By Rotimi Fasan
IT’S a cliché of our national existence to hear politicians and other categories of public officials describe the youth as ‘leaders of tomorrow’. Those who will be tomorrow’s leaders have a right to possess their today one would imagine. But the rhetoric of a projected future for the Nigerian child has since replaced the nightmare of their present reality. Nigerians leaders have no more faith in the rhetoric of the youth taking over the leadership of this country than they do in their oath of office that forbids corruption of all kinds among public officials. Otherwise, the two leading political parties in the country wouldn’t have as their leading presidential candidates individuals approaching their eightieth birthdays among many other politicians that are closer to their grave than a convicted murderer. For a class to whom corruption is second nature it may not mean anything that the future is being stolen from the Nigerian child, exposed as they are to the irresponsible conduct of our political leaders.
The unfolding ordeal of the Dapchi school girls further confirms the uncertain future Nigerian politicians are leaving their so-called leaders of tomorrow. It’s been two agonising weeks since these hapless girls were forcefully taken away from their school premises by murderous operatives of a group our deluded government had serially vowed has been roundly defeated. While laying the ground for the imminent declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, the All Progressives Congress, APC, party had led itself to believe its own lies that Boko Haram has been consigned into history. But no sooner was this message conveyed to the Nigerian people than the insurgent group staged a spectacular invasion of Dapchi and abducted at least 110 students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Busari local Government Area of Yobe State. Four years before it was the benighted town of Chibok in Borno State that received these agents of darkness.
In those four years during which the Nigerian government is still paying ransoms and releasing arrested Boko Haram operatives in exchanges for the girls it would still not acknowledge to the Nigerian people- in the four years since the return of the remaining Chibok girls is still a matter in the hands of providence, one would have imagined that the Nigerian government and its security agencies would have learned the right lessons about how not to lead a people. But no, that’s asking too much of a confused leadership that is too set in its incompetent ways to imagine a reform possible. It went to sleep after believing its own lies that it has completely decimated a group that was essentially a scorched rather than the dead snake that the government proclaimed it to be. A military that randomly releases its battle strategies in the media has now belatedly learned the trite knowledge that every trainee soldier knows: you do not publicise your strategy against an enemy.
In the weeks immediately preceding the abduction of the Dapchi girls, the APC government made so much song and dance of its supposed defeat of Boko Haram. Both its army and the police among other security agencies announced the establishment of new formations. Most significantly the military announced, perhaps as a celebration of its assumed victory, the establishment of a military base right in the heart of Sambisa forest. It generally assumed that it has completely taken over Sambisa forest, and that outside this zone Boko Haram has no existence. Now the joke is on our security agencies and not Boko Haram. Just a week before the nation was summoned to welcome home the president’s son, Yusuf, from Germany- just weeks after the young Yusuf fell off a power bike alongside a friend, while racing each other on fuel guzzling machines at a time the rest of the country was experiencing a devastating round of fuel scarcity, the Dapchi school girls were forced into captivity. We saw the joy with which the president received his own son. How one wishes the same joy for the parents of the Dapchi girls.
These girls were exactly where they ought to be as school girls- studying and going about their business in the vicinity of their school. Like their Chibok predecessors in captivity, they were being prepared for a future that could hopefully make some difference to their lives. The dream of that future has effectively been shattered by those entrusted with the responsibility of protecting them- if they are not returned. We have failed our own children. For no fault of theirs we have destroyed their faith in a country that does not set store by the future even while proclaiming faith in it. What words of consolation would be enough for 12-years old Aisha Adamu Gashuama whose first day in school also marked her first in captivity? What therapy can compensate for the trauma of such experience? What official platitude would reassure Budumi Mustapha, the retired civil servant, who lost three daughters to the abductors?
In a region already made backward by poverty and whose hope lies in increased exposure to modern education, how does anybody persuade parents to release their daughters to go to school? What are the real and potential consequences of more girls staying out of school in a part of Nigeria that is already notorious for poor attendance of boys to say nothing of girls in school? Now girls have become the target of murderous groups looking for free brides and potential suicide bombers, what are the consequences of the kind of failure by our children that has led to this theft of their future? What amount of counseling and preachment would suffice or amend for the literal rape of a child’s future? What kind of government sits back and leave room for the kind of outrage and national shame that would lead to a reprise of the April 2014 episode in Chibok? When a country fails her young people in the manner Nigeria continually fails the youth of this country, what right has such a country to the allegiance of the youth?
The issue before us extends beyond the potential loss of electoral votes as the APC might yet suffer for this disgrace. Deserved as such defeat might be, this Buhari-led government has the immediate task of doing everything possible to ensure the return of these young Nigerians. The story of their abduction, the pain of their families and the incompetence that made these all inevitable make the heart bleed and grieve for this nation. While these children suffer our leaders are giving and taking their own children in marriage. They are fiddling while their roofs are on fire. Are we on the road to another 1000 days of the Chibok girls in captivity? Shall we allow this?