“Chibok girls saga remains an open sore on the conscience of our nation” – Wole Soyinka
It’s my 50th blog post, and I am dedicating it to the missing Chibok girls. One whole year has passed since an entire set of teenage girls were forcibly taken from their school, the Government Secondary School in Chibok town, Borno State, Nigeria. 365 whooping days! Over 200 girls whose only crime was an ambition to make something of their lives by getting a western education were abducted from their dormitory on the 14th of April, 2014 by the dreaded Boko Haram sect. The Islamist militants have held the north eastern part of the country, and by extension the whole of Nigeria by the jugular for the past six years! However, the case of the kidnapped Chibok girls was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. Boko Haram hit our last nerve. It was and still is a bad dream…a terrible nightmare which has unfortunately dragged on for far too long.
The Chibok girls saga has kept Nigeria in the limelight for all the wrong reasons! From the embarrassing relevation that the Nigerian army had fore knowledge of the impending attack on the school kidnapping four hours before it took place, yet did nothing to avert the unfortunate incident, to the initially conflicting figures as to the exact number of girls that were actually kidnapped, to the highly regrettable slow response of the federal government to the news. It has been one wrong move after the other! The very first time President Jonathan ever spoke a word in public about the issue or even acknowledged the fact that such a heinous act actually occurred was almost three weeks after the abduction and after plenty of hue and cry from Nigerians and the international community. Suffice it to say that the series of public blunders by the Nigerian government in handling the case of the missing girls has done nothing to help our already battered reputation.
Hundreds of school children were kidnapped a year ago, yet our government hasn’t been able to make any headway in securing their release! This is sad. Even more heartbreaking is the undeniable reality that many of the girls have been used as sex slaves, cooks, premature brides and converted to Islam against their will. What baffles me is that despite the extension of helping hands by countries like the USA, China and other world powers in securing their release, for some inexplicable reason, we haven’t been able to harness all these in getting our girls back. The global outrage from the rest of the world, world leaders, civil societies, social media activists through the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, several protests, attention and calls by high profile figures such as the first lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and many other prominent people has achieved little in jolting an administration that is accustomed to pussyfooting over important matters to swing into the much needed action required to bring the missing girls back home.
Instead what we keep hearing are rumours, unconfirmed reports and absolute untruths about the situation of the girls and the state of matters when it comes to securing their release. From the false announcement that the girls had been found and were being held in the military barracks last September, to the dashed hope that the 219 remaining girls might soon be released when the Nigerian Army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces in October, which never really saw the light of day to the latest alleged sighting of more than fifty of the girls who were said to be alive in the north eastern town of Gwoza, the fact still remains that these girls are yet to be found!
At this point, I imagine that many of the parents and guardians of the missing girls have lost all hope that they can still be found. And can we really blame them? Even the good book acknowledges that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Even though the government of the day in Nigeria is now a Lame Duck, the incoming President is also being cautious about any high expectations from his administration with regards to finding and bringing back the girls. In his words… “We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.” I hate to sound pessimistic but this statement does not exactly offer much hope to any parent. The reality is that as the days go by, the chances of finding these girls become slimmer, and even if by some miracle or divine intervention they return, the task of rehabilitating them may be a life long one because of the physical and psychological abuse they are bound to have suffered.
I am aware of the popular saying “There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” but this particular tunnel appears to be a never ending one. One thing is sure, General Muhammadu Buhari, the president-elect, has his work cut out for him come May 29th, as the issue of security is in my opinion unarguably the most important area he needs to tackle head-on as Nigeria’s next president.