Chibok girls, two years on By Lawal Ogienagbon


Anniversaries are important dates celebrated to mark significant events. Couples celebrate their wedding anniversaries. Children mark the death anniversaries of their parents. Monarchs celebrate their coronation anniversaries. Companies, schools and related businesses celebrate the anniversaries of their formation. First birthday anniversary; a company’s 10th anniversary; a school’s 25th anniversary; 50th and 100th birthday anniversaries are, in most cases, marked with fanfare because we consider them as special.

But, there are some anniversaries that we recoil from celebrating because we do not wish to remember them. We want to forget such events and, if possible, we wish that they never happened. Anniversaries that evoke bitter memories are no anniversaries, but we still remember the events that happened on those dates to see what can be done to ease our pains.

Two years ago, we were hit by a thunderbolt when over 200 pupils of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) in Chibok, Borno State, were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in the wee hours of April 14. Since their abduction, many theories have been propounded about their whereabouts. As at today, we cannot say categorically where these girls are. The fact is, as President Muhammadu Buhari said in his maiden media chat, there is no intelligence report on where the girls are being kept. This has provided some unscrupulous people an opportunity to defraud the government.

Knowing that the government is desirous of bringing back the girls, no matter what it takes, they have been coming up with tales about where the girls are and promising to get them released if the price is right. The Jonathan administration fell prey to such confidence tricksters, who have also tried to play a fast one on the Buhari administration. The Chibok girls’ abduction remains a slap on our face. As the girls mark two years in captivity, chances of their being rescued are getting slimmer by the day. Nothing will gladden the hearts of  Nigerians more than these girls being rescued intact. But the truth is that may not be possible.

When former President Olusegun Obasanjo said some weeks ago that the girls may not be rescued intact, many wanted him skinned alive. As a former president, Obasanjo must know what he was saying. He may be privy to certain information that we do not have. Obasanjo would not have spoken that way if he was not in the known of certain things. We should not crucify him for what he said. What we should do is to see how these girls can be brought back no matter what it takes. Boko Haram must not be allowed to win this war; otherwise we will be doomed.

It may not be possible to rescue the girls intact because we cannot say for sure if Boko Haram is still keeping all of them together. The insurgents knew why they kidnapped the girls and they will stop at nothing to ensure that they remain in the sect’s custody. The insurgents may not be as daft as we think. They know that as long as these girls are with them, they have a bargaining power. This is what they have capitalised on in the past two years to swindle the government. If that is the price we have to pay to rescue the girls, why not? But are the insurgents ready to let the girls go after they get what they want?

In the past 24 months, the group has been playing on our collective intelligence over these girls’ matter. Today, it is that they are in Sambisa; tomorrow, it is that they have been moved to God knows where. Where really are the girls? This is the game being played by the insurgents to throw investigators off their trail. The latest talk in town now is of the phone calls being made to some of the girls’ parents from their daughters’ lines. The parents were said to have missed the calls, but on seeing that they were from their daughters’ lines, they called back. And what did the receivers tell them? Some were told that the girls were now in Ondo and Cameroon. Others were told not to call the numbers again or they will be killed.

Are we sure that those calls emanated from Boko Haram? Were they not prank calls just to set the girls’ parents’ blood on the rise again? Boko Haram knows that it is another anniversary of the girls’ kidnap and that there could be no better time than now to make such calls apparently to raise the hope of their release. Having studied the situation critically, I do not think that Boko Haram is going to release the girls just like that. It is painful though, but that is the truth. Let’s face it if Boko Haram ever wanted to release these girls, it would have done so since. Boko Haram was not ready yesterday; is not ready today and will not be ready tomorrow to release these girls.We have to force it to do what it does not want to do.

We have to fight to get the girls back. By fighting, I mean we have to flush Boko Haram out of Sambisa, if that is still its operational headquarters. With ties to  the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram may have changed base with money and materials from the global terror group to which it pledged allegiance last year. From what we have seen so far, it has also changed tactic, with the way it is using some of the girls as suicide bombers. One of the girls who escaped from its den told the Cable News Network (CNN) that some of them volunteered to be suicide bombers with the hope of escaping. Fati(not her real name), according to the CNN, painted a picture of life in Boko Haram camp.

Fati said they were abused and tortured. The girls, she said, had no choice than to do the bidding of their captors in order to save their lives. So, the girls opted to be suicide bombers, hoping to see soldiers that they may run to during the deadly mission to facilitate their escape. Just like their parents and their compatriots, the girls do not like the life they are being forced to live now. They look up to us to rescue them, but so far, we have failed them. When these girls were abducted in 2014, we never thought that two years down the line we will still be struggling to get them back.

Like Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, I strongly believe that these girls will be back, but we will have to fight Boko Haram to bring them back.


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