In the despondent, somber, atmosphere which marked the national remembrance of four years of captivity of the Chibok girls, the Federal Government must wake up to reassure Nigerians that it is still negotiating to secure the release of the remaining 112 Chibok girls. It must also hasten the return of Leah Sharibu of Dapchi who could not be released along with her colleagues. The prevailing silence of the government on the fate of these girls has been interpreted by Nigerians to mean inaction and lack of new initiative.
On April 14, 2014 when the 276 girls were abducted from Government Girls School, Chibok, a confounded government at first could not believe the fact of the abductions. When it came round to reality, it had no idea how to proceed. Everything the Goodluck Jonathan government tried to do had the appear–ance of too little, too late. The result was that except the 57 of the girls who had the presence of mind to escape from the terrorists, the past administration recovered none of the girls.
President Muhammadu Buhari blamed the previous government for failing to protect and rescue the girls, vowing that should he be elected he would secure the release of the Chbok girls in a very short time. His promise was unequivocal and he reiterated it on his inauguration. There could not be a victory over Boko Haram without the release of the Chibok girls. The release of 82 girls in May 2017 was celebrated nation-wide and buoyed the hope of parents and Nigerians on the eventual release of all the girls. Alas, Nigerians had thought it would be a matter of weeks, now the weeks have turned into months and in a few days it would be a year. Hopes are dimming, fears are rising, and rumours are circulating.
The return of the terrorists and their successful kidnapping of 110 girls from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State on the February 19, 2018 shocked the nation out of its complacency. Nigerians were initially furious that the government, through its own acts of omission or commission, permitted the girls to be abducted. However, they breathed a sigh of relief when all the girls, except one, Leah Sharibu, were returned by their kidnappers. If the Dapchi girls release could be successfully negotiated, Nigerians do not understand why the remaining Chibok girls could not be negotiated and freed after four years in captivity. Whatever strategy was used to secure the release of the Dapchi girls and the 82 released Chibok girls should be utilised by the government to free the rest.
The continued captivity of the girls has given rise to all kinds of rumours about their well-being and how many of them are even alive. Some of those speculations are scary, indeed. The only way to counter those rumours is through a regular government briefing of the parents of the girls. This incident is dragging on for too long, and Nigerians are running out of patience, just as the government seems to be running out of excuses. The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) organisation seems to be the only consistent, committed body maintaining public awareness on the subject. Last week, it dispatched a protest letter to the United Nations (UN) urging the organization to mobilise all UN agencies to “pressure the Nigerian government to bring this nightmare of school abductions and insecurity to an end.”
We believe that time is not on the side of either the girls or the government, given the President’s promise. The girls have now had four years interruption of their education. UNICEF has reported that Boko Haram abducted at least 1,000 children in the last five years, and seems determined in its war against education. We must not let them defeat the education of the girls, which is what they crave. The terrorists are said to have employed 244 female suicide bombers. The non-release of the girls will always serve as a reminder that Boko Haram, in spite of government’s claims, is anything but defeated. Only the release of the girls would convince Nigerians that the country is winning the war.