Why Our, Girls Are Not Back By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, it is now three weeks since over 200 female students were abducted from their hostel without any trace whatsoever. The matter has become more complicated than a jigsaw and the more we look, the less we see. I used to think the game of abracadabra was limited to the illusory world of magic but this calamity has stretched our imagination even beyond superstition. There are just too many questions begging for answers. What I find most baffling and disgraceful is the debate over whether the girls truly vanished or not. Some have insinuated that it is all a game of politics just to make the government of President Goodluck Jonathan look so bad and incompetent. What nonsense! This is symptomatic of how far our nation has gone neurotic.
We should all be ashamed that while we are still playing Russian roulette with the lives of our young girls we are callously increasing the agony and mental torture of their families. The fact that we lack the capacity to find out the nitty-gritty of how those girls were stolen is no reason to rub raw pepper on fresh injury. While all major international newspapers and television channels have been making big stories out of the unfortunate saga, it is sad that some people still think it is a joke. We must single out and thank CNN for its exceptional reportage. Isha Sesay in particular has surpassed herself on this special mission to Nigeria. We are indeed grateful for the way the CNN has forced our leaders to show their true colours. The very rigorous and meticulous investigative wizardry of CNN has blasted the lid off the pot of many lies being cooked for us.
The seeming lack of interest on the part of those whose duty it is to find the girls no matter what it takes is of serious concern to most observers.
Two, the politics behind the cold attitude of those in power is strange and bizarre. Three, the terrible mind-set that opposition is behind this commotion is too pedantic. Four, gripping interviews with parents of the victims by CNN and others confirmed our worst fears. Five, exposing the fact of ineffective security in those affected areas brought home the reality of how vulnerable we are as rudderless citizens. Six, interviews with icons of our struggle demonstrated that we are blessed with great people despite attempts by some to make us look monstrous. Seven, CNN succeeded in forcing the world to pay attention to the unimaginable tragedy in Nigeria and our leaders should have seized the initiative and assemble our brightest stars to help in rebranding us.
Eight, CNN really worked hard on forcing the Federal Government to come out of its shell to say something even if they were not well coordinated. But for these audacious reporters from CNN like Vladimir Duthiers, we would have continued to live in denial since local journalists are used to being treated with distain in terms of access to information. CNN became the most authoritative source of information.
Kudos to other local and international media organisations for a great job. We must salute the gallantry work of our social media warriors and the organisers of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign that went viral globally. The world truly queued up and united behind Nigeria and it was awesome.
But where do we go from here? Our girls are still not back. And we must find them urgently. I’m jittery that very soon the television channels will find other needy nations and fresher Breaking News and it would be time to kiss us goodbye and move on to other territories. It is only natural. A few weeks back, it was all about the missing Malaysian flight. It didn’t take too long before a ferry capsized and sank in South Korea and the harbingers of good and bad news rushed in pronto. Ukraine was also reigning in the news with Russia provoking and irritating America and Europe with his expensive pranks. Syria had been in the news off and on for notorious reasons. Many more people died regularly in Nigeria but the world carried on with only a fleeting glance at us. In fact, I used to wonder why mass killings in Nigeria did not attract news like the death of ordinary European dogs would have instantly scattered the airwaves. The killing of South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious’ girlfriend had become a reality show on television yet no one paid serious attention to thousands of lives massacred in Nigeria.
It was as if the world hated us so much and conspired to obliterate us completely from serious news. No one envisaged or anticipated the shock that was to come. We had calmly accepted our fate as probably a people without relevance despite our importance in the comity of nations. The Nyanya bomb blast would soon bring Abuja back to its unenviable status as a city of terror. We were yet to recover from its deadly impact and still seething with anger when Boko Haram struck again. This time, they got our nation by the jugular by kidnapping over 200 girls in one fell swoop. For two weeks, our country was thrown into panic and confusion.
The tragedy was further compounded by the unexplainable taciturnity of our government. Then pressure started building up on social media. The catch-slogan of #BringBackOurGirls erupted and in no time gained full momentum. Demonstrators picked up courage and started mobilising themselves into different groups.
At first I was cynical as a veteran of many such crusades that ended up in smoke. I knew the attitude of the government would be to crush the rebellion before if festers or ignore them if it is obvious they can’t galvanise enough people into the streets. They were wrong on both counts as I will explain shortly. The demonstrations started like a poor joke. The crowd was not so impressive but through them we saw hope. I saw Obi Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education and Ex-Vice President of the World Bank (in charge of Africa). She spoke our minds and we all applauded.
