By Ladesope Ladelokun
AS Easter beckons, Christian faithful across the world are, once again, celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Except a miracle happens, it may be another Easter without Leah Sharibu – the Christian school girl kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists alongside 109 others in Dapchi, Yobe State, in 2018. What then has Leah Sharibu got to do with Easter? For Christians all over the world, it is believed that Jesus Christ paid the supreme price for the salvation of mankind.
Of course, there would not be Easter without his resurrection after he was nailed to the cross. Leah, on the other hand, sacrificed her freedom by refusing to renounce her Christian faith before bloodthirsty fiends she knew could terminate her life in a breath. So, it is safe to say sacrifice is the common denominator. Now, it is over three years since her abduction, and her whereabouts remain a riddle. Despite assurances by the Buhari government that Leah would be free from the grip of her abductors, the distraught Sharibus are still languishing in the prison of hope.
It is apposite to state that in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, General Muhammadu Buhari had promised the electorate that “our school children would be safe in their schools”. But six years after that campaign promise, the mention of school provokes fear. The plight of the Sharibus and the current unremitting attacks on schools by bandits signpost doom for the education sector and the entire country at large.
Recently, a tally by a national newspaper revealed that 618 schools had been shut in Northern Nigeria as of March 15, 2021. It is another eloquent testament to the fact that a place of learning has morphed to a place of fear. Indeed, education is under severe attack. With spiralling cases of abduction of school children in the beleaguered region, it is only commonsensical that the number of out-of-school children put at 13.5 million by United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, will balloon.
Already, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, had at a recent event claimed that the number of out-of-school children climbed by over three million in three months from 6.946 million to 10,193,918. Though it is unclear how Nwajiuba arrived at the figures he quoted, what is clear is that Nigeria arguably has the highest number of out-of-school children. It is no doomsday prophecy. We have time bombs waiting to explode in our faces; something that would dwarf what we currently experience in cataclysmic consequences.
When children are compelled to choose between life and school because of insecurity, peace is ruptured. Destinies are buried. Dreams are shattered. Nothing mirrors the frustration of the Nigerian child in Northern Nigeria like the touching words of an anonymous interviewee, who was among the 270 girls abducted in Jangebe, Zamfara State. In an interview with Sahara Reporters, she foreclosed any possibility of going back to school. Hear her: “My future ambition before was to become a medical doctor or nurse but I won’t go back again. The Nigerian government has failed to protect us.”
But who will fault the assertion that the Nigerian government has failed woefully in its primary responsibility of protecting Nigerians? Who will trust a government that promised that the Zamfara abduction would be the last only for multiple abductions to happen later? From Dapchi to Kankara, Kagara to Jangebe, gory tales of stolen children mock the campaign promise of Buhari.
In a desperate move to find partners in failure, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, recently stated confidently that the abduction of school children also happens in advanced countries. Specifically, Lai mentioned that the United States recorded at least three or four cases of school kidnappings in 2020 alone. What the minister has yet to tell Nigerians is that Nigeria has probably shattered that record in just three months in 2021 and respite is nowhere in sight!
While one must concede that the crime of kidnapping happens in most advanced countries, the response to such crime is what makes the difference between a responsible government and the one that pays lip service to the security and welfare of its people. Lai cannot feign ignorance of the rescue operation conducted by the United States forces to free its kidnapped citizen, Philip Walton, in Nigeria. There was no Sheikh to negotiate his release with his abductors in the presence of government officials. No such thing as ransom payment to the tormentors of our people. God’s own country just got the job done.
It is the kind of professionalism, courage and commitment the Sharibus and other abducted Nigerians long to see. Not platitudes,empty promises and impotence in high places. No doubt, Nigeria is a country under siege. Wailing is the order of the day. Nigerians are on a daily basis pummelled by the incompetence and carelessness of their elected and appointed leaders who have failed to make Nigeria liveable. Wail, they must. Even when presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, would have none of that. In a Facebook post, Deputy Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Dr. Dele Omojuyigbe, captures the thought of many wailing and right-thinking Nigerians.
Omojuyigbe wrote: “Nigeria has started manifesting symptoms of a terminal patient. Only a miracle can save her. Current indices align with countries that have disintegrated. A tongue in cheek doesn’t help matters this time but dangerously underscores baseless pretence. If we are ready to accept reality and not whistle in the dark we should admit that Nigeria became a failed state shortly after President Buhari came in for a second term in office.
“A state fails when the political body disintegrates to the extent that the sovereign body can no longer meet its responsibility to the people.” But Nigerians must live and be safe in their country, even if governments at all levels fail in other responsibilities to the Nigerian people. At least, life guarantees hope of freedom from the shackles of poverty, unemployment, bumbling leaders and all the problems that beset Nigeria.
It is time the Nigerian government invested massively in technology to expedite the process of arresting and prosecuting the criminals among us. Banditry and kidnapping will continue to flourish if there are no consequences, especially when offenders are pampered. Nigerians have a right to live. But, we are not winning the war against insecurity. It is one reason we must seek help from developed countries and tackle the alarming rates of poverty and unemployment.