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The Chibok Girls Menace – What Do You Have to Say?



Nigerian Army Rescues Nearly 300 Girls But…. None of the rescued are the girls from Chibok that have been missing for a year.  MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian troops rescued nearly 300 girls and women during an offensive Tuesday against Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Sambisa Forest, the military said, but they did not ... Continue Reading

Nigerian Army Rescues Nearly 300 Girls But….

None of the rescued are the girls from Chibok that have been missing for a year. 

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian troops rescued nearly 300 girls and women during an offensive Tuesday against Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Sambisa Forest, the military said, but they did not include any of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok a year ago.

The army announced the rescue on Twitter and said it was screening and interviewing the abducted girls and women.

Troops destroyed and cleared four militant camps and rescued 200 abducted girls and 93 women “but they are not the Chibok girls,” army spokesman Col. Sani Usman told The Associated Press.

What kind of Nigeria will the Chibok girls come back to?

The news that the Nigerian government and Boko Haram had reached a deal that would secure the release of the Chibok girls was received with excitement all over the world. I landed in Nigeria the day the news broke, and my phone was flooded with texts and messages to the effect of “Have you heard?”. Then, as the days passed and the girls did not materialise, anticipation cooled into watchfulness and watchfulness soured into cynicism. “They’re always releasing false statements,” a relative of mine said the other day. “Just let us know when they get home.”

The Chibok girls have become a symbol of everything that is wrong with Nigeria. They were abducted because the state failed to protect them. They have remained in captivity, first because their disappearance was not treated as an issue of national significance and then because despite pouring billions of dollars into defence, the army tasked with finding them is worse equipped than Boko Haram. Almost the entire population of this country can give instances where state neglect or state greed or state indifference has led to calamity in our lives.

The Chibok girls are our plights magnified – a twist of fate, and we could easily be them tomorrow. Their loss was our nadir as a nation and their recovery would mark, for many, a return to cautious optimism.

For others it would take much more than that. Bringing the Chibok girls back will not solve the problem of the thousands who have been displaced by Boko Haram and are now living as refugees in northern cities like Yola. Bringing the Chibok girls back will not change the fact that 12 Nigerian soldiers were sentenced to death for mutinying against their commander, and more are mutinying because they are so poorly equipped.

On Wednesday the town of Mubi, home to Adamawa State University, was overrun by Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian soldiers fled, leaving its barracks to be looted of weapons. Some two weeks after the announcement of the deal, newspapers continue to keep track of how many days the girls have been missing – but the main headlines have now moved on to more recent atrocities.

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The western fixation on the Chibok girls is seen by some as a simplification of a war that has many victims: young boys, young girls, old men, women, children, Christians, Muslims, pastors, imams, soldiers, teachers, students, journalists, a list of casualties that has no rhyme or reason.

Conspiracy theories thus abound in some quarters, as people express scepticism about the wave of international concern over Chibok. The concern from western governments, some believe, is just a ploy to get a foothold in Nigeria. “After all, Boko Haram has been killing and kidnapping us since,” a friend summarised.

And for others, as well as bringing back the Chibok girls and equipping our army, how we win the wider war against terrorism is just as important.

In 2013, the US state department filed a report on human rights abuses in Nigeria. Ignoring the irony of the US filing a report on abuses that occur as a result of a war on terror, the facts presented were appalling. Extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings – these have sadly become part and parcel of Nigeria’s response to Boko Haram. Innocent Nigerians are becoming collateral damage for our war on terror.

Things have so deteriorated that the US government has allegedly refused to sell arms to Nigeria because of human rights violations. Again, ignoring cries of the pot calling the kettle black, the more pertinent question is: is the kettle black? Are these allegations true? If they are, this is not how a democracy fights a war, particularly on its own territory.

In Nigeria this month, I witnessed incidents which suggest that in many ways my country is still only a nominal democracy. Waiting in traffic in Port Harcourt, in the south-east of the country, I saw a police officer run up to a traffic offender and deal him a vicious blow across the face. Bystanders did not even look up. Again in Port Harcourt, I saw a convoy with sirens blaring driving down the wrong side of the road to avoid waiting like the rest of us normal, plebeian people. And last, and most shocking, outside Lagos airport, I watched a soldier ram the nozzle of his gun, hand on trigger, into the shoulder of a driver who had formed a second lane at the drop-off point at the departure terminal.

My South African friends, very conscious of the apartheid struggle, are always quick to say, “Biko did not die for this”, or “Mandela did not go to prison for that”, whenever there has been a perceived infringement of their democratic rights. In Nigeria, we too have our democratic heroes. They were not tear-gassed, thrown in prison or killed so that 15 years later, 234 girls would go missing and no one would care.

Kudirat Abiola was not shot in the head so that I would watch a policeman almost shoot a driver for parking wrongly outside Murtala Muhammed international airport. The journalist Dele Giwa was not blown up so that, in 2014, the billions of dollars earmarked to fight a war on terror against a group much smaller and with fewer resources than the Nigerian army would unaccountably not suffice, and an additional $1bn would be needed to do the job.

I have said before, yes please, bring back our girls – but what kind of nation will they come back to? At the Port Harcourt Book Fair last week I watched a troupe of young Nigerians act out the plight of my country. Nigeria, in ragged green and white robes, lay stricken on the floor. The actors surrounded the sick nation, listing the wrongs that had brought Nigeria to this state. So young, and these actors already knew about state corruption and state brutality and state neglect.

And yet the play did not end in despair. These young ones grew and became great, and lifted Nigeria to her feet and discarded her rags and clothed her in sparkling green and white, and danced and danced and danced with the Nigeria they had recreated. Let’s bring back our girls to a country where they can become and blossom and grow to join in the work of lifting Nigeria to her feet and making her dance again.

By Chibundu Onuzo

Now, What Do You Have to Say About The Chibok Girls Menace?

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