“Hey! hey! hey! Didn’t they say they would find the Chibok girls, during the campaigns for elections that led to the defeat of the other President? How come they haven’t yet, yet they blamed the past government precociously. There weren’t any missing girls, anyway.”
Statements like this and countless other apocryphal stories about the Chibok girls are bandied around so much that it has become a factoid in the minds of people of all ages and gender in Nigeria.
Where is our sense of humanity? Why have we allowed ourselves to settle for regionalism, ethnicity and tribalism instead of looking for humanity as a panacea to solving our collective problems? Everyday displays of kindness that was our forte years ago no longer exist. Two years ago today, on April 14, 2014, an otherwise ordinary day, mindless insurgents posing as Nigerian soldiers abducted more than 200 secondary school girls preparing for final year examinations.
In Nigeria you need to carry some weight to get personal and family security. Without this security, you can be abducted wholesale as was the case of the Chibok girls. And you can wait for weeks for a government response entailing only a speech delivered with arrogance and disrespect by personages whose duty it is to protect you. People who do not carry any weight become helpless victims. Criticism directed against government personnel during emergencies for their failure to respond effectively to such events, as they had sworn to do by oath, is haughtily dismissed by government cronies and flag wavers.
Why should we look at history only from a romantic perspective and question the abduction because our own children were not amongst the abducted and are from another geographical divide? Were we even moved to compassion for the ashen-faced parents being interviewed on television? Was the abduction only another news item for viewers to analyse and dissect?
The paroxysm of international embarrassment wouldn’t have happened if Nigerians from all ethnic divides had risen with one voice to condemn the attitude of the government and to pressure the government to speedily pursue the abductors and find our girls for humanity’s sake.
It was not a time to settle ethnic scores. Where were our Nigerian women ñ both in and out of government – to rally the cause of the girls like Corazon Aquino did in the Philippines? This was, and is not, a matter only for the BBOG group. Remember the saying:
“You can take a person out of the village but not the village out of the person.”
The Chibok girls’ abduction has shown clearly that our lives aren’t secure in this country. We run from Scylla only to end up in the hands of Charbydis. This is scary.
Who will pay for the damage, the lapse in security, the waste of time, embarrassment and trauma undergone by the parents and the abductees? Many have died, we are told, due to stress; their tender hearts could not cope with the anxiety and have caved in.
Imagine what poor Nigerians in the same situation with nobody to protect them, would be going through right now in the hands of unscrupulous villains. How can citizens work with the government to help rid society of crime, if citizens cannot count on the Nigerian state to watch their backs?
The Sisyphean attitude of the government goes on unabated. Our intelligence strategies seem to be guided by fits and starts. The study of the pattern of crimes, what necessitates them, how to work with communities of people healthily to end them is taken for granted and this fact is shameful and painful. Why can’t we heed the warning of Franklin D. Roosevelt given in 1937 that “the nation that destroys its soul destroys itself”?
While our poor Chibok girls are hurting, some married off for nickels, converted against their wish, routinely raped, some dead, others drugged and used as suicide bombers against their will, some Nigerians with a mercantile streak have found voice in advocacy to make money from international donors by shouting for their release but never for the sake of those poor girls.
While they hurt, we conduct our lives as normal but we cannot wish them away however hard we try because according to Samuel Butler (poet and satirist),”to die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead.” The Chibok girls will forever be in our hearts and can’t die.
• Abah, a teacher, speaker, writer, campaigner, consultant wrote from Port† Harcourt. 08023792604; 07035017922 @abahsimon1