LAST week in Kano, security forces paraded a 13-year old female suicide bomber, arrestd in the wake of a recent attack in Kano. Zahara’u Babangida, told the security people that she had been taken to the bush by her father, where she was trained, along with other girls, by heavily armed men. They had threatened to bury these girls alive if they refused to be suicide bombers. The story went on about how she was taken to Kano along with two other girls to take part in the bombing of the Kantin Kwari market.
The story has touched me very deeply as a father of daughters, including one that is just about the same age as the unfortunate Zahara’u. This was a young girl that ought to be in school studying so she can eventually become useful to herself, community and our country. She was not in school, did not learn a trade and was handed over to become a suicide bomber. What might have pushed the girl’s father to willingly handover a daughter? We do not know anymore than what the young girl said about the father, but it is clear that there are deep-seated ideological and socioeconomic underpinnings for such an act. We also don’t know just how many young girls like Zahara’u have been brainwashed to become carriers of bombs that will target innocent people around our country. But the truth is that there is a lot of work to do, to uproot the basis of this type of indoctrination. This requires the combined efforts of the state and non-state organizations on a very sustained basis in communities and homes of individuals in the most vulnerable areas of Northern Nigeria, especially.
As for Zahara’u, I hope that conscious effort would be put into rehabilitating her. The effort should be to help her come to terms with her horrible experience; assisting her to reclaim her life as a young girl, who would also get the opportunity to be educated. This is the greatest gift that this unfortunate girl can get from her country. Any other approach will only strengthen the tendency towards surrendering to the diktats of terrorist organizations. And that is not what we all desire for our young girls and our country.