BY December 31st 2015, Boko Haram and its deadly activities would have become history in Nigeria – courtesy of a decisive command from a “no-nonsense and action-packed” President Muhammadu Buhari.

He had given the Nigerian Military a deadline of that date to achieve this onerous task of putting an end to Boko Haram existence, and when the commander-in-chief gives a command, obedience to the last letter of the order becomes fait accompli for the officers and men of the armed forces.

It means that the military would do everything possible; including laying down of lives across the north-east geographical region generally and in particular the most dreaded Sambisa forest, to produce positive result acceptable to President, Nigerians and the whole world. There shall be such colossal casualties in all fronts.

Yet, l have a burden in my heart about one of the major “local contents” of the insurgency [while it lasted] not becoming a “major and colossal” casualty. May it never be said that at the point of celebrating the overcoming of Boko Haram, starting from January 2016, or thereabout, our girls; those impressive and qualitative daughters of ours, abducted from Chibok town on 14th of April, 2014, are not accounted for. God forbid!

May they; all of them, be returned to us as “precious spoils of war” in the name of the Almighty God! At least, this has been the hope built for us by our political leaders, over the period of one and half years that these girls have gone on “a befitting holiday”; a holiday conveniently arranged for them by those who ought to be their  legitimate custodians – Borno State Governor and his officials inclusive.

There are many Nigerians who share my thought and burden in this matter and it is not without cogent and genuine reasons.

The genesis and the exodus of the girls’ voyage into “oblivion” [it is almost the reality in my mind for now] need critical analysis and proper evaluation.

Chibok town was invaded by Boko Haram soldiers [call them insurgents if you like] on the night of April 14th, 2014, and two hundred and seventy nine girls – all students in the rightful custody of the government of Borno State – were conveniently taken away without a single challenge in a manner that agreed with the rules of “pre-arranged” agreement.

It was an episode that pricked the conscience of the international community as the process and procedure of the abduction mocked common knowledge in explanation.

There was sharp disagreement on the exact numbers of the girls as no one could give accurate figure, neither the principal of the school nor the Borno State commissioner for education could. They allegedly arranged and kept the girls in the school; a school premises without fence, security and light, for the purpose of presenting them to write the secondary school leaving certificate examinations.

Others believed that those who master-minded the abduction intended to stir the world Islamic community against then Goodluck Jonathan’s government by presenting the attack as against Muslims of the north hence “the execution in the core north eastern state of Borno”.

This however back-fired when the Christian Association of Nigeria was able to identify ninety nine per cent of the girls abducted by names, and as Christians, thereby turning the event in favour of Jonathan and his government when the fact became well known to the world community, this other school of thought concluded.

My real worry is that since the actual number of girls abducted that night is not authenticated and can never be, due to absence of statistical evaluation machinery, whatever the balance of numbers we have at hand today remains conjectural.

Public opinion, coordinated by the Oby Ezekwesilli-led “Bring-back-our-girls movement”, put the number of Chibok girls presently in captivity at two hundred and nineteen.

Though the authenticity of that figure shall always be doubtful since there was no head-count of the girls before they were taken into captivity, this number remains, nevertheless, what we have of our girls still with Boko Haram.

Where are the rest of over two hundred girls? Can any intelligent brain hold to the belief that these girls are being held in one place till date?  Are they forcefully married out to the insurgents with “reward” of children already?

Worse still, are they dead or alive? We need to know the truth about their true position now and the only person that can tell us is President Buhari for only one major reason. He is the one Nigerian.  Unfortunately the much he has said, indirectly though, did not strengthen my hope about the whereabouts of the Chibok girls.

His answer to a question in a very recent Aljazeera television interview: “We have ideas about where the girls are. Our main problem is and what we promised to the constituency is that we want to rescue them alive.

There is the Boko Haram leadership that wants us to discuss but we have to prove they are bonafide. They have to prove to us that the girls are alive, they are well, and then we can promise, we can negotiate. We will negotiate if we certify that the girls are alive…”

What he indirectly admitted in this interview is that he is not sure of the state of the girls. Yet, total rescue of the Chibok girls was one of the selling cardinal points of his campaign, preluding the April 2015 general elections.

If a man who gains access to world-class intelligence machinery would be that doubtful, where can the faith of the ordinary mortal be anchored? Who shall tell us the truth about the Chibok girls?

Godwin Etakibuebu, a  public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos.


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