Whew! It’s five years already.
My little nephew had just been born. And if my memory serves me right, the West African School Certificate Examination was ongoing. That particular day, Chemistry was the paper written. I had no business writing Chemistry, but I was in school anyways because my girlfriend at the time; Maryam was writing the paper and trust high school love and infatuation; we have to be there for each other.
I was going through Nairaland literature section to see if there was any new comment on my ongoing story at the time. I hardly every check the front page, but on this day, I checked the front page and saw the breaking news.
It was a sad day in the history of our country. It was a sad day for Africa and the rest of the world. That day, it seemed terrorism finally won.
I don’t remember 9/11 ever happening. I read about it later; come on, I was four or five at the time. I’m not sure I knew what USA was at the time or that another country existed aside Nigeria. Current affairs, American movies, Jackie Chan movies would later teach me. I remember growing a little older and discussing Osama Bin Laden with my neighbors and playmates almost every weekend after we are tired from playing football. I listened mostly, because I had access to just BCOS(Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State) and NTA(Nigerian Television Authority) Ibadan on our old school antenna which needs extra turning to pick AIT or Galaxy televisions. But these friends had access to CNN and BBC, they read magazines and newspapers and their mum is a staff of the University of Ibadan. I wish we could sit together now and believe me, I’ll do most of the talking. But I guess that ship has sailed.
I never really understood what terrorism was until I saw the movie 24 with Keifer Sutherland playing the role of Jack Bauer who led the CTU field operations and fought terror with every strength in him. But fiction and movies are not to be believed right?
I have seen riots, I have seen fights. NURTW doing their thing in Ibadan/Oyo state in general. I was told about the Agbekoya war. I was told about the Ife and Modakeke war. But full blown acts of terror, I hadn’t seen before.
October 1, 2010; Nigeria was 50. Fifty years since independence, we were counting our losses and gains. We had fought a civil war, we had had military incursions, we had discovered oil, we had June 12 1993, we had 1999, GSM came in, finally the internet. There was a lot to be thankful for and a lot to improve upon. Right there at the Eagle Square in Abuja, a live explosion rocked the venue of the Independence celebration.
I had heard the sound of dynamite blowing up rocks, but it was nothing compared to the sound of the bomb blast. Luckily, no lives were lost. Henry Okah of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta(MEND) was arrested as the mastermind.
In years that followed, we had Kabiru Sokoto, And by 2011, Boko Haram was a full fledged terrorist sect who succeeded in blowing up the Police Headquarters, UN Abuja office, several churches and mosques. Most notably the December 25th attack in Kaduna in 2011 and many more.
So, when the news broke out that more than 200 school girls have been kidnapped from their dormitories in Government school located in Chibok local government, Borno state; it was my most scary moment. Reason being that, a majority of these girls were in school because of their WASCE; the same exam I was writing. School was on break for the end of Second term then. And I felt, this could have been any school, anywhere, any two hundred girls or even boys. This could have been me.
Every morning we sing the National Anthem and recite the pledge with passion and we were cultivating the culture of patriotism, but that moment, I felt the country has failed those over 200 girls, I felt the country has failed every Nigerian child, the country has failed me.
The figure was put at 276 school girls.
In the days that followed, a lot of counter allegations, accusations and denial filled the front pages of our national dailies. While the then Federal Government led by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan initially denied the occurrence of the kidnapping, saying it was a creation of the then opposition party who was doing everything possible to kick the ruling PDP from office. The Federal Government later acknowledged the occurrence, but blamed the governor of Borno state for not providing the President with information when spoken to.
According to Amnesty international , the military was aware of the kidnap 24hours prior; but they all waited until tragedy struck.
My own question was and still is, how possible was it for the terrorist to drive into Chibok with a convoy of vehicles, get the girls from their dorms and drive across the town without anybody noticing or drawing attention. Prior to this event, Borno state was already a hot zone and there was heavy security presence. But certain questions would never be answered.
I watched the then first lady shed tears on national television. If it was a PR stunt, I wouldn’t know. But there, I saw a mother who understood what it means to loose a child. I was heartbroken.
The Yoruba adage which says “omo eni ku, o san ju omo eni nu lo.” Roughly translated as the death of one’s child is better than such child going missing. Is apt.
