More than two months after the callous abduction of a yet to be determined number (the most common figure in the media is 276) of young schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram insurgents, we are no closer to fashioning a strategy that will ensure their rescue from their abductors. At home and abroad, the kidnapping and the Federal Government’s all too familiar glacial response have elicited widespread outrage, energising a slumbering civil society. At the same time, several Western governments (including the United States, Britain, and Australia) have volunteered technical and military support to complement the rescue efforts of the Nigerian military and the police. So far, none of these efforts has borne any fruits, heightening the fears of the parents of the abducted girls that they may never be reunited with their children.
Our hearts go out to these parents in their time of sorrow, and it is our fervent wish that before long, their prayers and those of millions of Nigerians who wish to see this crisis resolved timeously will be answered. For this to happen, it is important that there is no letup in pressure on the Federal Government to produce the girls. Peaceful protests and every legal means in the repertoire of civil society must be deployed to ensure that this uniquely tragic incident is not swept under the carpet, and that the authorities enjoy no rest until the girls are brought back.
This is why we find recent attempts by certain individuals to play politics with the Chibok girls’ kidnapping particularly regrettable. In the past week alone, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has traded barbs with the government of Borno State on the latter’s alleged failure to respond to a letter demanding that the girls be moved to a safe location in the state capital; the Secretary to the Borno State Government, Baba Ahmed Jidda, has had a volatile exchange with the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, Alhaji Adamu Ahmed Muazu; former President Olusegun Obasanjo claimed that he had a direct line to the Islamic militants, but the only thing stopping him from initiating contact is the absence of a green light from the Federal Government. Last but not least, and in a comment typical of the rambling demagoguery which has characterised his most recent public statements, former leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, claimed in a newspaper interview that no kidnapping has occurred, and that it is all a ploy designed to discredit the Jonathan government by its northern enemies.
It is difficult to see how any of these advances the conversation on national security and state sovereignty that the kidnapping has fortuitously provoked, or takes us a step closer to finding the girls and bringing them back home. As the leader of the Nigerian State, President Goodluck Jonathan has political enemies. This is natural. But to suggest that a heart-rending incident for which perpetrators have claimed responsibility, and which the Federal Government itself freely admits to, is somehow a ruse strung together to denigrate the same government, is the height of irresponsibility, and those who started and continue to circulate this fact-resistant ‘argument’ should bury their heads in shame. They hurt no one but their own reputation, and the feelings of the poor parents of the abducted girls.
The temptation to turn the abduction of the Chibok girls into a game of football is not limited to the Federal Government or its supporters. Members of the opposition, while correctly laying the blame at the door step of the Jonathan administration, often fail to properly historicise the issues of lack of infrastructure, chronic social disinvestment, and institutional poverty that the crisis has thrown up.
To politicise the Chibok girls’ abduction in this way is to kidnap them twice, and to insensitively plunge a dagger into the hearts of their parents and guardians. The girls and their parents deserve better. And so do all Nigerians. What we need right now is a concerted effort to bring back the girls. For their sake- and their parents’- we cannot afford to waver.