But nothing happened. We only posted pictures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for awareness sake. Like a snake with hidden poison, the movement began to blossom. Women started pouring out and talking and demanding answers to plenty questions. The ineptitude of government reached its crescendo when the President himself said in a media chat that his government did not know who abducted the girls. That was the last straw that finally broke the camel’s back. He didn’t have to wait for long. The Capo of Boko Haram, Alhaji Abubakar Shekau came out blistering and shooting from the hips. He claimed total responsibility for the abduction and boasted endlessly about his decision to sell off the hapless girls. A helpless nation watched the horrific video and wondered who would liberate us from these over-efficient terrorists.
Just imagine that it took three weeks before government was persuaded to talk to the nation and the world about what had become the hottest item of news on global media. This must have been the reason everyone got angry including many liberal-minded people who felt initially that the President was only being bullied by the irascible opposition. To say the least, this has become one of our worst moments. Nigerians have become traumatised that it is very possible and easy to steal young girls from school and government would not be in a hurry to find them. The hot pursuit by the two battalions chasing the terrorists is neither here nor there. The parents of our girls are even insisting they did not receive security cover when they trekked many kilometres in the evil forests in search of their daughters.
Nothing is likely to change soon and the hope of finding our girls may fade away before we know it. The longer it takes the more difficult it would become to achieve positive results. This is why I will offer my humble suggestions again and only hope someone would listen and hearken to my cries. The government must be jolted out of its somnambulist state by accepting the reality that the girls were truly abducted. This is the starting point. The government should give its agents the marching order to reconcile the numbers of abducted girls within 48 hours. The government ought to have enough facilities to make this happen without further delay. The Christian Association has already done substantial job by compiling names and identity of the Christians amongst the victims. As a matter of fact, it should have been the other way round because government should have provided most of the information instead of waiting for others to do its job.
I still don’t know why we are afraid of taking this war to the doorstep of our troublesome neighbours. We have been too squeamish in the manner we’ve allowed most of them to allow terrorists use their soil to plan evil against us. The terrorists are so comfortable in Cameroon, for example, that they’ve even blown off a bridge linking Nigeria and Cameroon. Is it not possible that they think they are enjoying maximum protection in that country and Nigeria can’t touch them in that country? They are not far from the truth. Our recent altercation with them over the Bakassi Peninsula is still very fresh in the memory. We have a penchant for being too soft abroad while being excessively tough at home. Our enemies are roaming freely in those countries.
We have boxed ourselves into a tight corner and must accept whatever comes our way. What we must do is to bury our shame and let our foreign friends led By America do their job. If we did better, they wouldn’t have come. I’ve been reading a lot of trashy conspiracy theories on social media about why we should not allow foreigners to re-organise our lives for us. I wished it was that simple but it isn’t. We are not in any position to say a word against our kind benefactors because we brought this pestilence upon our land and must naturally seek desperate intervention. This is the result of our many years of unbridled rascality.
I don’t know if the super powers would succeed in their mission but it is worth trying. As a European friend also told me days ago, even our campaigners must change tactics. Rather than plead with the government to bring back our girls we should have expended our time and energy on pleading with the strongest man in Nigeria, Abubakar Shekau to have mercy on us. My friend asked why we are begging the man, our President, who’s not holding the girls when we can appeal directly to the one keeping them. It actually makes a lot of sense and is worth considering.
I have decided to lead the way by appealing to Mr Shekau and company to kindly free our girls in the name of Allah, the merciful. In case our leaders are too cocky to see you as the current champion, we recognise you as a man we must all appease. Those saying we should never negotiate with terrorists don’t know what they are saying. If their children were kidnapped they would have paid visits to Pastors, Imams and Marabouts all at once without prevarication. Such is life. He who feels it knows it.
Finally, I’m no longer opposed to government granting amnesty to Boko Haram if it would bring back our peace ultimately. It seems to me that every section of Nigeria would soon demand for its share of amnesty. Something tells me that several nationalities are jealous that the Niger Delta militants only gained recognition and stupendous wealth after they carried guns and wondering why theirs should be different. It doesn’t matter if the President has said the militants were not terrorists. That is pure Semantics. If these guys want a piece of the national cake, so be it.
Let’s find the money quickly to pay them and let our dear country move on in peace.
After all the new private jets they will buy with the money will improve our status as the richest Black nation on earth and improve our chances at rebasing our economy upwards again.
It shall be well with us.
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