Different strokes in Brussels and Chibok
It was about 1 p.m. We were transfixed to our television as we watched unbelievably as one plane plunged into one of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Centre in New York. People thought this might be a trailer for a new action thriller film. An hour or so later another plane struck the second Tower in the World Trade Centre. People stood around, watching. The Television newscaster could hardly believe what they were reading and seeing. It was eerily true. The United States was under attack; commentators had never seen anything like it and began comparing this incident with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. After the initial shock and numbness, the Mayor and Governor of New York swung into action. Fire and emergency Crews, ambulances, other emergency workers, all swung into action, saving the injured, sending them off to hospitals which by now were on full alert: every available doctor was at the hospitals.
Still in this state of shock another plane landed in the Pentagon, the biggest building in the world housing the U.S. Defence Department; another plane was flying towards the White House, its intention to hit the residence of the President of the United States. The passengers in that plane managed to overcome the hijackers and crash landed the plane somewhere in Pennsylvania, about 35 minutes to the White House, killing all those aboard the plane. For two years or so seven Saudi Arabians had studied to be pilots in the United States and on that fateful morning, all boarded various planes intending to cause mayhem by going for the jugular of the United States.
A nation is characterised by how it responds to national emergencies. On July 7, 2012, the London underground was blown up by a suicide bomber on the Central line in Edgware Road; another bomb was detonated on top of a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, near the centre of the University of London. The British swung into action, pulling people out of the underground, rushing others in Central London to hospitals and in a constant barrage of news kept its people informed, asked them to remain calm, stay at home while this mess was sorted out.
In Madrid, the underground train was similarly attacked by six Moroccans in the name of Al Qaeda. The response of Spain was equally robust and adequate. In all of this, the thread running through the response in New York, London and Spain was to burnish a nationalistic sentiment of defiance – to say to the terrorists that you will not defeat us. We will get through this and be absolutely sure of this, we will get you, and we will get to the bottom of this. Our spirit is strong, stronger than yours. We are organised to deal with vermin like you. We will get you. There is no place to hide.
It would be tedious to repeat other examples of terrorist plots and the answer of those nations which is similar; – In India there was the attack on the Taj Mahal by Pakistani terrorists, in Nairobi by Somali terrorists at the shopping mall: India and Kenya were defiant; they dug deep into their national spirit to find the strength to fight these terrorists. They always believed that their spirit was invincible and superior to that of the bombers. They spared no resources to encourage resilience, willing to sacrifice even more to tell their enemies that they possess an inner strength, a belief in life which no acts of terror can diminish: that they are united in this single purpose of national survival and that they will survive and overcome, no matter what. Their Leaders were resolute in the belief that they must lead their countries, not out of the fear which these faceless cowards were trying to impose upon them but out of strength.
Nearly two years ago another group of terrorists – Boko Haram – went to Chibok and took 246 Nigerian girls and seemed to vanish into thin air. Before that, Boko Haram had terrorised our nation – bombing the Eagle Square in Abuja while we were celebrating independence, we watched shamefully as our visiting Presidents and Head of State scurried like frightened rats into their planes and left our country. The terrorist bombed Police Headquarters and other buildings in Abuja, Niger, Kano. They spread mayhem all over the North East, seized territories where our governments could not go. But let me return to Chibok.
The whole world in solidarity with us put on “#Bring back our girls.” Even our President, security, chiefs, etc. without shame or appreciation of our utter humiliation put on #tags if not for Chibok for some other terrorist attack. When we tried to sympathise with France for the terrorist attack, our sympathy was thrown back to our face: we should solve the Chibok problem.
Where was the political leadership the nationalism, the spirit shown in the moment of a national calamity? Where is the defiance to tell Boko Haram, that our spirit is stronger than yours, you cannot beat us, you cannot hide, and we will get you. In London, New York, Paris, Brussels hundreds of thousands came out on that day to express their defiance at the terrorism. Our response to that calamity puts all of us to shame, we scurried like frightened rodents and cockroaches into the nearest hole we could find, throwing one blame after another to confound our weakness and shamelessness. Indeed so pathetic has been our response that people have begun to believe that Chibok never existed; never took place, that it was a political conspiracy to win an election. Pathetic. We have had more reaction over the alleged abduction of a wayward 14-year-old girl who ran away with her lover than we have had in Chibok for our 246 girls. Eruese’s mother knew what was going on, even if she did not encourage it. She put her daughter in harm’s way and is complicit in the so-called abduction. Her father is less than useless if he did not know what was going on in his house: he should have. With Eruese, shameless potentates, Governors, Deputy Inspector General of Police – an endless stream of publicity seeking inconsequential lightweights unashamedly want to take photographs with her; the courts have jumped into the act, with N3 million bail for an Okada rider – where were all these people during and since Chibok?
The girls of Chibok came from different states. What have their governors done? What have the police done in Chibok? Some ask what can they do? They could have done a lot. And we could have sent a deluge of security people to Chibok, interviewing any and everybody? Did the security people collect forensic evidence in Chibok? What are the answers they received from their investigation? Who is heading the Chibok inquiry, who is in his team?
Boko Haram has continued its mayhem in Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, Nasarawa, etc. Our governments are proceeding as usual – business as usual; our legislators, who earn US$1 million a year, have not mentioned Chibok in over 15 months. The governors of Nigeria instead are buying bullet proof luxury cars at nearly N2 million a pop. Are the girls of Chibok, not our children? What do I expect? I expect simple investigation, to gather evidence, if we do not have the expertise, we hire them before the trail got cold: if we can hire forensic auditors to look into NNPC’s lost money, why can we not hire forensic detectives to find the children – 246 people do not disappear into thin air without leaving a lot of evidence. Even if they are married, as some claim, does that justify criminality? They may have been sold off or are sex slaves of Boko Haram – the more excuses I hear, the more my blood boils with shame at how callous and useless our people really are.
At 9/11, fire teams came from all over the United States, detectives also came, sifting every particle to find evidence which they compiled and which has helped in being better prepared in case some other vermin terrorists were to attempt to terrorize the people. Every lead was followed; they knew where the Saudis went for training when they came; they knew their parents, every safe house they stayed from the day they arrived: they plotted their every move that day, etc. They knew their DNA, their modus operandi, etc.
In London within hours, they knew where the terrorists lived, when they entered the bus or subway, etc. They picked up every scrap of information, sifted them until they had a composite of the perpetrators, their backers, etc.
They have since 9/11, and 7/7 gone after those and killed them. They did this by the investigation which was helped by the people who kept giving them information. They knew which school the terrorists went to, who their imams were, etc. In the terror attacks that followed in Paris, Germany, Spain, Brussels, and also in New York, in Nairobi, Mumbai, citizens came out in their hundreds of thousands, left notes, and flowers, kept vigil – all to show solidarity and to send a powerful message to the terrorists – we remain strong and we will beat you. In Brussels, it was the taxi driver who took them to the airport who provided the vital link.
In Chibok, we were told the terrorists came in three trucks – so somebody saw them! But we had no vehicle licence plates, no description of the trucks, it would seem that Chibok was all a bubble of its own, unconnected by roads, families, no post offices, no petrol stations, how did they feed themselves and 246 girls – that number of girls passing through villages, staying somewhere – no tents, slept under trees, no natural functions or did they clean up after themselves. What did the teachers and their parents say? Do Boko Haram not study the terrain or make preparations – and no one saw anything?
To be continued tomorrow
Dr. (Ambassador) Patrick Dele Cole, OFR, wrote from Lagos.