“There is no trust more sacred than the one
the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than
ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected,
that their lives are free from fear and want
and that they can grow up in peace.”
— Kofi Annan (Former UN Secretary-General) State Of The World’s Children 2000
This is the 65th day since the #ChibokGirls were taken away in the middle of the night from their boarding house beds on the 14th of April 2014. Since then, local clamour, international media coverage and social media frenzy have brought a lot of support for the cause of rescuing the girls; and reuniting them with their families. Sadly, that entire initial rumble has been reduced to a storm in a teacup on almost all fronts.
The last (wo)man standing however is Mrs Oby Ezekwesili-led #BringBackOurGirls campaign that has strongly kept vigil in Nigeria’s capital city reminding the citizens of the plight of the girls and keeping the government of the day on their toes concerning them while trying to keep the issue in focus.
At some point since the abduction of the girls, the terrorists have indicated a willingness to swap the girls for several of their arrested colleagues. The reaction of the federal government and of most Nigerians on the matter was a resounding NO. The Federal Government of Nigeria – apparently does not negotiate with terrorists, even though it is now in the public domain that they have secretly hired a negotiator to dialogue with the terrorists.
The most ridiculous aspect of the abduction saga is the role of the Nigerian Armed Forces in it. Every step of the way, one can find fault with the actions and inactions of the once powerful Nigerian military brass. Firstly, there was a patrol in the area when the terrorists abducted the girls. The Nigerian Army did not catch any wind of an impending abduction or probably even ignored all the signs that all were not well. I don’t know how many buses conveyed the girls away but it may take up to five ‘luxurious’ buses to accommodate over two hundred girls (reason many doubt the veracity of the kidnap story and opt for more logical conspiracy theories, of which there are not a few) and the Nigerian Army patrol neither got wind of it nor did they have any informant amongst the indigenes. Secondly, about a week after the kidnap, the NA released a statement that indicated that ALL but nine of the girls had been rescued and reconciled with their parents, a statement that proved to be not only a blatant lie but also treachery against the people they had sworn to protect.
Going on to list the misdemeanours of the Nigerian military brass is like counting the grains on a cob of maize, it is useless and time-wasting. The bottom line of the matter is that our Armed forces have been not only unable to protect Nigerians, they are unable to protect themselves as evidenced by the several ambush attacks that have claimed the lives of young officers in recent times. The Nigerian Army came out to say they know where the girls were being kept but that statement came out of the blues with no evidence to back it up. This feeds the conspiracy theories that suggest the government knows the people behind this farce and is unable to bring them to justice.
Since we cannot continue with this stalemate about the abduction and these terrorists are still operating unabated in the North-eastern part of the country with scores being killed daily, I think it is safe to assume that conventional thinking may have to go out of the window.
Here is my take: Nigeria should immediately agree to the demand for release of the detained terrorists as part of a deal to swap them for the girls. Does this mean negotiating with terrorists? Yes, it does but that seems to be the only option now. Why do I NOW agree with this?
The Yoruba have a saying: “He who does not have a remedy for vomiting must not eat cockroaches”. That idealistic “we do not negotiate with terrorists” lingo and attitude can only be said confidently by those who have the means and the resolve to unleash great harm unto the camp of their enemies. Firstly, things are far from being ideal and Nigeria, by any standards, is far from that group of powerful countries. We have to swallow our pseudo-pride and TAKE THE DEAL.
Nigeria’s Armed Forces fought rebels in Sierra Leone and Liberia and tried to restore sanity there as much as possible and that while on a foreign terrain. Now we have rebels in our own backyard and we are here dilly-dallying with how or how not to rescue more than two hundred girls held captive. If ANY of the serving ministers or legislooters had a child in the group of abducted girls, will we still be here? The answer is very obvious.
Since the military brass has said they cannot rescue the girls we can only hope that the federal government will take the deal to swap the girls for arrested terrorists. One day, when we are big and strong enough (I sure hope that day is coming very soon), when we can boldly say “we do not negotiate with terrorists”, then we can go with the ideal, right now, we have to come to terms with the reality on ground, that the Nigerian Armed Forces are INCAPABLE and/or UNWILLING to #BringBackOurGirls, at least not under the current leadership we have. Afterall, the ‘mighty’ USA recently took a prisoner-swap deal to get Sgt Bergdahl who has been in the hands of the Taliban for about five years. Talk about weighing your options when all known modalities have failed. These girls cannot be allowed to stay a day longer in the camp of the terrorists if we can help it and Yes, Oh Yes we can!!!
Apologies to all idealists who think this swap will become a bargaining chip for future terrorist actions, the truth about the matter is that Nigerians are dying daily at the hands of these lawless creatures and allowing this one to pass would not form a policy out of it. Nigerians should now prevail on the federal government to accept the deal and #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS.
In the State of The World’s Chidren 2000, the then UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi A. Annan gave a foreword that accurately captures the aspiration for every child in the 21st Century. Not only have we so commonised the lives of Nigeria’s children, we consistently tell every child that Nigeria has nothing to offer them; our cardboard-carrying protests, selfie-crazy online uploads and even our boots-on-the-ground protests will count for nothing if we do not do EVERYTHING in our power (including releasing a few miscreants) to secure their release. According to Mr Annan: “…the wellspring of human progress is found in the realization of children’s rights”, if we do not show our resolve in this matter, we should just know we have enlisted our fatherland in the graveyard of history.
This is my take.
Follow me on Twitter: @holamiju