On April 15 this year, Nigerians woke to the alarming news that more than 200 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, had been abducted in the night by Boko Haram insurgents. To date, most of these girls have not been found, although 53 of them had escaped, through their own efforts. And since their abduction, Nigerians and millions around the world have found it hard to come to terms with the fact that such huge number of girls can simply vanish into thin air.
The federal government at the weekend set up another committee to find and rescue the girls, but we do not understand the meaning of that. Yet questions continue to be asked about why in this day and age of drones, google maps and aerial surveillance, such an incident, reportedly carried out with a convoy of trucks and motorcycles could be unleashed without being detected and confronted. It is all the more confounding when one realises that Borno State is under a state of emergency. The question that therefore arises is: why were there such lapses in security around soft targets that were obviously vulnerable to such attacks?
Against the background that Boko Haram stands for, “western education is sinful”, one wonders why schools, of all places, could be left unprotected, coming so soon after the Buni Yadi massacre where 59 innocent students of a Federal Government College were murdered in their hostels. But more pertinent questions have arisen as a result of the tragedy: If our own agencies have difficulties tracing these girls, why can we not collaborate with other countries that are better equipped in such efforts? Are there any efforts at addressing the trauma and the anguish the families of the girls must be going through?
The Chibok tragedy remains the clearest indication that Nigeria has become very vulnerable to the terror of the Boko Haram insurgency. If innocent children can be carted away so effortlessly, for merely attempting to actualise their right to an education, what is the hope for us all? It is indeed tragic that the fear and the insecurity that pervade the North- east, arising from these wanton attacks, are bound to discourage parents from allowing their children to go to school. No parents in their right minds would risk their children going to school in such circumstances. Yet the North-east zone, in particular, was in dire need of massive injection of human capital, as even before the insurgency, it was the region that portrayed the poorest indices in education, health and poverty.
In acknowledging the complexities in security operations, as well as the dangerous nuances of fighting a completely new kind of enemy, we commend our security agencies for their sacrifices. But we also call on them to scale up their efforts at rescuing all of the abducted girls. Every additional day that the girls remain in the custody of their captors is one day too many. But it is also important that members of the communities assist the security agencies in this war, while the latter, in turn, need to earn the trust of the people by demonstrating that they are capable of protecting them. Positive results are critical, for confidence and support from the citizenry.
However, we call on all ethnic and religious irredentists to desist from politicising security challenges that confront us today as a nation. This insurgency has clearly shown that it is enemy of all, irrespective of the superficial divisions that it sought to inflame initially, and before it mutated to attacking soft targets. We must all rise to confront terrorism, lest our peace and prosperity, and ourselves, be consumed by it. But the girls from Chibok must be urgently rescued and brought home, alive.