By Morenike Taire
Different media organizations have from within and outside the country, bandied different figures on the number of schoolgirls that had been released of the 110 abducted February 19 by suspected Boko Haram insurgents; from Government Girls Science and Technical College Dapchi, Yobe state. Finally, most have settled on 101.
As most of the nation rejoices, it has been impossible to overlook such confusions, which have over the years proved fodder for conspiracy theorists who are convinced both the Dapchi and Chibok episodes are politically driven.
Needless to say even the very phenomenon of insurgency itself is innately political. Terrorism has always existed all over the world not only as a protest but a tool of coercion as well as for political negotiations. To say therefore that the abduction of persons by terrorists is a political occurrence is stating the obvious, and therefore not saying much. Terrorism is a highly organized and expensive venture, and the high level of organization and capacity which usually attends it cannot exist for fun or merely to massage egos.
When we understand what terrorism is, we have a clearer idea that bodies such as Boko Haram are part of highly organized international pressure groups that are looking for something and go to any lengths to achieve it, including to rape, raze, kidnap and kill. It would therefore be naïve and simplistic to say the least, to limit the political interests influencing organizations such as Boko Haram to the administrations of one president or the other.
Admittedly, there exist too many reasons to doubt the veracity of the Chibok and Dapchi episodes. Apart from the obvious problem of logistics, it has proven almost impossible to keep the stories and numbers consistent. But to dismiss them on the basis of timing- being a year before elections- is stretching a coincidence way too far.
Still, by far the most convincing part of the conspiracy theories, is the fact that Minister of Defense Mansur Dan-Ali had this week predicted the return of the Dapchi girls based, according to him, on security reports.
The drama that has attended the return of the girls has not helped matters either. While government claims it paid no ransoms, Boko Haram militants on dropping off the girls as though they were school bus operators, had issued an ominous warning to the parents of the Nigerian schoolgirls after releasing the girls in the town where they were abducted: “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”
The innuendoes do not alter the facts, and the facts are dire. An estimated 3 million Nigerians are affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in a direct manner. Most of them are homeless, jobless/ out of school and disenfranchised. Many move South, putting an unprecedented amount of pressure on Southern cities such as Lagos. Some of the ‘migrants’ have families they can put up with. Others do not, and have to live in camps under deplorable conditions. All have to get back on their feet and hit the ground running in order to make a living. They have to learn fast, so many of the skills they pick up are only half baked. Many are distressed, unable to get over the death of loved ones. Many die.
The rest of Nigeria carries on as though the North East is not part of the country. The internally displaced are majorly ignored by authorities. No real measures are in place to resettle them.
But the chickens will come home to roost. The region that produces more than 50% of the nation’s food is handicapped. It is a matter of time before food scarcity becomes an issue. It is a matter of time before insurgency comes southwards as well.
We have seen this happen in other countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia where war waged in the hinterlands for ten years but was not recognized as war until it reached the big cities. We have seen it happen even in Nigeria where the Fulani Herdsmen trouble raged in the north for decades, and was not considered a problem until it came to the south.
Recognizing insurgency as a national emergency and acting as though it were, is what should be the priority of all citizens at this time, whether or not they are politicians or in government.