By Anthony Kolawole
There is no doubt that Nigerians are interesting and enterprising people who can make use of any situation for either humour or mischief. What you get doesn’t depend on the situation alone but the characters that chose to play the typical Nigerian role.
I feel some Nigerians sleep and only dream of agitations or activism, even where the brakes need to be applied. For many, activism is not only a passion, but a career to keep our shadows etched permanently in national psyche.
And it appears to my judgment the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) campaigners are gradually sliding into this revulsion. The group, led by a former Vice President of the World Bank (African Region) and Nigeria’s former Education Minister, Chief Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, emerged after the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by terrorists in Chibok, an obscure locality in Borno state.
The concept of this pressure group was informed by the reluctance of the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan to secure the release of the Chibok girls from their captors. The spirited campaigns mounted by BBOG campaigners drew national and international attention to the plight of these innocent girls. I think that was alright by all assessments.
But until the Jonathan Presidency was ousted in 2015 and President Muhammedu Buhari came on board, the BBOG campaigns yielded absolutely nothing. But at the last count, the Buhari Presidency has secured the release of nearly 110 of the Chibok girls, by whatever means.
We are very conversant with the sociological character and condition of the Chibok girls still “held” in Boko Haram captivity. It is just reasonable to understand that some of them have been married off to distant lands; others may have died under traumatic conditions. Some may not even be within the confines of Nigeria.
Much as this experience is painful, it is nearly five years now, since Chibok girls were abducted. But the BBOG campaigners resurrect the matter today as if it happened yesterday. Of more serious concern is the whipping of sentiments on the issue to the extent of questioning the authenticity of The Nigerian Army’s release of other Nigerians held captive by terrorists.
Therefore, the BBOG group has blinded itself to any other release of Nigerian hostages or other aspects and successes of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency. BBOG does not want to believe that thousands of other Nigerians were languishing in the dehumanizing cells of Boko Haram terrorists before the Buhari Presidency. And in the last three years, The Nigerian Army had intermittently secured the hard freedom for them and reunited these former terror hostages to their beloved families.
Sadly, I was taken aback when the BBOG questioned the Army’s report released by its Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu that it has secured the release of 1,000 Boko Haram captives. The BBOG leader, Oby Ezekwesili in a press statement raised very sentimental questions about the claim of the Army to have secured the release of another 1,000 Boko Haram captives in villages around Bama LGA of Borno state.
Oby and her group, the BBOG may be pardoned for their myopic reasoning that only the Chibok schoolgirls were under Boko Haram captivity. The latest announcement by the Army of the release of 1,000 Boko Haram captives is like a scratch on the back. For the BBOG to deliberately refuse to recognize earlier releases of hostages by our courageous soldiers only smacks of an insidious agenda rather than the campaign marketed in public domain.
So, the insertion of the word “sect” after the #BringBackOurGirls hastag in the headline is deliberate and intended to render some peculiar explanations or even justifications for the group’s seeming conspiratorial and selfish outings. And sounding very demeaning, BBOG thundered; “Citizens must never accept opaque claims by our government without appropriate public scrutiny.”
Is BBOG not part of the public? How much has the group scrutinized the Army report before doubting? It is complete display of ignorance about the counter-insurgency war under the Buhari Presidency. It is an assault on the psyche of families of other Nigerians, whose loved ones have regained freedom through the efforts of the Nigerian Army. To the minds of these BBOG campaigners, only the Chibok girls are indeed important, as if the lives of other Nigerians who are also victims of terrorism are less sacred.
I am pained to remind the BBOG campaigners of a short timeline of Boko Haram hostages whose freedom has been secured by the Nigerian Army under the Buhari Presidency. A grim Amnesty International (AI) report released in 2014 conjectured a minimal of 41 mass abductions between 2014 and early 2015 alone. AI estimated that at least, 2, 000 Nigerians were abducted.
I will not include the figures three years earlier. But i am not sure BBOG is not concerned with the number of other Nigerians who fell victims to Boko Haram.
