IT is hard to understand exactly their mission, but the mindboggling massacres that bear their atrocious signatures have become widespread. The Boko Haram have sent thousands to their graves since they began a mindless insurgency in 2009.
Hitherto, when they struck – gunning down and bombing innocent souls – the response to their heinous act usually followed a relatively familiar pattern.
The media would be dominated by stories of their attacks with prominence given to the casualty rate; parents and families would go distraught, grieving and wailing over the loss of their beloved ones; government would condemn the killings and assure the citizens that there was no cause for alarm and that it was on top of the situation.
Then, gradually, the resilience of the average Nigerian comes to the fore – life bounces back to normal as if nothing has happened – until the news of another murderous attack finds a screaming headline in the press. It seems that much as the Boko Haram boys revel in the success of their violent campaigns, they tend to feel unfulfilled seeing that their attacks have not drawn “maximum respect” and recognition to them.
So, they changed tactics and plot something which would inflict an enduring agony on our psyche and force us to keep their issue in the front burner of national discourse for a long, long time.
One day, April 14, 2014, the Boko Boys armed to the teeth with assorted guns and explosives came in a convoy of trucks to Chibok, a town south of the terror- stricken Borno, “stole” over 200 female students and reportedly disappeared into the Sambisa forest.
Though angry reactions to this callous abduction were not spontaneous, when they started coming occasioned by government’s insufferable insouciance and dilatory response, they were not only widespread, but enduring.
Of course, if the girls had been slain like many other victims of Boko Haram, the incident would have been dead in the media for long, and the current ‘bring back our girls’ project would have been meaningless; nobody would have had any need to stage melodramatic performance calling on Nigerians to ‘Chai chai’ remember that ‘diar is God oo’; nobody’s hopes would have been dashed because President Jonathan refused to visit Chibok to sympathise with the parents and families of the abducted girls.
But the Chibok saga lingers on and would continue to impose a baleful suspence in the air, in spite of the fact that on the same day the girls were taken away, hundreds of people, according to conservative sources, perished in the Nyanya bomb explosion in Abuja, and that more attacks, unfortunately, would come.
No doubt, the act of abducting over 200 young girls deserve the ongoing outcry and global condemnation, paradoxically it is just the right state of affairs that the terrorists desire, as it puts them on the spotlight and offers them a veritable platform to make certain demands.
We learnt that the Shekau boys have agreed to release our girls to us, but not for free. They want in return the freedom of their men and women who have been arrested or detained by the government in the last couple of years. This demand must have put the Jonathan administration in a much more prickling dilemma than it is willing to admit, which is why the government’s aides are singing discordant tunes, saying their mind instead of their master’s.
Now, the basic question is whether the government would accede to the demands of the insurgents or simply storm the forest or wherever they are hibernating and rescue our girls.
At the moment, it is pretty unlikely that the international military troops contributed by countries such as the US, UK, Israel, France, China and others who have been in the country for weeks now, would take the first option. Of course, they haven’t come all the way to Nigeria to serve as go- between in a swap exercise they don’t believe in, to start with. They are simply thirsty for war against a bunch of fundamentalists; after all, they don’t have much to lose in the process as none of their citizens – either among the captors or captives, are in the Sambisa.
While it easy to dismiss as unreasonable the idea of swapping young innocent and responsible girls with a bunch of insane and blood-thirsty terrorists, what is difficult is to imagine oneself in the shoes of one of the girls; or that one’s beloved daughter or sister is held hostage there and at the brink of losing her life.
Refusing to agree to the swapping demand of the terrorists is only meaningful and wise if the military troops would move into the Sambisa forest or wherever the terror agents are, overrun them and get our girls back without exposing them to much fatality.
If this is unrealisable, it is only sensible and human to allow this exchange take place – except the terrorists renege on their earlier demand or fresh facts emerge which make the storming of their den highly necessary.
There’s a nightmarish concern that any undue and badly prosecuted attacks may make us lose the girls as they are likely to be turned into shields or killed by the insurgents themselves when the battle gets tough.
I think that the blood-thirsty insurgents know that the primary reason for deploying the military into their enclave is to rescue the girls; so releasing or losing the girls without anything in return would mean that the abductors have failed in their mission, which may even result in killing the girls in cross-fires.
Our basic priority now should be how to save these children first; then, our hired troops can help start a full scale war with the insurgents and smoke them out of every hole or cave they are hidden. And the earlier we understand this approach the better for us all.
HABIB YAKOOB is a staff of the University of Abuja.