Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Endless Journey From Chibok Is Yet To Bring Our Girls Home

by Benson Agoha | Opinion

It was 564 days since Boko Haram invaded a Hostel in Chibok and abducted some 275 girls, so the recent protest by #BringBackOurGirls was no surprise.

570 days and we are still on our journey from Chibok, although a few days ago, the notorious leader of Boko Haram and one that tops the list of 100 wanted terrorists in Nigeria, Abubarkar Shekau, was reportedly seen on the Streets of the Federal Capital Territory, unmolestedly walking alongside a `powerful' ex-government official.

The past days have been those of endless campaigns, and hopes, and dashed hopes. Hopes that the next news, just the very next one, that will emanate from the war against Boko Haram, will be about the Chibok girls - and that it will be a good one. So far that has not happened, not even after Shekau was seen in Abuja on the 31st October, 2015.

Since April 2014 when the world rose to the horror of the news, it is hard to imagine how those in authority would have managed to rationalize their apparent slow response to this atrocity.

On the day the news of abduction broke, there had been a bomb attack the previous day. Boko Haram had bombed the bus station in Nyanya as a decoy to divert attention from their next plot for Chibok that same evening.

So day and night brought no good news, but lots of bad news. The bus station attack killed 73 persons and left hundreds with several degrees of injury when a suicide bomber detonated his device at the Bus Park in Nyanya, Abuja.

Besides the deaths, 16 luxury buses and 24 mini buses, involved in long distance inter-city travels were also razed at the garage during the attack. Nigerians expected to hear on that day that their President, former President Goodluck Jonathan, had cut short all engagements to attend to the urgency of the issue.

Instead, as Nigerian's vent their anger on social media, the President was photographed in Ibadan, celebrating the 100 years of the Olubadan of Ibadan.

The next thing, The Olubadan, HRH Oba Dr. Samuel Odulana Odugade, The First, issued a statement that the President was with him - safe in his Palace.

No one could have accused the former President of lack of care, but it took several months for the government to decisively activate a fight-back against Boko Haram. In fact, it was in the final months of his administration, fueled by the warning from Defence HeadQuarters that unless, the election was postponed, the Military could not guarantee voters' safety.

Until that time, the terror group had been involved in endless cross-boarder skirmishes and deadly incursions into private and public territories within and outside of Nigeria's borders - including military barracks and police stations. It had no respect for constituted authority and appeared determined to humiliate the Nigerian leadership.

570 days later, there has been a change of government, the story has changed substantially and Boko Haram has been weakened to a point where Abubarkar Shekau could walk the streets of Abuja, in daylight and not one pursued him.

Anyone who knows Nigeria will have difficulty understanding how this could have happened, seeing that it is a country where belief in jungle justice is still rife.

That 570 days on, even with Shekau's physical presence on the streets of FCT, there still will be no news or trace of the girls, beggars belief. Nor are we even exactly sure how many of them reman unaccounted for.

Day by day, one cannot but remember the similarity between the victims of Chibok and lates journalists Chris ImodibIe and Tayo Awotunsin, both of whom were caught up in the Liberian war when, against international norm, Charles Taylors men invaded the diplomatic premises to kill thousand of civilians that took refuge there.

Nigerians hoped endlessly for the best - that the journalists will surface somehow, someday, with tails of having been sheltered by a kind Liberian or smuggled out of Liberia by some lucky means. But, with each passing day, hopes were dimmed. Until the bombshell dropped. Charles Taylor announced he had asked his men to search for the journalists but could confirm they had been killed.

Nigerians don't forget and won't forget the Chibok girls - like they didn't forget Chris ImodibIe and Tayo Awotunsin.

When Charles Taylor was granted asylum by for President Obasanjo's government, Nigerians revolted in protest, with the Liberian war fresh in their minds - that was until he was repatriated to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. In 2012, Charles Taylor was found guilty of war crimes against humanity, and jailed for 50 years.

As the #BringBackOurGirls protest rekindled, those who expressed shock at the sight of Abubarkar Shekau in Abuja in recent weeks without instant revolt by Nigerians, may yet need to chill. Nemesis will yet come calling, and right on its heal, will be justice.

* Photos Credit: via Dr. Oby Ezekwesili on Twitter.


* Benson Agoha is a Spiritual Rights Campaigner
and Founder of Woolwich Online

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