It has been an endless waiting game. Today, Thursday, April 14, 2016, it will be exactly two years since the Boko Haram terrorists sneaked into the premises of the Government Girls Secondary School, located in Chibok town, Borno State, in the dead of the night and made away with about 270 school girls. Exactly 730 days after that callous abduction, the fate or whereabouts of the girls has remained an unresolved riddle, very difficult, if not impossible, to crack. It has also become a crime too horrifying to comprehend.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of Dele Agekameh and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.
As the second anniversary of their kidnap comes up tomorrow, a report in the United Kingdom Sunday Telegraph newspaper edition of last Sunday, April 10, 2016, which formed front page news headlines in some Nigerian newspapers on the same day, indicated that the Boko Haram terrorists are demanding a ransom of $50 million (almost N16 billion) to release the more than 200 schoolgirls in their captivity. According to the UK Sunday Telegraph, the terrorist group is thought to have issued the demand during secret contacts with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who once said he was willing to negotiate for the girls’ freedom.
When Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015, he promised that he would fight for the release of the school girls. Although he was quick to add that his government had no credible intelligence regarding their whereabouts, nevertheless, he assured the nation that his administration would do everything possible to ensure that the girls were rescued. Eleven months down the line, no significant progress seems to have been recorded on the fate of the missing girls.
Now that the second anniversary of their abduction is here, the Boko Haram terrorists have decided to fly another kite – trading the schoolgirls’ freedom for money. But the Buhari government has denied any link or secret dealing with Boko Haram on the freedom of the school girls. This may have been in tandem with the government’s avowed determination not to enter into any discussion with any faceless group over the freedom of the kidnapped girls.
In the last two years, the whole world has been gripped with horror and anxiety over the safe return of the schoolgirls. Day after day, hope of their return is raised only to be dashed by the next minute. This appears to be what is repeating itself with the recent kite being flown by the terrorist group to the effect that they are prepared to let go of the schoolgirls if only the government could grease their palms with a whopping 16 billion naira. What this means is that the Boko Haram spin doctors are probably working on target. They are aware that the Buhari administration would be marking its first year anniversary in power on May 29, 2016, less than 45 days from now. In this regard, their thinking is that the government may be desperate to showcase some of its achievements so far to the people. And since the government seems to be reeling under the heavy yoke of intractable problems such as lack of electricity, fuel scarcity, unemployment, high cost of living and a battered economy, to name a few, all of which have resultantly dashed people’s hope for a better country, Boko Haram thought by raising the spectre of hope for the release of the schoolgirls, the government will instantly jump at the dubious offer.
That such a promise is coming at this material time when world attention is focused on the second anniversary of the abduction of the innocent schoolgirls is suspect. In fact, now that the Boko Haram terrorists have been receiving serious pounding from the relentless aerial and ground assault by the Nigerian Airforce and the Army, the real motive of the terrorists may be to use the promise of releasing the girls as a decoy to fleece the government of billions of naira to shore up their depleted fighting force and war arsenal. It could also be a well-orchestrated ploy by some scammers to dupe the government in the name of providing a window of opportunity for the release of the schoolgirls.
In the past, unscrupulous individuals including some foreigners and unpatriotic government officials had used the issue of the release of the abducted schoolgirls and the cessation of hostilities between the terrorists and the Nigerian troops, as bait to defraud the government of huge sums of money. Towards the desperate last days of the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, some crooks, possibly with the collaboration of other unscrupulous government officials, pulled fast strings on the government by claiming to be capable of brokering freedom for the unfortunate girls. It later turned out to be a big scam.
But with Buhari, who is believed to be too tight-fisted, the scammers who may be trying to capitalise on the rage of the moment to pull a surprise one, may have hit the rock. Not only this. The Nigerian military has recorded significant gains against Boko Haram in the last few months by raiding a number of the terrorists’ camps located in Sambisa forest and freeing hundreds of women and children who had been held captive like the Chibok school girls. It is, however, astonishing that in all the raids so far, none of the captured terrorists nor rescued prisoners have been able to give any convincing clue or accounts of ever meeting or seeing any of the abducted Chibok girls anywhere.
But there are indications that the schoolgirls may have been kept away from the prying eyes of other captives because their captors see them as ‘prisoners’ with huge symbolic value. This consideration may have arisen from the activities of the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners who have been relentless in drumming up global support for the release of the abducted girls.
At any rate, hope that the terrorists’ activities may soon end was raised last week by the Nigerian Airforce when it said that the terrorists are now surrendering in droves. This might actually signify that the end of the road has come for Boko Haram. But all these military successes against Boko Haram notwithstanding, the issue of the freedom of the abducted schoolgirls is paramount in the hearts and minds of the people particularly their parents who have been agonising for their return in the last two years. This issue is one of the greatest psychological traumas a nation can pass through and it will continue to dominate discussions all over the place until the girls finally breathe the air of freedom.
The time has come for anybody who has any information about the missing girls to come forward and speak out. We have certainly passed the level of covering up the truth about the events of April 14, 2014. It is a shame that up till now, the country’s intelligence officers have not been able to crack the riddle surrounding the schoolgirls’ kidnap or locate their whereabouts. This is because the Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, whose responsibility it is to provide accurate intelligence for the country on such issues seems to be comatose, with no hope of coming back to life anytime soon. The place has been turned into a gold mine for most of the uniform officers posted there.
But for how long more are we going to continue to wait anxiously for the release of these innocent girls? We have had enough of rhetoric and sloganeering. Now it is time for President Buhari’s government to come out clean and explain to the public what it is doing to free the abducted schoolgirls. A Yoruba proverb says: “Omo mi ku, san ju omo mi sonu lo,” meaning: “My child is dead, is better than my child is missing.” It is high time we closed this horrible chapter in our nation’s history!
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.