As far as timing goes, the rescue, on Tuesday, of one of the Chibok girls, by a detachment of civilian JTF and the rescue, yesterday, of another Chibok girl, by the Nigerian Army, is luck intervening to compel national uplift in a season of nationwide depression.
The far-fetched news that Amina Alli Darsha Nkeki and Serah Lukah have been rescued alive and well slipped at a time when the country is reeling from the shock of the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy: An artificial crisis the Buhari administration created by refusing, like its forbears, to pay Nigerian people –the most trivialized citizenry in the whole world–the simple courtesy of engaging them in a respectful conversation before the announcement of the disruptive petrol price regime-change.
The rescue of two of the 219 Chibok girls is the most positive news conceivable in this hour. It certainly does not call for triumphalism: 2 over 219 is a miserable fraction by all standards. And, the joy of the two instances of release has been vitiated by the revelation that there are less than 217 girls left behind. 6 of the girls, according to Amina, are beyond rescue. They are dead.
But the rescue of Amina and Serah represents an important inflection point in Nigeria’s war against terror and the most vulnerable moment for Boko Haram.
The death cult, true to the claim of President Buhari, has been sufficiently degraded and approximately vanquished. Its leadership has been decapitated, its fighting ranks, decimated, and its capacity to hold territory, devastated. It elicits media attention by solo suicide bombings, which are now few and far between.
Boko Haram’s only viable claim to relevance is the group of girls it abducted from Government Secondary School Chibok on the night of 14th April, 2014.The terrorists have massacred more than 20,000 human beings. But their notoriety essentially revolves around their captives for two years.
The terrorists consider the girls a trump card and bargaining chip. They understand that the civilized world care about the girls and want them returned at all costs. The jihadists recognize that the girls are their only real asset. And this is why President Buhari must manage this crack on the door responsibly.
He will be tempted to maximize the optics of the girls’ freedom to shore up his popularity. But over-exposing the girls and making trophies out of them would be endangering the lives of the other girls. And it would be providing Amina and Serah the least thing they need to recuperate from their protracted tenancy in hell.
The girls do not need to be turned into instant celebrities. They need privacy. They need psychological therapy. Time to reconnect and bond again with their loved ones. The security to be the ordinary girls they used to be.
What the government should focus on is the review of the insider information the debriefing of Amina and Serah would yield. It has to process the clues and use them to map out a strategy to rescue or to negotiate the rescue of the rest of the girls. Buhari’s men must move with urgency. Luck is on their side.
Eleven of the parents of the girls are dead. They died from heartbreak. The pain of living with the toxic knowledge that their daughters were now sex slaves, trapped in a dense forest teeming with beasts and terrorists.
The story says Amina’s mum, upon seeing her lost daughter, shouted her name, ‘’Amina, Amina!’’, and locked her in a spirited embrace, obviously in an instinctive attempt to cleave with her returnee child, in body and soul.
The hopes of other surviving parents are up. They entitled to expect that their own daughters will be rescued like Amina and Serah. The suffering of those men and women is underappreciated. But they experience, in their homes, an anguish at par with the torture their daughters endure in the forest.
Three weeks after the capture of the girls, Abubakar Shekau, the lunatic-in-chief of Boko Haram, appeared in a video and said that, ‘’God instructed me to sell them, they are his, and I will carry out his instructions.’’
Six months after, he released another video in which he reported his demonic compliance. He said: “We have married them off. They are in their marital homes.’’
These mad rants had the most impact on parents of the girls. They feared for the worst. They have been eternally separated from their children. Their girls were lost forever.
To that legitimate fear, add gratuitous self-blame: That needless but punitive guilt that results from the mind’s tendency to regurgitate the counterfactual after a prudent and good-intentioned decision has culminated in an unforeseen disaster.
I wager that the parents were tormented by the nagging thought that their girls would have been leading a normal, uninterrupted life had they been directed towards other paths of endeavor that the anti-enlightenment maniacs did not judge a damnable sin.
The tug of parenthood drew their hearts to Sambisa. They yearned for their kids. But they could not invade the lion’s den. They could not snatch their daughters out of captivity.
This kind of restless paralysis eats one on the inside. It makes a seemingly healthy person collapse without warning. Like a tree hollowed out by termites.
It was rumored that a number of the parents, resigned to the fact that the government was doing practically nothing to bring the girls back and desperate to regain mental normalcy, at some point, contemplated a forced closure. They would imagine their daughters dead, buy coffins, perform dust to dust rites, and move on.
A country that failed its citizens and abandoned them to despondency must rethink itself. It must check itself and see whether it has a soul.
The kidnap of the girls exposed the zero value of the common Nigerian life, the clumsiness of our security architecture, and our worst and best instincts as human beings.
Before the incident, we saw a Borno state government that declined to relocate the girls even after it was warned that school was under an increasing threat of terrorist attack.
On the day of the incident, we saw a Nigerian Army that was tipped off four hours before terrorists were due to strike but which failed to deploy to school.
After the incident, we saw ‘’an ineffectual buffoon’’ who ignored the disappearance of hundreds of Nigerian citizens for two weeks. He deigned to speak (and eventually said nothing of substance) after a Babel of voices from all over the world had formed around the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
Of course, we saw a First Lady who summoned the traumatized parents of the girls to the State House lose her temper when a representative, Naomi Mutah, showed up. We saw Patience Jonathan order her arrest and detention: The ‘Dame’ felt slighted that only one person came to pay her homage.
Again, we saw Jonathan hire Levick, for 1.2 million dollars so the Washington-based PR firm would whitewash his pathetic handling of the incident and make him likeable for re-election.
We also saw many conspiracy theorists swear time and again that the abduction of the girls was a fable fabricated to deny their beloved Jonathan his natural right of re-election.
They premised their cynical certainty on logistics. How could those guerilla fighters have conjured up enough trucks to pack and transport the supposed 300 girls to some forested Bermuda?
Even after Boko Haram released a video of the predominantly Christian girls in face veils and reciting the Koran, evidence of their forced conversion to Islam, the conspiracy theorists called the clip a stage-managed scam. Did Boko Haram have tailors? Do they run a successful textile factory in Sambisa?
And how were the girls feeding? Did they survive by picking manna from heaven? Or did Boko Haram have silos and barns with inexhaustible stock?
As recently as two months ago, ‘Governor’ Ayo Fayose, the exponent of ‘stomach infrastructure’ socialism –ostensibly convinced that sustaining that population of girls would require real poultry farms as opposed to the white elephant that had earned him an impeachment the other time –asserted that the kidnap of the girls was a fairy tale.
He was so sure the girls were fictional creations he was loath to grudge them hypothetical humanity. He objectified them. He said: ‘’What is not missing, you cannot find.’’
He said he found the protests calling for the release of the girls funny: ‘’I was laughing when they come out with, ‘freedom for our girls’. Or is it ‘where is our girls?’ ’’
To his shame, the last laugh is not his.
The last laugh belongs to #BringBackOurGirls campaigners who kept the girls alive in our memory.
The last laugh belongs to those Nigerian newspapers who devoted spaces in their front pages to count the number of the days of the girls’ captivity.
The last laugh belongs to the rest of humanity who showed empathy–the First Lady of the United States, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, everyday people who participated in the cause of the education of the girl child.
Welcome, Amina and Serah. May your friends return like you did: And may we have complete last laugh!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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