But if I should break the number of releases of Boko Haram captives by the Army now, the figures would mock BBOG’s insistent hold to the Chibok girls. They would praise the Army, even if reluctantly.
But Oby Ezekwesili and her BBOG must be tutored to know that by end of July 2015, Nigerian troops rescued 71 persons, comprising 29 women, 25 children, and five elderly men held hostage for over one year by terrorists at villages surrounding Maiduguri, merely 40 kilometers’ away. Where were BBOG campaigners?
I ask BBOG that at the beginning of August 2015, Associated Press reported soldiers secured freedom of another 178 captives near Bama town. Of this number 101 were children, 67 women and 10 agile men. Were the children and women unworthy of BBOG’s attention, while in captivity?
In October 2015, 338 captives, mostly children and women were freed from terrorists’ camps in Sambisa forest, which we all know was the terrorists’ most fortified haven. Was this feat worth more than BBOG’s indifference?
Troops operations in November 2015, secured the release of 61 captives at Bitta and Damboa axis of Borno State. And by March 2016, soldiers amazingly secured the release of 829 captives from Kusumma village, and 11 other adjoining villages.
I am quite sure, the BBOG’s group was unsure at the possibility of the Amy releasing 1,000 hostages in May 2018. But as far back as April 2017, a total of 1,623 Nigerians in Boko Haram gulags were rescued by troops in enclaves at Jarawa in Kala Balge LGA in Borno State.
Even in January, 2018, the Army’s clearance operations in the North East gave liberty to over 700 farmers and fishermen at Chikun Gudu and neighbouring villages, who were under slave labour. They comprised adult males, females and children. And in February, 2018, the also Army rescued 46 terrorists captives inside Sambisa forest, which has been converted into a soldiers barracks.
I am saddened that it is something of a near national shame and disgrace for the BBOG not to know the extent to which other Nigerians have regained freedom through the efforts of the Nigerian Army. It has exposed their ignorance of the realities on insurgency and betrayed their sinister motives as a “sect” which is not genuinely interested in the rescue of Nigerians ever held in the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists. It is presumably, a strong attachment to Chibok girls.
I have no reservations to state that during the last administration, over 10,000 persons were abducted by terrorists. And among the abductees, were women and children. But it is nice that BBOG never concerned itself with it and so, their release now is also not supposed to be their headache.
What BBOG “sect” knows is Chibok girls, which lends credence to some of the many circulated conspiracy theories, including alleged pursuit of national political relevance and financial “games” by the promoters and campaigners of BBOG. I am tempted to believe it now as true with their latest shameful daytrip to nowhere.
It is sickeningly ridiculous that BBOG are not interested in any other angle of the counter-terrorism war in Nigeria, except Chibok girls. And suspiciously, many have admitted, it is profiting their personal pockets.
To my eternal conviction, I was dumbfounded when the BBOG asked the Army to publish names of the recently freed 1,000 abductees. It is the dampest of questions a focused group could ever ask in public. BBOG could as well go ahead and ask the Army to publish the names of all the over 5,000 Boko Haram hostages freed by the Army in the past three years.
Talk is cheap, and to castigate government is easier. But the same BBOG could not even keep a compendium of abductions, rescues, and deaths in what they qualified as “Missing Persons Register and Bureau.” They want government to assist them, in spite of the lofty profiles of the leaders.
BBOG leaders are aware of the social stigma suffered by victims of Boko Haram captivity, especially women and children. But they still want a further hype on their identities in print and electronic media. What has happened to BBOG’s skills of discreet investigation to ascertain the veracity of the Army’s submissions, to dispute it on points of doubts?
Oby as she is fondly called should know that the role of the Army is not only to rescue the remaining Chibok girls still alive or dead; but every other Nigerian in Boko Haram captivity, as promised, by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
As confirmed by the Army Chief, the mission of the Nigerian Army is to rescue the whole of humanity from the devilish claws and manacles of Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria and their foreign affiliates or internal agents who see the destabilization of Nigeria as a task that must be accomplished. But this is impossible under the Buhari Presidency.
Kolawole is a University lecturer and contributed this article from Keffi.