Opinion: Chibok girls; for how long will we live with this shame?

Burying my thoughts in the cadenced candour of poetry would only have produced an elegy. In truth, words fail me. Rhythm means nothing in Nigeria’s atmosphere of organised cacophony. How I wished someone would tell me it was all a dream and that what we have been reading in the newspapers about the traumatising experience of the abducted schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, were the fictional exertions of Nigeria’s growing tribe of newsmen in the new media.

That there was no abduction, heroic escape, phony ‘release’ of 80 of the girls to our ever-vigilant security forces, the principal’s denial, the parents’ brave efforts in the dead zone called Sambisa Forest, the empty promises and that the yet-to-be-accounted for 234 girls were all part of the crafted twists and turns in a work of fiction.

Sadly, these heart-wrenching stories and more have become constant narratives of the horrible reality that haunt us daily as terrorists luxuriate in the widespread attention they attract as well as the benumbing official incompetence in high places.

Just when you thought you had seen it all, something more grotesquely stupefying happens and jolts you to the reality that this might just be the beginning of yet another cycle of confounding happenstances. We really need not ask how we got here, do we? Never mind how we got to this stage of paralysis and collective amnesia.

What is important is how and when we are going to get out of it – if we ever do. Abuja may continue to delude itself with its dud promissory notes of ‘ensuring that terrorists are made to pay’ for their odious monstrosities. Even when such empty promises are being repeated ad infinitum, it does not obliterate the fact that this country is sick – so sick that it requires the best expertise in the Intensive Care Unit for it to wobble through this harvest of doom after gloom.

That Nigeria bleeds while its leadership parties sums up the story of a country in dire straits. Blood flows on our streets and we belie this humongous horror with plastic laughter. Where others see laughter as catharsis, we have mastered the art of laughing out our impotence.

As bombs after bombs boomed, we offer the most tendentious excuse ever: Terrorism is a new reality in the country and it is our share of the global crisis but we will overcome it someday, our mind echoes, in our self-hypnosis towards detaching ourselves further from our reality… Churches, mosques, entertainments spots and workplaces were attacked with countless lives cut short and properties wrecked – yet we offer the same excuse.

We said we were on top of the game and even offered a definite timeline for flushing the insurgents out of our lives. Each time we boasted about our competence, these forces of doom jeered back with deadly bombs and killings that are even more audacious. We were still talking, wondering and wandering about, seeking the best strategy to keep the enemies at bay when the terrorists brought horror to the backyard of the holders of state power.

Hardly had we buried the mangled body bags of the Nyanya bomb blast when these blood-sucking terrorists hit the Girls Senior Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014. In what was reported to be a six-hour operation, they herded over 200 young girls into trucks and carted them away. They ruthlessly crushed the sole resistance on their way – a lone soldier – and soullessly went away with the bounty of a senseless attack.

For the parents, it has been two years of sorrow, tears and blood. In contrast, a community of pessimists sees the abduction story as nothing but a sham. They said it was a packaged political propaganda aimed at ridiculing and ousting the then government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The erstwhile President and Commander in chief of Nigeria’s armed forces sang danced and vibrated political notes at a rally in Kano while the affected parents and family members were wailing, praying and hoping that it was just one bad dream that would soon fizzle out. Well, it never was. The Chibok girls are still missing as those who still care to give a thought about them hold on to hope, in spite of the poignant hopelessness that dampens the spirit of millions who live very far away from Chibok.

This national embarrassment has lasted two harrowing.years and no one knows how much longer this tragedy would linger. When the extracts above was published on May 3, 2015, I never imagined that it would still be relevant on this date, long after the abduction incident.

I had thought that all the muscle flexing in high places, including the military hierarchy with the presumed support of the international community would yield some results even if with a tint of tragedy.

How could I have known that the entire countdown from different media organisations would end up with the same refrain: Where are the Chibok girls? If you ask me, to whom do I seek answers? The military that keeps playing around the matter promising a rescue whose operational manual is yet to be discussed? Do we ask former President Olusegun Obasanjo who, in his usual straight-faced brashness, told whoever cared to listen to forget the girls as Mr. Jonathan’s indecisive inaction in the early days foreclosed any hope of a rescue?

Maybe we should ask President Buhari who told Nigerians the other day that he is yet to receive any reliable intelligence on the missing girls. It is a tough one really. One can only hope that this is not like the unanswered question of the Dele Giwa murder: who dunit?

Two years on, Nigerians should salute the courage and resilience that the likes of Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and Hajia Aisha Yusuf who continue to put into the drive to find the girls and reunite them with their traumatised families. Here, I speak of the parents who are still alive, clinging to some kind of hope of a reunion in the solitude that encompasses their homes. At some point, Oby and the other members of her group became the butt of jokes by some members of a society that has lost its humanity. Harangued, blackmailed and intimidated by the forces of the state backed by The Presidency, they could have given up the fight.

After all, none of their children was involved. It is to their credit that we still have a semblance of agitation and protest for the release or rescue of these children. So many questions dance round our heads. Who knows what had happened to them since that day of the heinous crime against their innocence?

Could it be that some of them had been used as suicide bombers? Did Shekau carry out his threat of marrying them off to the Boko Haram fighters for a paltry N2000 bride price or even sold them off as slaves to some paedophiles in far-flung countries? Could they have been radicalised to the point that they have become threats to their families and the society?

Questions and more questions pop up without any answer and the countdown continues. Asked if she ever knew that the agitation would stretch this long in a recent interview in this paper, Oby said: “How could anyone have? I mean there was no way. As a matter of fact, you will recall that I started the advocacy on the social media the very next day after the abduction.

From the 15th, I started screaming that they should please run after these people and get the girls back. And it was on the 30th that we embarked on our first march. There was no way in all of this that I could have imagined that we would be talking two years after.

The current government took over when it was already a year plus of the abduction but if after seven months of the new government, we met with the President and the response to us was that no credible intelligence, for whatever that meant it just didn’t come out the right way.

It was just not the right thing to say to parents who, when they met with him with our movement previously in July, he gave that assurance that he was going to do his utmost to rescue our Chibok girls. Seven months after, you are then told about lack of credible intelligence. I am sorry; the government of Nigeria exists to find credible intelligence. So, there is no credible intelligence, so what next? Are the parents supposed to take no credible intelligence and just walk away?”

What more is there to say on this matter? As I wrote earlier, it is to our collective shame that no definitive action has been taken to free the girls from their captors neither have we resolved the fate that has befallen them. It is not just about the shame of the abduction but the mindlessness of its handling. At this point, it is hard not to talk about our failings as a people and as leaders. Sometimes, you wonder if there is any marked difference between the insurgents in Sambisa Forest and their counterparts in the corridors of power.

A leadership that has lost its humanity or one that attends to issues on the whim of political expediency is not any better than governance that has gone rudderless. While the executive and legislature wallows in the shamelessness of their endless bickering over the 2016 budget, may we remind them that the missing girls of Chibok deserve their attention too? Somehow, this national calamity would have to come to an end one way or the other.

How can we rest when our girls remain in captivity, enslaved and violently abused by evil-minded men? Question is: would the state live with the shame of this national tragedy or would it summon the courage to bring them to the warm embrace of their parents and return whatever is left of their dignity?

Two years on, this poser remains unanswered. Where then is our humanity and sense of shame? At this point, the words of Nigeria’s immediate past First Lady comes to mind: In everything that we do, let us remember that their is God who sees all. Sans the crocodile tears, God is indeed not smiling at those who allow this perfidy to last this long. But do they care?

Opinion article written by Yomi Odunuga

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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