Government Girls Rehab, Chibok weeks after?
What if these girls are pregnant? The creepy thought of conceiving a Shekau jnr. must send shivers down their spines. Could anyone love and nurture such a baby? Or will they end up being thrown away? Try to conceptualize the anguish it must feel to carry for nine months a product of rape and torture. Assume that a Shekau jnr. was born, could anyone marry a Chibok girl? Would you accept if anyone in your family decided to be the stepfather of Shekau jnr? Looking at the innocent child, would you not be consumed with irrational fears that he may be a changeling because they say the apple does not fall far from the tree? If these girls are pregnant, would we blame them for the pregnancy? It is a popular belief that only bad girls get raped. Should they have chosen to die instead of let themselves be taken advantage of? Is this a case of what you were wearing tempted them to rape you? Would we be compassionate and support these girls without trying to smother them with compassion?
Now that the whole world is watching, is this not time to address gender issues like teenage pregnancy, rape, child marriage, child abuse, female genital mutilation and all the other vile happenings that oppress the rights of the girl child? I wonder if the Government would permit abortion in this instance or if we should just hope that Shekau jnr. suffers a miscarriage.
What if these girls have STDs? Would we embrace them or would we ostracize them like we do to people living with HIV? Can these girls get admitted into some of these private schools that carry out pregnancy and HIV tests before admission? Can these girls ever get work after pre-employment medicals or would we simply give them free retroviral drugs and ignore catering to their social wellbeing?
What if these girls have been indoctrinated? What if Shekau was covertly telling us in his video that he had converted our girls to terrorism? What if they are being trained to wear suicide vests and handle explosive devices? While watching that video Shekau released, I wondered at how those girls looked so relaxed. That was many days ago. Seventy days and counting, those girls are probably traumatized, vulnerable, confused, frustrated and angry with us for abandoning them for what has seemed like forever.
I would lose faith if I knew that Mr. President did not bother to visit my school, calm my weeping mother and tell my father what he was doing about my rescue but chose instead to gyrate to chants of sycophants at political rallies across the country. I could lose hope if I knew that the armed forces had been prevented from combing the evil forest in search for me. I would surely lose my sanity if I heard the First Lady accuse my school teachers of concocting a hoax to discredit Mr. President. I would surely be incensed at my teachers for locking me up in the hostel while running away to hide from the marauding Boko Haram. I would believe that my life was worthless after watching Mr. President repeatedly express his inability to locate me. Of course, I would figure out that he finally decided to address my matter while answering more important questions like hosting the World Economic Forum. I am very sure that I would finally give up while watching the First Lady shed “tears” for me.
After more than seventy nights of hopelessness, despair, torture and trauma, I could become indoctrinated into hate and terror. It would be easy. Impressionable teenagers have breaking points too. Terrorists have mastered the art of breaking people, especially when vulnerable, and turning human beings into human weapons of mass destruction. We have had our own share of real life terrorists. The Christmas day bomber (Abdulmuttalib) and the Lee Rigby murderers (Adebolajo and Adebowale) put the country on the terrorism ranking before Boko Haam took their place, center stage.
Unfortunately, these issues are hydra headed. We need to change the focus quickly before publicity seekers, celebrity selfies and Chibok donation scammers exploit us further. We want the girls back, if we get them back, what is the plan? Now that we have caught the world’s attention with our tears, outcry, demonstrations and #BringBackOurGirls maybe we should ask another question. If we get them back as we pray we do, even though hope seems dim right now, #WHATDOWEDOABOUTOURGIRLS?