The abduction of 276 final year students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on 14th April 2014, became a great turning point in the nation’s military campaign to eradicate the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist organisation which has held Nigeria to ransom in the past nine years.
That abduction, which tripped off worldwide protests and hash tag campaign #BringBackOurGirls, emboldened the terrorists who have used the abductees as bargaining chips. Many of the girls escaped or have been released through Federal Government-negotiated settlements, but 112 of them remain with their captors.
The Boko Haram terrorists delivered another slap on the face of Nigeria on 19th February 2018, when they again abducted 110 schoolgirls from the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi in Bursari Local Government of Yobe State. Though they returned most of the girls after another round of negotiations, five of the victims reportedly died during their stay in Boko Haram custody while the lone Christian among them, Miss Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity.
The Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls’ sagas have cost this nation heavily in human lives, cash and psychological trauma. They have, in no small measure, helped the terrorists to hold successive regimes to ransom and many parents of the abducted girls have died from anguish. The Boko Haram conflict has displaced over two million Nigerians, most of who live in poorly-maintained Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
Though the negotiations have, understandably, been shrouded in secrecy, Nigerians have reasons to believe that a lot of monetary and prisoner exchanges have constantly reinforced the depleting fortunes of the insurgents. This campaign should have ended long ago if not for these abductions and, of course, politics, local and international support for the terrorists and the pursuit of material self-interests by some of the stakeholders.
We strongly feel that four years is too long a time to wait for the return of all abducted schoolgirls. We still hold the President Muhammadu Buhari regime to its serial undertakings to end the Boko Haram challenge to the territorial integrity. We are on the same page with his assertion that the Boko Haram terror war cannot be declared as won until all the schoolgirls and others abducted by the Islamists are recovered or fully accounted for.
Nigerians must put aside politics, close ranks and rededicate themselves collectively to end the Boko Haram menace. This call is especially relevant as we move closer to the 2019 electioneering activities. Anti-terror wars are difficult on their own as the experiences of other nations show. Bringing politics and material self-aggrandisement into it makes it impossible to win such wars.
To bring back our girls alive, and soon, is a task that must be done.