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OPINION: REMEMBERING CHIBOK GIRLS, 8 YEARS AFTER

THEWILL APP ADS 2

On the night of April 14, 2014, 276 pupils of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, whose ages were between 16 and 18 years, were kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group known locally as Boko Haram.

It is eight years after that incident and still counting, Chibok itself has witnessed almost a dozen and more attacks.  About 110 girls are still missing. More than half of that number will never be found. In this timeline, over 1,500 children, according to Amnesty International, have been abducted. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that over 1 million children are afraid to go back to school as a result of violence.

The Chibok girls have now become a symbol of Nigeria and her wayward ways. Chibok, viewed as an ethnic, faith-based, party-based, politics laced, hate coloured subject of discussion, symbolises everything that we stand for in many ways.

Chibok has no electricity, no good roads and no health facility. The only bank in the community for a long time was simply an agency. Chibok had only one secondary school. Chibok is Nigeria and Nigeria is Chibok.

I have carried out investigations on not just Boko Haram but also the Chibok schoolgirls, the killings, kidnapping and the conflict-torn North-West geopolitical zone. I have visited Chibok four times, spoken to a few of the girls that were released, spoke to one that escaped, I have spoken with their parents and that includes a few that are now dead.

It is a fact that the girls were indeed abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, but the figures are conflicting. It is safe to conclude that nobody knows the exact number of girls that were kidnapped, not even the Federal Government knows and Boko Haram seems to have forgotten the damage they inflicted on the community. There is a semblance of a list of missing persons, but it is not accessible.

Before the Chibok incident, Boko Haram had established a tradition of abducting girls and women for countless reasons. The authorities were quiet, the media reported a few of the incidents and many parents kept quiet and took it all in their stride.

I equally know that many people believe that Buhari and the ‘North’ are Boko Haram, that with Buhari as president, the Chibok girls would have been found. And many still don’t understand the Dapchi episode and Leah who was left behind.

I recall the drama that took place during what I call the ‘International Week of Boko Haram’.  It was the period in which the United States, Britain, France, China and Togo offered to help Nigeria fight the insurgents and how drones kept flying about, yet nothing happened.

Also I recall the dramatic Chadian negotiation, a ballet between Modu Sherif, Idris Derby and Goodluck Jonathan, the sum total of which revealed that we are not really serious as a people on matters that we should be serious about.

The sad truth is that several hundreds of innocent schoolgirls have paid the ultimate price. A few of the girls have escaped with almost irreparable psychological and mental damages, others have become parts of the terrorists and we have not done much to help them.

It is also a fact that one of the reasons that Boko Haram may continue to exist for a while is because many Nigerians still do not know what the terrorist group is all about. Does it have an ideology? Is it part of a CIA conspiracy or a thing about poverty? How is it connected to ISWAP? Are they same and one with the terrorists and serial kidnappers that have gradually infiltrated parts of the North? Who funds their activities?

Eight years after the abduction of the schoolgirls, a lot has happened. More people have been killed by terrorists and communities attacked. There have been loads of propaganda, while half-truths, misinformation and sheer falsehood have been peddled around. Boko Haram terrorists have continued to make all sorts of demands, release videos and create more confusion, yet the Chibok girls have not been found.

The girls were abducted, in the first place, because our institutions were not working the way they should. The girls may never be found because we are not sincere people and we are largely and easily divided by our selfish motives.

By Prince Charles Dickson