70 Days After; Where Are Our Girls? By Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo

“As little ones, when it’s time for our goats to return to their pen and we couldn’t find them, my grand-mum and all of us would suspend every other thing and go searching for them.”

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In the life of every individual, group or nation, certain dates are usually indelible. The night of April 14 -15, 2014 is one of such dates that will remain indelible in our history, no matter how much we try to shy away from it. On that day, Boko Haram capitalised on the nonchalant and lackadaisical approach of government to security issues in Nigeria and forcefully took away our helpless and hapless girls.

The deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram, has wrecked a lot of havoc on our country. Property worth billions of Naira had been destroyed and hundreds of innocent lives sent to their early graves: from the Independence Day bombing of October 1, 2010, to the bombing of the United Nations Building on August 26, 2011 and not forgetting the Nyanya garage bombing and other deadly acts. As terrible as these unfortunate terrorist attacks were, none of them got as much condemnation, locally and internationally, as the abduction of the students of Government Girls College, Chibok in Borno State.

There were reactions from different countries of the world. The one that caught my attention most was that of the wife of the American President, Michelle Obama, who said “Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night,”

“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls. I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian
government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home.”

She added, “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

The anguish being experienced by their parents can be better imagined than experienced. When I look at my girls too, like Mrs. Obama, I see those girls in them and can’t but imagine what would have become of me, if, God forbid, they were victims. Let us beam our searchlight on the plight of the poor girls for a moment and imagine the agony they will be going through every passing day. I read recently a story that was attributed to one of the girls who was said to have escaped from their abductors. She was quoted as saying that fifteen men raped her fifteen times daily. Though, it is unconfirmed but come to think of it, what do you think those heartless terrorists will be doing with those girls every day. I can’t agree less with some school of thought that said some of them will come back pregnant. If they do, and they are delivered of babies whose paternity will be unknown, is that not an everlasting psychological trauma that they will nurse for the rest of their lives?

I am an unrepentant optimist but I have strong feelings that if these girls are not rescued on time, the longer they remain in captivity, the more chances of losing some of them. They might die due to lack of adequate medical care. As I write this piece today, I feel terribly bad not because our country is bedevilled with security challenges but because, among other things, we seem to be having leaders at practically all levels, who are very insensitive to the plight of those they claim to be leading.

As little ones, when it’s time for our goats to return to their pen and we couldn’t find them, my grand-mum and all of us would suspend every other thing and go searching for them. Let alone, human beings.

I am beginning to think that an average Nigerian is self-centered. It also seems to have become our style to make noise when issues arise only to become silent about it after a short while. As a people, we are too individualistic. It is every man for himself while in the western countries, citizens believe in oneness where the interest of one is the interest of all. This in my view, is largely responsible for why we are often treated with disdain by those who claim to be our leaders. Take the issue at hand as an example. When it happened, there were several protests. Every Tom, Dick and Harry carried placards and marched through the streets. The turn of event has proved that it was not as if some of them genuinely believe in the course but they apparently did it because of their selfish interests and also because they want to be seen. Some made money out of it considering the claim that some of these protest or if you like, protesters were sponsored. The wife of our president, Mrs Patience Jonathan wept on national television.

The song on every lip was “Bring Back our Girls” Today, exactly seventy days after, there seem to be more questions than answers. Yes, there are so many questions begging for answer. Top of which is “Where are the Girls”? Why did all those who protested suddenly go underground? The Nigeria media has been wonderful. They actually called the attention of the world to it and that brought about sending of troop by some countries of the world. But today, the media also seems to have relegated the issue of the girls’ abduction to the background. The arrival of troops from America, United Kingdom, and a few other countries lifted my spirit and I believe it will be applicable to many other Nigerians. Weeks after, the best we have been told by the Chief of Army Staff is that they know where the girls are. I know that security issues are not meant to be discussed on the pages of newspapers or the electronic media but I am also of the firm belief that the masses should not be kept incommunicado. It is not enough to tell us that they know where they are, what an average Nigerian wants to hear is that our Girls are Back!

In the last few weeks, many things seem to have diverted our attention. At first, it was the clampdown on the media by the military. Next, it was the emergence of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as Emir of Kano. Later it became and still is on the World Cup and lately the Ekiti Election. Let me emphasise that the role of the media in the liberation of our country in general and the freedom of the girls cannot be overemphasised. I repeat there are many questions that are begging for answer and to get the answers, the media has a large a role to play. For instance, I have never stopped wondering if these troops from America and other countries of the World are still in Nigeria. If they are, how far have they gone? Who is doing what? What has been their contribution(s)? In what direction are they working? If those girls were to be Americans, Britons or Israelis, will they still be in captivity? How long will it take them to secure the release of these girls?

One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to ensure the adequate protection of lives and property of the citizens. Other countries of the world will do anything possible to protect their citizens. Recently, America released five Taliban fighters held in Guantanamo bay to secure the release of an American prisoner of war, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl,, who was held in Afghanistan. If America did for the sake of one person, why not for over 200 innocent girls? If the daughter of Mr. President or any of the Governors is among the victims, will they not be willing to let go of prisoners for the sake of the Girls? I know that issues like this do generate a lot of controversies with people interpreting it differently. This is certainly my opinion which I believe am entitled to under the law. Instead of the trauma and danger the girls are exposed to daily, the Federal Government should kindly look at other means of getting the girls back unhurt. Have you also given a thought to the fact that these terrorists might have brain washed these poor girls to the point that some of them might be learning to handle arms? If that occurs, which is not impossible, what is likely going to be the implication?

I feel sad about the fact that in Nigeria, those we refer to as leaders are less concerned about our plights or how do we justify the politics built around this abduction by Federal and Borno State governments when they are supposed to synergize and join forces on how to rescue the poor girls. Who is playing politics with our girls? As we watch the 70th day pass us by, I want to appeal to Nigeria Media practitioners to remember their constitutional responsibility as the watch dog of the society and keep calling the attention of the world to the plight of these poor girls. They must not be forgotten. The average Nigerian must remain prayerful while the genuine human right activists must remember that in the spirit of activism, the struggle must continue.

God Bless Nigeria.

Adijat Motunrayo Adeleye-Oladapo is a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly

(Editor’s note: The writer wrote the piece to coincide with the seventieth day the girls were kidnapped, but only sent it to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday).


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