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#Bringbackourgirls: Tragedy Of A Divided Nigerian People By Ifeanyi Izeze

June 24, 2014

How long can we continue in this state of being locked up in ethno-religious violence fed by intolerance? People of one religion no longer view the follower of the opposite religion as friends, brothers or sisters.

How many months have gone now over 250 girls were abducted from their hostel at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state? What can we say has been achieved in our effort to free the girls either through dialogue or outright confrontation? Nothing! Rather since April 14 that the girls were taken, more villages have been devastated and the residents killed in their hundreds by the rampaging boko haram terrorists.

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Political opponents disdain Jonathan unanimously for outright inaction, inadequate action, or misdirected action. The opposition has serially accused the President and his national security managers of being incapable of strategic thoughts; that his National Security Council is nothing but a current affairs and election campaign talk-shop. Truth or lie, the fact is that the line between genuine patriotic concern and outright political mischief by those who call themselves politicians in this country is so thin it can be taken to mean the other.

Since the girls were taken, all we have as at today are loads of propaganda, half-truths, misinformation and sheer falsehoods whose implication at best is outrightly misguided to steer us away from the real problem at hand which is even escalating to otherwise safe areas of the country.

Is this how a country runs? Everybody is divided against the other person; government is divided between All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Shetimma versus Jonathan; even the Airforce has accused the Army of snubbing their enormous efforts and achievements; Christians are accusing the Moslems; the local media is accusing the foreign media; and so on. But the fact remains that the chibok girls are still in the hands of the terrorists.

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Let’s not forget that the girls were taken since April 14 over two months now and still counting, nothing definite is known nor heard concerning the where about of these innocent girls whose only sin was that they went to school to be educated so that they have a better life ahead.

Even the number of children taken had become an issue for partisan political campaign. Till today, no one can say exactly how many of those children were snatched from their school. The principal of Government Secondary School Chibok had her own figure; Borno state governor had his own figure which ofcourse was an upward review of what the school authourity said. Haba! We really need to be more serious than this as a people. So supposing tomorrow someone comes up to say our girls have been released/rescued, how do we believe such person when we don’t even know the exact number abducted. And I mean nobody except the people behind this has an accurate idea of the exact number of girls in the terrorist den.

The Sambisa Forest is some 60 kilometers from Chibok. The Federal Minister of Education had advised the state Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, to relocate all students sitting for this year’s West Africa School Certificate Examination (WASCE) to Maiduguri the state capital of Borno State, Nigeria for adequate protection, because the examination body, West Africa Examination Council lost three invigilators to Boko Haram in 2013. The advice was implemented everywhere in Borno State except as it relates to GGSS Chibok. And people are saying nobody should garner the audacity to ask for explanation. Does that portray a serious and united people in anyway?

How long can we continue in this state of being locked up in ethno-religious violence fed by intolerance? People of one religion no longer view the follower of the opposite religion as friends, brothers or sisters. No more trust among our peoples from various sections; everybody suspects the other person’s intentions and outrightly inputs motives which almost all the times are wrong, mischievous and at best selfish. Why is this country deliberately sleepwalking into anarchy? Those who think splinting the country into whatever fractions would address this hatred don’t know anything because it would only multiply and increase the spread of  pockets of hate and intolerance.

The military campaign against Boko Haram in the North East has not been the spectacular success that would normally be expected of the Nigerian Armed Forces because the Armed Forces and other security agencies are divided along all sorts of lines. Some people in the rank and files of the Armed Forces and other security agencies serve as active moles for Boko Haram in their different organizations. Recently, soldiers of the division in Maiduguri mutinied against their General Officer Commanding because they perceived that he ordered fallen colleagues into a Boko Haram ambush. Where are we heading to? How are we going to continue like this and still say we are one Nigeria?

Immediately after over 200 girls were abducted from their school in Chibok Borno state last April, a group of protesters (mostly women) vexed by the dastardly act entered the street in protest and decided to occupy Abuja until the girls were freed by their abductors. To this group, the president, Goodluck Jonathan as the head of government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces should take full responsibility for the safe release of the girls. They came out every morning to make speeches and this protest continued but for a season.

Then, towards the end of April, another group sprang -up on this same issue of the missing Chibok girls. However, the new group rather preferred to shift the blame for inaction from Jonathan to where they convincingly insisted were the appropriate quarters. They believed all the women protesters including the first group should actually appeal and/or confront the Boko Haram terrorists and the Borno state governor whose domain the girls were taken from. But for the timely intervention of the FCT Police, the two versions of the Bring-back-our-girls protesters almost clashed in Abuja over who and where the protest should actually be directed.

At the beginning and heat of the Bring Back Our Girls protests, the PDP was busy accusing the APC of politicizing the abduction of the girls by sponsoring the Oby Ezekwesili-led group, while the opposition in turn also accused the ruling party of coming up with the new group to counter the entire idea of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls rallies.

And now the rhetoric on both sides (bring-back-our-girls part one and two) has been toned-down. No more shouts, dramatized cries and singing of war songs. The issue of the girls seemed forgotten or at best not expedient any longer.

And that is Nigeria for you! Everybody is just carrying on as if nothing happened.

Question: Where did all the Bring-Back-Our-Girls protesters both genuine and fake vanish into? Does it mean they have abandoned the struggle and forgotten the girls with the terrorists or they now have ‘better information’ on the entire conspiracy that weakened their resolve and made their steam to die down? These questions are very pertinent because we need to be carried along afterall almost all straight-minded Nigerians supported the spirit of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls protest and equally participated at different levels at least some to the left and some to the right.

Throughout the period both sides of the protest sat in Abuja demanding the girls be freed, it just did not occur to them at all that maybe shifting the venue of their protest to Government House Maiduguri the epicenter of this crisis or even Damaturu may have been more productive towards feeing our abducted daughters. This is another curious angle that the leaders of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls campaign need to explain. Where are all the women/girl rights activists and non-governmental organizations that receive funding every year from donors to fight injustice against women and the girl-child? Are they waiting to be told that the Chibok abduction falls under forced marriage and ofcourse under-aged, rape and outright sexual violence?

The Nigerian public should go beyond the façade erected by contemporary politicians to tease out what they are not saying publicly. That is the way out of the current national embarrassment and a swift drift into anarchy. This is my honest view!

IFEANYI IZEZE, Abuja: [email protected]

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