Michelle Obama, Black Eyed Peas, Anne Hathaway, Malala Yousafzai and other women of substance all around the world all joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. It trended worldwide and honestly, I think that was one of the few moment the world was genuinely concerned and united.
I may not approve of most of her views or opinion, but Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (a former Minister for Education and Regional Vice President, World Bank) but her Bring Back Our Girls Movement was one I approved of and supported massively. The likes of Aisha Yesufu and Hadiza Bala Usman put their lives on the line to take on the Federal Government.
The Unity Fountain Abuja became their home. They protested day and night. They were teargassed and assaulted by the Federal Government’s Police force but they were undeterred. After all, the government has failed in its primary responsibility and they were being lackadaisical in their response and reaction.
Sambisa forest became the most popular place in Nigeria. It trended as an hashtag for days. Lagos, Abuja couldn’t compete. This became so after the United States Army confirmed that the kidnapped school girls were being held in the forest and their surveillance drones confirmed the presence of the girls in the forest. The footage which was made public.
The rest of 2014 saw several discussion on how best to release the school girls and the United States of America allegedly pulled out of the expedition when members of the Nigerian security forces leaked their tactics to the media and the news filtered into the ears of the Boko Haram sect, making the vacate the forest to as far as the Republic of Chad.
Elections was less than a year to go and the opposition party at the time was gaining momentum and in pole position to win the forthcoming election. After all, the failure of one party is a blessing in disguise for another. A major campaign promise of the APC at the time was that the release of the schoolgirls would be made a priority and within a matter of months, the girls would be back at home.
Not for the lack of trying, but the Jonathan government tried to secure the release of the girls through negotiations.
At the advance stage, it failed and we were back to square one. On May 2, 2014, about 57 of the girls managed to escape.
Part of the deal the Jonathan government was trying to seal with the sect was the release of the girls in exchange for some of the sect’s commanders who were in jail. Hopes were raised but dashed eventually.
Elections came in 2015 and the Jonathan led PDP Federal Government was as expected kicked out of office. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head of state and a retired army general was elected and there was optimism that what the PhD holder in Zoology couldn’t achieve in terms of security, the man with a military background would achieve it within a blink of an eye. Our hopes were rekindled.
By this time 2015, the candidates of the 2014 WASCE were already in the university, counting down to their second Semester examination. The Chibok girls would have been there as well, but unfortunately, Boko Haram still have them and their government has failed them.
In May 2016, one of the missing girls, Amina Ali, was found. She claimed that the remaining girls were still there, but that six had died. A further 21 girls were freed in October 2016, while another was rescued the next month. Another was found in January 2017. 82 more girls were freed in May 2017. One of the girls was rescued in January 2018.
On February 19, 2018, 5:30pm, one hundred and ten (110) schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, located in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government area of Yobe State, in the northeast part of Nigeria. The
Federal Government of Nigeria has deployed the Nigerian Airforce and other security agencies to search for the missing schoolgirls and to hopefully enable their return. The governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam blamed the Nigerian soldiers for having removed a military checkpoint from the town. Dapchi lies approximately 275 km (170 miles) northwest of Chibok, where over 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
On 21 March 2018 the Federal government of Nigeria announced that Boko Haram terrorists had returned 106 of the kidnapped children, including 104 girls who went to school, one girl who did not and a boy. Leah Sharibu wasn’t released and her parents told Agence France-Presse that the group would only release her if she converted to Islam. The group dropped them off in the town in nine vehicles. Information minister Lai Mohammed stated that the release was unconditional. The fighters after releasing the girls warned their parents not to put them in school again.
Since 2014, Nigerian children have been kidnapped from their homes, schools, farms and places of worship. The government has continually made promises but they have failed.
As at January 2018, according to the Nigerian Army, it was estimated that 13 of the Chibok girls were presumably dead and 112 were still missing. While in the case of the missing Dapchi girls, 6 were presumably dear, 104 released and 1 Leah Saribu still missing.
Bottom line of this post is to expose the failure of the Nigerian government past and present in the handling of the cases of the kidnapped schoolgirls. The hypocrisy of the world, especially the international community; their heat of the moment support and calls for the release of the girls and give years later, their silence as if all is well.
Today marks the 5th year anniversary since the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls and contrary to what the government might say, contrary to what the propagandists might say, I am here using this medium and platform to tell you that NO! THEY DIDN’T BRING THE GIRLS BACK.
Dúródolá Oláwálé. Y