Why We May Never Find the Abducted Schoolgirls By Bayo Olupohunda
Dear Nigerians, by the time you read this, it would have been three weeks that Boko Haram insurgents stormed the hostels of Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in the dead of the night and abducted more than 200 girls. The abduction of the girls, who had been sitting for the just concluded Senior School Certificate Examination had happened almost simultaneously with the Nyanya motor park bombing which claimed scores of lives and fatally maimed many others. Both incidents, which were premeditated, had shocked the nation. The country is still in shock as to how terrorists could invade a school and cart away pupils unchallenged. In the days since the incident took place, the girls have been speculated to be in the custody of Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest.
But just a few days ago, Boko Haram, which had earlier claimed responsibility for the Nyanya bombing, finally owned up to the abduction. The leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, in a video boasted that it carried out the abduction and promised more attacks. Nothing could be worse than imagining those vulnerable girls in the midst of terrorists. The Chibok girls’ kidnap which had previously been a Nigerian affair has now sparked off global outrage. Several international bodies, world leaders and celebrities have added their voice to the campaign to bring back the girls. The social media also brought the campaign to the attention of the global community with the evocative hashtag, BringBackOurGirls. What the current campaign has done is its exposure of the lethargic response of the Jonathan’s administration. When the news broke, Nigerians were outraged by the insensitivity of a President who went dancing on a political rally in Kano.
Apparently, the President had treated the disappearance of the girls as inconsequential, as he would other matters pertaining to the nation. But it was not surprising because the President’s lacklustre response fits into the administration’s approach to the insecurity that is crippling the country. In recent years, Nigerians have questioned the incompetence of the Jonathan Presidency to the Boko Haram insurgency. But not until the abduction of the girls has the issue gained global concern. The Chibok kidnap has thus exposed this administration’s confused strategy to the worsening security situation in the country. As I ponder on the fate of the girls, I came to a terrifying conclusion that we may never find the girls. It is a troubling thought. Emerging facts have shown that the girls are too far gone and it may now be too late to find them. It is indeed distressing to think that the once promising girls have become sex slaves to a band of marauding terrorists.
Dear Nigerians, this is not doomsday prediction but I think we should be prepared for the worst case scenario. The reality on the ground has shown us that the government is even more befuddled as to what to do. It appears it has exhausted all the strategies that can be deployed in finding the girls. The administration is caught in a dilemma. What it had thought will be a business as usual reaction by Nigerians has developed into a worldwide demand to find the girls. Now, there is no hiding place as public protests at home and abroad have forced the President to seek a belated international help especially from the United States to locate the girls.
No example demonstrates the administration’s confusion than the President’s media chat where he revealed that he did not know the location of the girls. It was a shocking revelation. The question that came to mind was; if the President and his security chiefs do not have an idea of the girls’ whereabouts, then who will? So why search if they don’t know their location? What technology has been deployed in their search? In the end, Jonathan will have to admit that his failure to respond quickly when the news broke weeks ago is the reason why we are in this mess. At the time the President was dancing away in Kano, the girls were being driven deeper into the forest or across the borders. If the authorities had treated the situation with the urgency it required a few days after the abduction, perhaps the terrorists could have been intercepted. But the terrorists had gained enough time to disappear without a trace. What is the use of a fact-finding committee, which the President characteristically set up, when the girls were long gone? In a vast and porous border that connects Nigeria with its neighbours, it would be easier to find a pin in a haystack than to find the girls.
Another reason that has confirmed my fears that we may not find the girls, at least as a group, is the intelligence report by the American government which shares the State Department concern that the girls may have been moved out of the country. If this is true, then any hope of finding the girls will be seriously jeopardised. Intelligence reports such as the one shared by the US is crucial in the war against terrorism. However, this is one area the Nigerian government has failed woefully. If there is any hope of finding the girls, it must be when they are in a group. But such an intervention should have happened as soon as they were abducted by the terrorists. Now, more than two weeks after the abduction, what hope do we have that the girls are still kept together? I do not see the possibility. That is why I consider it an impossibility that the girls will ever be found as a group. With American intelligence assessment, the girls would have been taken to different locations separated from one another.
The American intelligence assessment also confirms Jonathan’s revelation that the military do not know the location of the girls. To underscore the point that the abducted girls may never be found at least as a group, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in a video released earlier in the week, said that he had a divine duty to sell the girls. Experts have suggested the video may have been made shortly after the girls were abducted. That was more than three weeks ago. Shekau boasted that the girls would be sold. If the video is true, then it is likely that Boko Haram may have already carried out its threat of marrying off the girls. So, what hope of finding the girls if they have been shared to the warlords in different locations?
These interrelated incidents paint the hopeless picture of the situation as we continue to demand the return of the girls. Now 11 more girls have been reportedly abducted. After three weeks of fruitless search, we must know that the insurgents are smarter than keeping 276 girls in one camp. They are no fools. Jonathan says he does not know where the girls are kept; America says the girls may have been taken in several groups across border to Cameroon and Chad; then the bombshell by Boko Haram that the girls would be sold only point to one depressing fact: That time is running out on any hope of finding the girls. The President has asked America for help but that may be a little too late. His government must accept the blame for not acting fast enough. Now, we can only hope that the girls will find the courage to escape their captors individually as they have done or that we simply just pray, hope and wait for a miracle.
Follow me on twitter: @bayoolupohunda
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