(By Abimbola Adelakun)
“The question is, how far will rescue efforts go when nobody is agitated enough about how they failed to protect the girls? If nobody is to blame because everybody is to blame -one way or the other – how do you compel the drive, urgency, and necessary resolve to carry out rescue operations? Could this lack of urgency be why there have been many sideshows introduced into the soap opera?“
Two months after the Chibok abduction saga started, the fact-finding committee on the missing schoolgirls submitted its report. The committee confirmed that, indeed, the schoolgirls were missing and for the first time, gave the world an exact figure – 219 – and also, pictures of the victims.
The committee chairman, Brig-Gen Ibrahim Sabo (retd.) expressed some optimism that those who had hitherto alleged that the abduction was a scam would now, at least, have a rethink based on the credibility of their report. Sabo’s optimism is understandable but he should know that the denials that had accompanied the Chibok abduction run deeper than just believability. It is principally about politics and power; an expression of fear their underbelly would be upturned.
I must also say – without a deliberate attempt to rubbish the effort of the committee – that the whole exercise was perhaps an attempt by the government to just buy time. There is little the committee has done that could not have been done by the Nigerian Police and within a few days of the abduction too with – give or take – additional help by other security agencies. Now that there are reports of another mass abduction in Borno State, what does Nigeria do? Set up another committee to report in two months’ time whether it is true or false?
So, what now when the committee has told us what we already knew about the Chibok abductions? Are investigations going to begin afresh or are ongoing efforts to be infused with urgency? Or, will it end up as just one of the many reports submitted by the many committees President Goodluck Jonathan is fond of inaugurating at the drop of his hat?
The President’s response to the committee’s findings was rather careful and non-committal. He said the report would not be ignored and then went on to lament how the lack of security personnel in the school resulted in the abduction. He made other promises: floating a support fund for the victims, rebuilding the razed school buildings with army engineers after the girls are found, and improving public welfare. He even charged boarding school proprietors in the north-eastern states with the task of providing security for students if they want to keep them in the boarding house.
Instructively, two cardinals were missing from the President’s response to his fact-finding committee: A sense of urgency about rescuing the abducted girls and, that of culpable responsibility. The committee, too, was careful not to designate faults but insisted on focusing attention on bringing the girls back home.
The question is, how far will rescue efforts go when nobody is agitated enough about how they failed to protect the girls? If nobody is to blame because everybody is to blame -one way or the other – how do you compel the drive, urgency, and necessary resolve to carry out rescue operations? Could this lack of urgency be why there have been many sideshows introduced into the soap opera? From the Nigerian Army trying to shore up its credibility by announcing it has located the girls to a misguided police officer banning protesters to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo turning himself into the patron saint of #BringBackOurGirls, there have been so many diversions that detract from the seriousness of the abduction.
A day after the report was received by a beaming President, Aso Rock, characteristically, shed its semblance of soberness and was joyfully showing off celebrations of victory. First, his aides tweeted pictures of the President staying up to watch the Nigeria-Bosnia match. In the image, he was hailing the Super Eagles to victory. His pictured aides were laughing too – perhaps too effusively – making you wonder if their joy was about the game or they had to echo Oga’s laughter. Next, they tweeted pictures of the Ekiti celebration; members of the Peoples Democratic Party National Working Committee toasting Ayo Fayose’s victory with champagne. It all looked so good and rosy, enough to make you think God was at work on Nigeria again except the picture was missing any hint of empathy over the plight of the people of Koronginim, Borno State who were slaughtered in their dozens that Saturday morning by Boko Haram.
Obviously, there was nothing about the promises of the President the previous day that were enough to restrain terrorists from reaching into the same pool they had dug into before and committing more atrocities. There is nothing that perhaps arms an enemy more than the knowledge your venom is impotent. Or that words, even when spoken by the President, are mere words and gradually everyone will revert to the business as usual mode.
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