By Muyiwa Adetiba
As a parent, I rejoice with the parents of the 82 Chibok girls who were freed recently. As a Nigerian, I commend and applaud the efforts of the Federal Government in securing their freedom. Some negative people who call themselves leaders said the government spent over two million Euros to secure their release and that the amount was too much.
They forget to tell us how much is appropriate for a life. Some others said the Boko Haram commanders should not have been used as exchange. They are yet to tell us what the options are. In any case, it was not their daughters who have been in captivity and have probably been used as sex slaves these past three years. So they can afford to talk carelessly without any empathy or sensitivity. Besides, we hardly hold our leaders accountable for their words and deeds.
That is why a sitting Governor, just because he is in opposition, can say without any iota of proof, that the girls were never lost in the first place. His own daughter is probably in a boarding school in the UK learning to speak the Queen’s English! I personally don’t believe an amount is too much to secure freedom; or a price too high to save a life! A Yoruba adage which this governor should be aware of if he is a true Yoruba son says: ‘My child is dead is better than my child is missing.’ I only hope the Chibok parents can forgive the country its tardiness, ineptitude and careless talk.
Having said this, we hear there are 113 girls remaining. How we arrived at this figure when there is no consensus on the exact number of girls captured beats me. It is a shame that we are not coherent on the actual number of the missing girls. One reason is probably because these girls were neither the first nor the last set of females or even school girls to be abducted in Chibok.
To this governor and his likes who sit their fat arses in their air-conditioned offices and think the whole Boko Haram saga is a political arrangement to discredit the former President, I have news for you. The carnage and the brutality of the Boko Haram adherents in the Jonathan era will astound anyone with human feelings; the ease with which they looted and abducted females should make all those leaders who choose to play the ostrich to bury their heads in sands of shame.
The stories that are coming out of Maiduguri are chilling and might be best forgotten for our sanity but we cannot and should not forget. They are a part of our history that exposes and indicts the irresponsible leadership of that era—from the political class which saw only politics in the death and suffering of its citizens; to the military hierarchy which shared funds meant for arms and sent its foot soldiers to their untimely deaths; to the rest of us who became complicit due to our docility and ignorance. What I heard a fortnight ago was a mere tip of the ice-berg, but it was enough to fill my eyes with tears. I can assure you that doesn’t happen often.
On Sunday, May 13, some priests from the Diocese of Maiduguri came to some selected churches in Lagos to solicit for help—financial and spiritual. The priest who came to our church in Victoria Island did a good job considering he had just about five minutes to tell his story. By the time he had finished, there was dead silence.
Then a few handkerchiefs came out to wipe teary eyes. His was one of them…. To start with, the priest must have taken a look at the air-conditioned church with its well-polished marble floor; he must have seen the glistering chandeliers hanging in the hall and the beautiful flowers that decorated the altar. He could not have failed to notice the gaily dressed, affluent-looking parishioners. And he would have wondered if Maiduguri and Lagos were in the same country and if indeed, they were worshiping the same God. For the past couple of years, their own ‘churches’ have been under the shades of trees, open spaces, abandoned or ‘friendly’ homes. There were no grand pianos to accompany sonorous voices; just plaintive, fearful voices singing hymns from the heart.
There were no bulletins; just a couple of Bibles and song books. He did admit though that he could not remember when last he slept alone or so deeply. His life must have been furtive and harried like that of a fugitive.
Then the stories. The chilling stories. One was when a Deacon was celebrating Mass and the church was surrounded by Boko Haram fighters who shot into the air. Many of those who tried to escape were caught and slaughtered. Then these agents of hate and evil came into the church and slaughtered people. Blood flowed like water in God’s holy temple. The officiating Deacon was seized and slaughtered right on the altar like a sacrificial lamb—the highest form of martyrdom in Christendom. In another story, someone was asked to renounce his religion in front of his family.
He refused. He was slaughtered slowly in front of his wives and children. Then the most chilling for me. When a place was attacked and people fled, they would be cherry picked like shooting targets as they fled. Those who survived would come back after a while to look for their loved ones and try to give them a decent burial. Unfortunately, most of the carcases would have been eaten by wild pigs. These survivors would then go to where they assumed their loved ones died and gather the bones….
As at today, the available data shows that 26 priests, two hundred catechists and 32 nuns have been forced to flee the region. Worse, there are 3,860 widows and over 15,000 orphans. These, I am sure were those who registered. The figures could be lots more. They also didn’t include other denominations and other religions.
We in the south should realise how lucky we are. It could have been us. Maiduguri is not in Afghanistan; it is in Nigeria. We are can all help our brothers and sisters by sending money and materials to them. And our unceasing prayers. We can also counter the radicalisation of our youths in the North with our expressions of love, care and brotherhood in the South. These purveyors of evil and hate must not triumph.