ON the first anniversary of the abduction of the 219 Chibok Girls, this week, the whole world returned to a troubled conscience. Troubled, that 365 days after, those young girls still haven’t returned home to their parents and communities; they have been deprived of the opportunity to fulfill the dream which education helps to nurse, work at and eventually actualise!
But for the incredible courage of the #BRING BACK OUR GIRLS activists, who kept advocacy alive, despite the provocative indecencies of agents of the Nigerian government, maybe Nigerians all, would have also moved on. But thank God, on the first anniversary of the crime that Boko Haram perpetrated against the young Chibok Girls, we have been dragged back into our humanity to reflect upon what those girls have endured this past year.
There is a deeply personal side to the Chibok Girls’ saga for me. In the year since the girls have been gone, my wife has often cried about their plight. It comes from the fact that we are parents of four girls and a boy, and three of these girls are also in boarding school.
We have often wondered as parents, just how incredibly difficult the conditions of the parents of those girls must be. How have they coped? They are afterall, poor people from very deprived communities, but who nevertheless, had accepted the challenge and made sacrifices necessary for their children to be educated.
It is hope for the future of these young girls that Boko Haram has deliberately targeted for abortion, with their abduction. While the Chibok Girls’ saga has symbolized the evil of Boko Haram, Amnesty International has reminded this week, that over two thousand women, ladies and girls, have actually been abducted by the group in the past one year. Young boys are also frequently abducted and forcibly made to fight and those who know, say that it is these young abductees, that they often push forward in battles, thus ending up as canon fodders!
Turning point for Nigeria: I heard Obiageli Ezekwesili on the BBC describe the abduction of the Chibok Girls as the turning point in recent Nigerian history. And it certainly is! It was frightening that 56 young Nigerian children were earlier massacred in their school dormitories and there was a criminal indifference from government. President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t visit the scene of carnage, his vice who is the leading Northerner in government ignore FGC BuniYadi and the Minister of Education could not be bothered as well. They assumed that after a few days of lamentations, Nigerians would move on, as is our wont. And largely, we did; except for a group of parents around Nigeria who were moved sufficiently to raise their voices against the massacre of children in school hostels, especially in a Federal Government College, which are centres of national excellence. The fact that there was no sustained national movement thereafter, just deepened governmental irresponsibility, when the Chibok Girls were abducted. President Jonathan first refused to believe that the abduction happened; then he tried to politically exploit the tragic event. And amongst other factors, his handling of the Chibok Girls’ saga, contributed to his loss in the presidential election last month.
It is therefore surprising that President Jonathan has clung to his political narrative about the Chibok Girls. On the first anniversary, this week, he gave an interview to the BBC, where he re-iterated that Borno State is governed by the opposition party. He forgot that as commander-in-Chief, he had imposed an emergency regime in Borno and was in command of the troops on ground. It is to the incoming administration that Nigerians have pinned hope. The degree of seriousness to ensure the safe return of the girls home, so we can achieve a closure, will condition the trust that Nigerians will invest in the Buhari administration. One year after, the abduction of the Chibok Girls has left a deep sore on our collective conscience.