Last week, we celebrated the third anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls and still the government sounded so unconcerned. Just imagine. Imagine one of the 276 girls who were abducted from a school dormitory in the dead of the night by Boko Haram was a Zahra or a niece or even just a distant cousin. One could imagine that not only would this story be one of the past, the perpetrators would have been duly brought to book and made to pay to the last bit for their sins.
But here we are, three years after this same scenario plays out in the little town of Chibok in Borno state, but in this case, daughters of average Nigerian men and women, struggling daily to make a living and to provide their children a better slate in life, amidst the hardships and economic challenges worsened by the impunity with which our leaders have run this nation for years, and they are yet to be found.
What’s worse? The Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Munir Dan-Ali, has said it will take years to rescue the remaining 195 girls. It was an 8-10 year struggle by the U.S. intelligence and special operatives to get Osama bin Laden, he claims.
Herein lies the anguish of the parents of the missing girls and Nigerians in general who have been appalled by the manner in which this issue has been handled since 2014. Why will it take years to rescue our daughters and sisters snatched in the prime of their youth by these depraved men leaving chaos and pain in their wake?
There is very little to show that the past or present government has taken up a very personal struggle to find these girls. And only a very personal struggle will do in this instance.
In May 2014, shortly after the incident, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Army of not acting on advance warning that the kidnapping would happen. Then information minister, Labaran Maku dismissed the statement as outrageous and promised it was going ‘to be investigated’.
Between deciding whether the girls had left the shores of the country or whether they had been married off by the extremists who said the reason for their capture was because they were meant to be married and not schooling, precious time ticked away for these girls.
To show how sensitive the issue was, UK and US intelligence and security experts threw their weight behind the government. Finding these girls became a global priority because no one could bring to terms the level or degree of abuse they might be subjected to in the hands of these blood thirsty group. A girl here, another there with a baby and the brokered deal that led to the release of 21 of them, 195 girls are yet to resurface.
On the 14th and 18th of April, in renewed protest, parents of the missing girls and organisers of the BBOG campaign marched to the state house in Abuja requesting to see President Buhari or his wife, Aisha but were turned back by security agents at the state house.
Buhari had during his inauguration declared his unflinching desire to find these girls saying the defeat of the sect would only be complete when they were found. In December of 2015, Buhari declared that the sect had been defeated. 195 of these girls are yet to be found.
It is compelling to see that three years down the line, the hope of these parents and the outcry from some of the initial campaigners that sought the immediate release of the girls have not dimmed. Who can blame them? We cannot imagine the anguish and indescribable pain and loss that they have had to carry for three long years. We cannot imagine the sense of aloneness that they have been thrown into given that the government whose duty it is to protect and preserve the lives of its citizens have not done enough to ensure they come back. We cannot imagine the vacuum that their disappearance has caused their family, friends, teachers and all who knew them. We cannot imagine the renewed sense of loss they must have felt with each girl who returned.
The government has shown over the period that the lives of its citizens can be toyed with and treated with levity. The Chibok girls are not the only victims of the insurgency and mayhem in the northeast and it only goes to show how many more children and women will be forcefully taken and never be accounted or fought for.
Until they can feel the anguish and the nature of loss these parents feel about these girls, nothing will change.