By Ochereome Nnanna
ALL well-meaning Nigerians are glad that almost all the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls have been brought back by their abductors, the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents. Unfortunately, we lost five of the girls, while one of them, Miss Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl who reportedly refused to renounce her faith, remains in the evil clutches of the terrorists.
However, our joy is not full for so many reasons. The lone Christian girl still in Boko Haram captivity is a great challenge to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and especially the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Whatever magic they performed to have Boko Haram bring back our Dapchi schoolgirls, they must continue to perform it until Leah Sharibu is restored to us and her family. Until that is done, the Dapchi schoolgirls saga cannot be closed, and no scurvy politician can even claim “credit” for those already returned.
Secondly, the Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction is not over because five of the girls died. We cannot sweep that under the carpet and go on as if it was only five insects that died. The Federal Government owes it a duty to all Nigerians, the families of the dead girls, the released girls who were subjected to one month of terror and the single girl still in captivity, to unravel and disclose the circumstances behind the avoidable Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction.
Who were responsible for the security breaches that alerted Boko Haram to make off with 110 girls unchallenged? Those people must be identified, arrested, tried and sentenced for sabotage and treason leading to the death of innocent Nigerian children. If this is not done, then the Buhari government will not be able to escape the speculations that the Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction was a carefully planned and executed perfidy between the insurgents and their cohorts in government, the security agencies, the military and a civilian populace that accorded the insurgents a heroes’ welcome. They brought their victims back in an armada of trucks in broad daylight, chanting their usual war songs and proudly displaying their flags with victorious pageantry. That reception for Boko Haram in Dapchi reminded me of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, rallies last year. We saw it all on video, contrary to Federal Government claims that they were returned at 3.00am on that Wednesday, 21st March 2018.
It is a big shame that the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress, APC, see something in the horrible yet avoidable pain these children, their families and the entire nation went through to claim cheap political capital for. The abduction took place on 19th February 2018. Buhari did not visit Dapchi until 14th March 2018 – almost one month after. And when he went there, he regaled the grieving parents of the girls how he “reacted faster” to their daughters’ abduction compared to the Goodluck Jonathan regime when the Chibok girls were taken by Boko Haram.
Buhari and his APC have forgotten that Jonathan was denied a second term in office mainly because he could not handle Boko Haram and he failed to rescue the Chibok girls. Buhari promised to defeat Boko Haram and would not consider that task as accomplished until ALL the Chibok girls have been rescued or accounted for. Through reported payment of ransoms and serial releases of captured Boko Haram fighters, about 110 out of 267 Chibok schoolgirls have regained their freedom. Added to about 60 of them who either escaped or were found, we still have over 100 Chibok girls in Boko Haram captivity.
Nobody in their wildest dreams expected the kind of security lapses (perhaps based on sabotage) that led to a repeat of the Chibok experience, this time in Dapchi. The APC Federal Government’s cheap triumphalism in the wake of the Dapchi girls’ release was clearly meant to divert attention from its failure to secure boarding schools in the North-East and thus prevent a repeat of the Chibok horror.
Any moron should have known that Boko Haram has discovered a goldmine in the abduction of schoolgirls. They have swept thousands of men, women, girls, boys and villagers into their short-lived “caliphate” and camps without noise being made about it. They even massacred scores of boys in the Buni Yadi boarding school in Yobe even before the Chibok abductions, yet, it barely pulled traction in the media and the international community. But once they grabbed the Chibok girls, the entire world exploded in protests, which was exactly what Boko Haram needed to bolster their standing in the world of Islamic terror. Boko Haram knows that the Chibok girls in their custody slowed down the Nigerian troops greatly and actually led to regime change. Without the Chibok girls and widespread sabotages, General Azubuike Ihejirika would have defeated and stamped out Boko Haram under the Jonathan presidency.
Boko Haram also knows that the Chibok girls strengthened their hands in the negotiations with the Federal Government, with millions of dollars paid in exchange for the released girls while hundreds of their commanders and fighters in government custody have been released, chiefly through the so-called “de-radicalisation” programme. Anyone with average intelligence should know that Boko Haram would strike again once it got the opportunity, more so as it has sympathisers everywhere in the North, in the government, the military and among the civilian populace as evident in the heroic welcome they received when they returned the girls to Dapchi.
The APC Federal Government must unravel the circumstances behind the sudden withdrawal of the military security which paved the way for the terrorists to take the Dapchi girls. This is the real issue, not the negotiated exchange of favour that brought back the Dapchi girls.
As usual, the lies and deceptions for which this regime has become infamous, featured throughout the Dapchi girls’ saga. The Nigerian Air Force politely debunked the Federal Government’s claim of deploying 100 aircraft to look for the girls, saying they only flew sorties. FG did not apologise for the misinformation. Again, we were told that no ransom was paid for the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls. Yet, government admitted “negotiating” with the terrorists. The government can afford to say whatever it likes to us but what we saw on television told the whole story as nothing else would. The military withdrew for Boko Haram to come in trucks and military camouflage to abduct the girls on 19th February 2018. On Wednesday, 21st March, they also rode in their convoy, flags fluttering and chanting victory songs, to return their “loot.” A radio presenter in Lagos exclaimed humorously: “Chaiii! Does Boko Haram now operate a Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, service in Dapchi?”
The question is not unfounded. These girls who were reportedly taken at night were driven back in daylight looking like students returning from holidays. They were clad in aso-ebi (ceremonial uniforms), hijabs and they were each carrying bulky travel bags! I am not sure Boko Haram waited for them to pack their bags when they were abducted.
When Federal Government officials said the girls would be released “within two weeks,” a lot of Nigerians who have been skeptical about Buhari’s handling of the insurgency war felt that something fishy was in the offing. Some even speculated that Buhari would declare his second term ambition soon after the Dapchi girls are returned. APC’s chest beating seemed to lend credence to that.
What next do we expect from these insurgents? Sadly, there can only be an escalation of the insurgency. We have entered a vicious circle in the anti-terror war because we don’t know exactly what our current leaders are really up to.