Chibok as albatross

Posted by News Express | 18 August 2016 | 2,174 times

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The Chibok saga has become a recurring decimal; a haunting lie which the government of the day can hardly suppress. The more the government tries to bury its head in the sand over Chibok, the more menacing its shadow becomes.

Oby Ezekwesili, a major Bring Back Our Girls campaigner, pricked the conscience of government a few days ago when she held that government had conveniently relegated the Chibok incident to the backwaters. Government, she regretted, only remembers the girls when news breaks around their abduction. She reminded government that it took the latest video released by Boko Haram for it to remember and comment publicly on the lingering pain of the abduction of the Chibok girls.

Ezekwesili struck the nail on the head. There was no point disputing her well considered position. That was why the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, responded to her charge rather deferentially. Even though the minister tried to say that government had been working round the clock over Chibok, he did not sound convincing. His defence was lame. He was just trying his hands on some sophistry. It was easy to see through the cover-up.

Regardless of the ingenious attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, the government of the day cannot escape Chibok. It cannot sweep it under the carpet. Chibok was a major campaign issue. It was one of the things that the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) made a fetish of in its frenetic drive to oust the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power. The Jonathan administration was charged with incompetence on account of Chibok. Jonathan was dubbed clueless because of Chibok. Jonathan, we were told, could not rescue the girls because he was weak. We were told that he did not have the grit and the bite that the situation required. That was the propaganda that was sold to the public. It was APC’s talking point during the campaigns.

Chibok enjoyed a prime position in the campaign of calumny carried out against Jonathan. The frenzy of the campaigns bordered somewhat on desperation. It was so much so that the Buhari Campaign Organisation, on one occasion, wrote and released a report on Buhari’s planned visit to Borno State. According to the report, the people of the locality in Borno State where Buhari visited were overwhelmed by emotion when they beheld the presidential candidate of the APC. Women wept profusely. Some fell on their knees, beseeching him to come to their rescue. Buhari, in turn, took pity on them. He promised to bring back the missing girls once he was voted into power. The story was written in anticipation of the visit. It mirrored what would possibly happen if Buhari met with the locals in Borno State at the time that emotions were running high over the Chibok abduction. But as it turned out, the trip was aborted. Buhari never made it to Borno. But the release had already filtered into the media. Those who had written the script of his visit ahead of time had already released it. The lie was so messy. But Nigerians did not pay attention to the shame and embarrassment from the Buhari Campaign Organisation. All that mattered then was the Buhari mania. He was the man for the office of president. Anything to the contrary was a distraction. It was enemy action. Buhari was seen as the man with the strength of character to confront Chibok. Nigerians believed that Chibok would be taken care of once Buhari took over from Jonathan.

Having been voted into power partly on account of Chibok, Buhari does not seem to remember anymore. That is where we are now.  Chibok has been relegated to a third order position in the scheme of things. The wailing and weeping from Chibok have become shrill in government circles. Government has moved on, leaving Chibok behind with its distressing monstrosity. The problem here is that government cannot afford to be pretentious in this matter. It must confront the reality that is staring it nakedly in the face.

Having assumed office, Buhari has to carry the burden of leadership. There is no Jonathan to blame anymore. He is to pay attention to the people of Nigeria. He is expected to deliver on his campaign promises. Buhari amply recognises this. That was why he took a few steps in the early days of his administration to deal with the Chibok issue. But he made no headway. The lies and assumptions of the campaign days had coagulated into a monstrous baggage. No form of passing or pretension can deal with the Chibok burden. What will make sense must be something practical; something demonstrable. None appears to be in sight. The days of grandstanding and of riding the high horse are over. Reality has set in. That is why government is squirming with discomfort. It is dealing with the painful gap between campaign promises and their actual realisation. Dealing with this reality is a major problem that the Buhari administration has had to contend with.

But Buhari did not just retreat into anonymity over Chibok. He tried his hands on a few magical, if not wondrous interventions before he went lethargic.  At first, he moved the command and control structure of the Nigerian Armed Forces to Borno. How could Nigeria be at war in the north east and yet the command and control unit of the Armed forces is left in Abuja? That was the thinking. That was the rationale for the action. As a military officer, Buhari was thought to possess a magic wand in this regard. Many an observer applauded the move. But it has not worked till date.

Then enter Sambisa forest. This is the impenetrable grove where Boko Haram is believed to reside in. The forest is the operational base of the terrorists. The military said it would decimate the insurgents by air and land operations. It must rescue the girls alive in a matter of weeks. Sambisa has since been confronted by the Nigerian military. But nothing significant came out of it. But that did not stop government from declaring triumphantly that it had defeated Boko Haram. If you ask Lai Mohammed today to tell you what the Buhari government has achieved, he will gleefully tell you that when Buhari assumed office, Boko Haram was in control of 14 local government areas in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. But now, Boko Haram has been driven to the precipice. That what we have now are remnants of the insurgents. Government is making this claim in spite of the fact that Sambisa forest is in the firm grip of the insurgents. Is the forest no longer in Borno State? If this grove has remained impenetrable, why is the government gloating? Why is Sambisa such a nightmare?

Can anybody truly say that Boko Haram has been defeated when the terrorists are sitting in comfort with the abducted girls within the confines of the Nigerian territory?

Lai Mohammed apparently did not spare a thought for the Chibok girls when he was making his triumphant declaration.

Reality, certainly, is a late dawn. That was why it took the minister the prodding from Ezekwesili to tacitly concede that the war against terror cannot be said to have been won unless the Chibok girls are rescued. There will be more of such concessions in the days to come. The  chickens are finally  coming home to roost.

•This piece column originally appeared in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via

Source: News Express

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