Judging from the euphoric celebration that greeted Boko Haram’s release of majority of the abducted school girls from Dapchi, a visitor from Mars would jump to the conclusion that the saga had a good ending.
The gust of unqualified elation over the freedom of majority of the survivors gave the denouement of the tragedy the deceitful guise of a lost and found festival. The ugly details of the accompanying fatalities were relegated to footnotes. The five girls who died in captivity were mentioned in passing, as if they were forgettable, anonymous extras. Not much was said about Leah Sharibu, the lone Christian girl whom the Islamic jihadists have retained as a trophy slave.
Worst of all, the visceral jubilation has caused us to entertain attempts to foreground the pointless comparison of Buhari’s handling of Dapchi with Jonathan’s handling of Chibok, at the expense of the urgent task of probing the cause of the shameful repeat of the failure of state guardianship:
Why did we have to relive this traumatic Groundhog Day? Why did we turn our cheeks for the terrorists to give us the second slap? Which state actors were culpable of dereliction of duty?
After Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls from Chibok in Borno State, and threw the whole country into an eternal nightmare, it didn’t seem that we would soon gift the jihadists another opportunity to attack our schools in like fashion. If we didn’t know that we have a responsibility to protect the schools, Chibok thrust the lesson in our face. Chibok rid of the excuse that we were ignorant of the fact that when you have an implacable adversary who is animated by a backward ideology that says western education is evil, you ought to take the commonsensical step of garrisoning the schools so as to protect courageous kids who grit their teeth and go to school in spite of the climate of killer bombs and terrorist bombast.
It turned out that we learned nothing from Chibok, after all. We left one of the few functional schools in the North East undefended and vulnerable. We made the school a sitting duck. We invited Boko Haram to come for the girls. We allowed the terrorists launch a powerful gimmick.
It’s a shame that we had to ‘’celebrate’’ the negotiated release of the Dapchi school girls. They should never have been abducted in the first place. The Nigerian state was remiss in her duty to guarantee their safety and their right to pursue formal education.
Which is why we need to detect the various points of guilt. There were state functionaries who cleared the ground for the insurgents to strike. We have to construct a truthful accountability profile of the incident and serve appropriate recompense.
Amnesty International has confirmed that Nigerian security forces ignored ‘’advance warnings’’ of an impending Boko Haram attack on Government Science and Technical College Dapchi given to them by the locales. Four hours before the attack, villagers had called the Nigerian army and Nigerian police multiple times to report that a convoy of the insurgents was heading towards the school. The urgent tip-off was not acted upon. The terrorists had a free and unchallenged passage.
We must identify the military officers and police officials stationed in that axis within the duration of the hint and the eventual attack. We must find out why the security forces snoozed the alert. Why did the terrorists have a walkover?
We must unmask the identity of the military commander in Geidam who responded to the distress calls and gave the empty assurance that he was ‘’aware of the situation and was monitoring it.’’
Next, we need to determine who ordered the pull out of troops from Dapchi. The Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, said the abduction was made possible by the withdrawal of the soldiers from the town one week earlier. We need to know which general cleared the ground for Boko Haram. Did the order come straight from the Defense Headquarters or from the theatre commander?
It is important to illuminate the circumstances surrounding the reckless withdrawal of the troops at a time when the town was facing a clear threat of terrorist invasion. We must establish whether this was a case of innocent misjudgment or a matter of active complicity. Did some fifth columnists in the Nigerian military collude with Boko Haram?
There have been plausible talks of the presence of moles in the Nigerian military. Soldiers have revealed that each time they got close to capturing Abubakar Shekau, they would receive a curious order from their superiors to turn back. The military top brass has refused to verify those claims.
We need to investigate if the moles who are sabotaging the war on terror are the Abuja-based generals, the soi-disant conquerors of Boko Haram. We need to know why the terrorists always get a second wind. Why did the vaunted ‘’degradation’’ of Boko Haram turn out to be a sad joke? Are the notoriously corrupt generals prolonging the war to keep the outsize defense spending safe from budget cuts?
We also need to know the individuals who undertake the negotiation of ransom with Boko Haram on behalf of the Nigerian government. Who participated in thisDapchi deal of 5 million euros? Which individuals were involved in the Chibok business? Are they nested in the Nigerian security architecture? Do their roles entitle them to portions of the agreed ransom sum?
The DSS swiftly moved to arrest and incarcerate Daily Independent journalist Tony Ezimakor for seven days for his reporting on the conspiratorial exploitation of the negotiation for the release of Chibok girls. He revealed that Nigerian officials and Swiss agents turned the affair into an ‘’illicit goldmine.’’ Didn’t the reporter suffer detention for blowing the lid on the activities of a highly-connected syndicate?
These are the critical questions begging for answer. They are the threads of the mystery fabric we need to unravel. Unless and until we see beyond the veil, we are foredoomed to experience another abduction of a batch school kids.
Boko Haram is a hate movement propelled by doctrinal abhorrence for western education. They target young students and make an example of them in order to dissuade others from going to school. Before they released the Dapchi school girls, the terrorists spent two good hours drilling into their heads the instruction that they must never to return to school.
But then, the terrorists didn’t have to preach their gospel to the girls. After their month-long, near-death experience in Boko Haram jungle, they would have lost all incentive to continue to grit their teeth and go to school. They quite didn’t need to be warned that they would not survive their next encounter with the terrorists.
For the government and people of Nigeria, the abduction of Dapchi is a great setback for girl child education. The girls will certainly drop out. Instead of attaining the heights they had dreamed of in learning, they will add to the statistics of early marriage in Northern Nigeria.
We have helped Boko Haram amplify their message by setting the stage for the repeat disaster of mass abduction of school girls in the North East. We have helped the jihadists execute a show of strength. We have helped them to pour scorn on the evidence-free, state-sponsored propaganda that they have been vanquished.
The terrorists came to kidnap the girls in a convoy of nine vehicles. They executed the logistics of the operation seamlessly. They returned the girls in an even grander fashion. They made a triumphal entry into Dapchi, waving their black flag and exulting like proud commandos in an action movie.
After this kidnap, no official in the Buhari administration or military spokesman should spread the whooper that Boko Haram has been exterminated. The politics of claiming victory in a war that is far from ending should stop forthwith. Genuine efforts should go into winning peace on the ground.
For now, Boko Haram is still an active and prolific enemy. They kill. They kidnap. And we negotiate with them.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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