Again, the Chibok girls
As the saga of the missing Chibok girls continues, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement the other day describing the Federal Government’s repeated assurance of finding and rescuing the missing 276 abducted Chibok girls as deceptive may be true, but it is insensitive. Coming at a time when Nigerians need to rally round a purposeful search mission, Obasanjo’s discouraging comment does not help the kind of healing Nigerians need over the tragedy, and does not help in bringing about the kind of closure so desperately desired.
Obasanjo had, at the staff club of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, remarked that the missing girls would never be found. He was quoted to have said: “The lot of the Chibok girls is regrettable; their disappearance should be blamed on negligence by the previous administration, which did not act in good time to tackle insurgency. Seventy-two hours after the Chibok girls were abducted was too late for their rescue, much less getting them back two years after. So, if any leader is promising to bring the Chibok girls to Nigeria, he is lying.”
In a very brash narration of the possible circumstance befalling the girls, Obasanjo went on: “Many of the girls would have died, while those alive would have been forcefully married; sexual violence and human trafficking would have affected others.”
It is neither the frankness of his utterance nor its analysis that makes that remark unacceptable. Rather, it is the cold pessimism, hopeless resignation, brutal denial of hope and the finality with which he forecloses any possibility of ever finding these girls that makes blood curl over an issue so sensitive.
One of the values of democracy as the people’s government remains its support of, and respect for, free speech in an open decision-making process. In this regard, everyone is entitled to his opinion. Yet this process is verily endowed by the dignified public comportment in deeds and words called decorum.
True, it is very easy to forget the Chibok girls given the happenings in the country. It seems true also that the capacity to empathize and the urgency to act are determined by the level of familial affiliation; after all those abducted are not the children of anyone in power. They are daughters of people who make up the amorphous crowd of Nigerians: ‘nobodies.’ Perhaps, the categorical stance of information managers of the government might have made Nigerians overly hopeful. Besides, the plethora of activities currently beleaguering the nation might seem to have pushed the Chibok event into the paling backyard of memory.
Yet, it is not in the position of anybody to provide excuses for Nigerian leaders not to do their job. The ruling elite should rather be urged to labour not to forget Nigerian lives, because it is in this way that truly “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”. Leaders, who think seriously about bettering the lot of their country, do not cheapen their exalted position as leading lights of the people by making comments which portray them as imprudent loose cannons; and thereby make a mockery of the very institution they have been privileged to head.
Those familiar with crime reportage from organised countries will attest to the painstaking intelligence gathering, persistent investigation and search mission, carried out on routine cases of missing persons, let alone celebrated kidnap cases. Some go on for decades until, at last, the puzzle is solved. Situations such as these give hope and build confidence and trust in the government. These are the kind of scenarios eminent persons and leaders should urge Nigerian security operatives to emulate.
Events like the plight of the Chibok girls should be eternally impressed in the people’s collective memories. It should haunt every Nigerian who is a historical witness to this assault on the youth and women, and an embarrassment to Nigeria’s national security. The missing Chibok girls should be an open sore on the memories of the ruling elite in such a way that, in their own living children and grand children, they would see a potential Chibok girl.
Rather than deflate morale and discourage well-meaning Nigerians who constantly pray and hope for a solution, however it may come, Obasanjo’s comment should make this government to think deeply. Not only this, but also to work assiduously in such a manner that, even if it takes decades to find these daughters of Nigeria in whatever state they might have become, they must be sought out.
Senior citizens who have held public offices should share their experiences and make statements that should edify the polity and contribute meaningfully to the well-being of the society. Should they reckon that their comments would spread odium and disaffection, they should respectfully maintain a dignified silence.