Where Are the Girls?

It will be four months soon, since the 234 Chibok school girls were abducted by Boko Haram. The last we saw of the poor children was a video clip via YouTube, two months ago, in which about 100 of the girls, of Christian background, wearing hijab, were reciting Islamic verses and chorusing Islamic songs. The #BringBackOurGirls has gone global, just as women and political activists have consistently mounted pressure on government to step up the search and rescue, and to put down the Boko Haram insurgency once and for all. After all, it is expected that the state, with all its sovereignty and might, cannot be less powerful to an insurgent group or susceptible to infractions of lesser mortals. After all these months, weeks and days of abduction, and despite the local and global outcry; despite the convergence of the military intelligence personnel of the strongest nations of the world; and in spite of the plethora of promises from the federal government and defence headquarters, where are our girls?

Derisively responding to outcry and global movement, the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, had, in a video clip, called out: “Jonathan…Jonathan…Jonathan…girl, girl, girl, girl! Haba!! Brings back our army…brings back our army…brings back our army” (sic). After that clip, what we began to hear about are suicide bombings in the North and one in Apapa, Lagos, which experts said were carried out by girls of about 10-15 years of age. The last of such in the new episode of girl-bombers was the Kano attack, which was said to have been carried out by a 10-year old girl.

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Could those be our girls- the Chibok girls- who the United States, France, Israel, West and Central African neighbours and our government said they are helping us to find and bring back safely home? Could those be the innocent young girls snatched away in the cold from their parents and school compound in their academic prime? Could those be some of the 234 girls that had come to prepare for destiny’s call in the school, which ended up being their slave point of no return? Could those be the girls we are still mounting pressure for, to have them safely rescued and returned?

This brings me to the question of the scandal trailing the belated meeting of the president with parents and some of the escapee girls two weeks ago. Moments after the visit, some parents cried out that they had been shortchanged. They claimed that of the N100m doled out by the presidency- which presidential aides have sweatfully and repeatedly refuted- only between N3,000 and N100, 000 got to them. Considering the tens of millions given out, they had expected more. If N100m was truly given out, then they did deserve more. But, what was the money for? To train the remaining girls or children at home? Honorarium for the visit? Transport or sitting allowance?

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Scandal in things done by government in Nigeria is not a new thing; what is however worrisome is that the Chibok girls rescue mission (if at all there is any mission ongoing) is being trivialized, first by the president’s decision to meet the parents three months after and the lack of wisdom in the alleged monetary grafts. The political economy of such gift is that the souls or freedom of the girls have been paid for. It was like compensation for the eternal loss of their kids. The presidency could have simply provided accommodation, feeding and airlift for them in the course of the visit to Aso Rock; certainly not doling out money in envelopes or by bank transfer. It ridicules the entire process and cheapens the #BringBackOurGirls cause. It simply makes no sense.

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Now that 10-year olds and girls are the suicide bombers for Boko Haram, it is pertinent at this juncture, to ask; where are our girls? What is the latest on them? When are we expecting them? I believe government has security and intelligence information about the situation. If they can tell us, they can at least act and bring back the girls, or end Boko Haram. We cannot be fooled. We know that bringing back those girls is difficult. It is as difficult as expecting the insect to survive a mine explosion. If soldiers strike the enclave to free the girls, the poor children will be all killed. If the forest where they are kept is bombed, they will die along with the insurgents. The Boko Haram leaders themselves will not be foolish enough to keep together all these girls, if they are not being already killed. The girls would have been hidden at different locations outside Nigeria. They could have been sold out. With the kind of murderous rage of this Boko Haram sect, they might not even keep any of their captives alive. But they could also use the girls as bargaining chips and human shields.

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Where are our girls? Someone has to answer and reassure us. Are they still alive? Are they still intact? If security reports show that they have been killed or are being killed as suicide bombers, then there is nothing to wait for any longer. There is absolutely no need to continue patting Boko Haram on the head. The security- local and foreign helpers- must swoop on the hideouts and comb the terrorists out. No more politicization of counter-terrorism. Action is now desirable if the girls are dying. The fact that they are already being butchered is enough tonic to damn the consequences and sweep out Boko Haram. Yes, Boko Haram is “sweepable”; they are not as invincible or mysterious as the Nigerian authorities have made us to believe. The Cameroonian forces demystified Boko Haram about two weeks ago when 24 hours after the spouse of the Deputy Prime Minister was kidnapped by the sect, they moved in, used intelligence and maximum force to rescue the woman unhurt. So, if truly Nigeria is the strongest country in Africa, now is the time to show it, or it will lose its place and respect permanently in a competitive international system. Let us get rid of Boko Haram now, and contain a more threatening “insurgent”- Ebola!

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