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Bring home all the girls

By Rotimi Fasan

IT was late this past Saturday that news filtered in that 82 more of the abducted Chibok school girls had been released by Boko Haram. This would be the second such release in just over six months, the last being the release of 21 of them. The latest release was facilitated by the Red Cross and the government of Switzerland. Even though the Buhari administration had promised last year, following the release of the 21 girls, to continue negotiations that would lead to the release of more of the Chibok girls Nigerians didn’t see the latest release coming.

Perhaps because they never believed the government. What government said last year must have been taken for just mere talk or at best a statement of intention that shouldn’t be taken seriously. But then here we are with 82 more girls whose freedom was the outcome of a swap that saw government releasing an unspecified number of Boko Haram prisoners.

Arrangements like this leave little or no room for so much detail but if all the government did to secure the release of the girls was to release some Boko Haram soldiers, then it is well worth it. What it would have to do going forward is to ensure that the wrong category of persons are not released in the guise of prisoners. But more importantly, no room should be left for the abduction of more Nigerians, male or female, old or young.

At a time many had written off effort aimed at securing the release of more Chibok girls and genuine and fake security experts alike and other Nigerians supposedly in the know have told parents of the abducted girls to forget about them, it is great news to see more of them. What this tells us is that more, possibly all (yes all!) of those still in captivity can be brought back home. So we demand that this government bring all the girls home.

It’s incredible that after all the military has done fighting Boko Haram and ‘conquering’ Sambisa forest, their so-called ‘camp zero- it’s shocking that after all they have seemingly done downgrading the capacity of the insurgents for further terror, 82 girls can still be brought out of that place of horror. Where were they being kept? Left for some Nigerians too, some of the people who could easily have secured the return of these girls if not prevent their abduction in the first place, three years is more than enough time to call off the search for them.

They couldn’t be bothered what fate befell the girls. For them, the country has spent too much time distracting itself about the girls. We are talking here of nearly 300 girls. In other parts of the world the loss of just one child would have led to massive search even of international dimension if need be. The case of Madeline McCann, a British girl who went missing just days from her fourth birthday, confirms my point. Her family of five was on holiday in Portugal when she was abducted in 2007. This month makes it a decade since she was reportedly abducted and the search for her is still on.

It is a pointer to the cavalier manner we treat human life that the sudden disappearance of hundreds of our children will not worry us beyond a few months. Otherwise we politicise the whole issue. We’ve turned the issue of the girls into one of careless politicking. We are already hearing foolish comments by those who want us all to believe that no abduction happened in spite of the evidence before us. Criticism should be constructive and not done for its own sake or merely to seek attention.

The parents and families of the girls that have been abducted for three years cannot be bothered about the idle prattle of politicians. They know what it feels like to lose a child that might still be alive somewhere. What has been paramount in their mind is the return of their children and if what it would take to get them back is the release of some misguided terrorists government should by all means do that.

Many lives are being lost in very avoidable circumstances and those who ought to do something about this sit back and watch. It’s only days ago that nearly 30 Nigerians including babies lost their lives on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. It’s shocking that this number of lives is being lost in road accidents at a time politicians wax lyrical about protecting life and property. There are indeed many such freak accidents across the country that go unreported. Rather than talk about this and seek lasting solutions to them our politicians do so in attention-seeking fashion, making irresponsible statements. The kind of empathy that should inflect public utterances is never there when we contemplate the fate of people caught in the vortex of circumstance beyond them.

This is the reason we must all commend the Bring Back Our Girls campaigners. They have kept hope alive and helped to ensure that Nigerians never forget the Chibok girls. It takes uncommon courage and selflessness to embark on such thankless and sometimes hazardous mission. The Buhari-led administration also deserves our praise. Where others have doubted if any girls were abducted, they have made effort to bring comfort into the lives and homes of these hapless girls. It was in order to receive the girls, we have been told, that President Buhari delayed his departure to London for the latest round of his medical vacation. We can only hope and pray that his health improves this time around. It is clear that a lot still needs to be done to stem the tide of insurgency. Boko Haram may have been downgraded but the terror group has not been incapacitated.

The military needs all the support it can get in order to bring Boko Haram down to its knees. It may have done so much, perhaps put in its best in its fight against the insurgents, but it still has a tough task ahead of it. That Boko Haram can still invade communities in the north-east and make certain parts of the region no-go areas to locals and outsiders should worry us all. The threat of terror looms large if more than one hundred girls are still held captive in a forest in which our military is said to be in charge. The travel advisory issued by some western countries warning their citizens off parts of the north-east are signs that the safety of Nigerians are not totally assured. Anything can still happen and Boko Haram could again raise its head. Right now it is a scorched snake. Only complete annihilation of the group can give us confidence and comfort.

 


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