Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where Are The Chibok Campaigners?

By Amanze Obi
Some 584 days ago, something called Chibok crept into the Nigerian lexicon. We were told that a certain sleepy town in Borno State that goes by that name had been invaded by Boko Haram terrorists. The gist of the strange tale was that over 200 schoolgirls had been ab­ducted from a secondary school in the town.
 The story, strange as it was, bore the ring of the familiar. It was in line with what had become almost customary – the daily invasion of northern enclaves by Boko Haram insurgents. Consequently, government, as it appeared then, did not take exception to it. Be­sides, the story resonated more with theory. How did the abduction take place? Where were the authorities of the school when it happened? What about the Nigerian security network that operated in the North East? Did they, by any means, know something about the famed abduction?
 Answers to these questions did not come handy. They were far to seek. Because this was the case, the government of the day, which was honed in by its effort to establish the truth of the matter, was not quick to respond to the abduction story.
That was the period of high wire politics. It was a pe­riod when the Jonathan presidency was encircled by a web of conspiracy but which was hardly obvious to the president himself.
 While the president groped in the dark, the conspirators had a field day. They tightened the noose around his neck. And so, because the Jona­than presidency was not seeing clearly, opposite people seized the stage. They went to the roof tops with the story of the abduction. Then the international media took over from them. And before long, the government of the day was crippled by the story of the abduction.

For those who had been characterising Jonathan and his presidency as clueless, it was as if a staple had been prepared for them. They grabbed it with both hands and devoured it with relish. A major crisis of confi­dence had begun for the Jonathan government.
 Then to give the impression that the entire drama was choreographed, an emergency body called Bring Back Our Girls stepped out almost without effort. They had their assignment well cut out for them. They were to face the Presidency and create the impression the world over that the government was incapable of safe­guarding the life and property of its citizenry. In their determination to lower the esteem of the government of the day, they marched through streets and cities and finally found a permanent abode somewhere in Abuja.
 Theirs was a full time engagement. They were there everyday from dusk to dawn. At some point, discern­ing Nigerians began to wonder. Were the campaigners so idle that they could not find something else to do? Having drawn attention to itself as a body committed to the return of the schoolgirls, shouldn’t the cam­paigners have jettisoned the schoolboy approach and engaged the issue with maturity and decorum? These were some of the worries expressed by many.
 Conse­quently, many came to believe that there was more to the campaigns than met the eyes. In fact, government was ill at ease with the campaign. It had every cause to believe that it was enemy action. It was convinced that it was an instrument in the hands of the opposition to further decimate the Jonathan administration.

The trick, intent or motive of the Chibok campaign­ers, whatever it was, worked. Their campaign created a crisis of credibility for the Jonathan presidency and the international Press cashed in on it. The Western me­dia, particularly, bought the message of the campaign hook, line and sinker. The latter day effort made by the Jonathan administration to explain the situation did not sink. It was late in coming. And as is always the case in the world of politics, the opposition assumed the moral high ground.
 Buhari, the face of the oppo­sition, took over the stage. He told us that he would rescue the schoolgirls if voted into power. He also said that he knew what to do to stop the Boko Haram in­surgency. Yet, he would not give the clue to Jonathan. He would rather have the country crash in the hands of Jonathan than offer a helping hand. It did not matter that the entire Nigeria was faced with an evil called Boko Haram and that everybody, regardless of party affiliation, needed to be united in the war against ter­ror. And so, Buhari kept his magic wand until Jonathan crashed out of the presidency.
 Then, as if to lend credence to the position that the Chibok campaigners were an instrument in the hands of the opposition, their voices went shrill the moment Buhari was declared elected by the electoral commis­sion. The accustomed fire in the campaigners burnt out in a jiffy. Within weeks of Buhari’s ascension to the office of president, the fire in the campaigners became an impotent ash. Yet, the Chibok schoolgirls were not out.
 Then you began to wonder what difference it made whether it was Buhari or Jonathan. What was constant was that the girls must be rescued. Why abandon the campaign because a Buhari has become the president? Was the campaign just tailored to make Buhari presi­dent and nothing more? Why did the campaign start and end with Jonathan? It’s questions and more ques­tions.
 I had thought, and that was the impression we were given, that the Chibok campaigners were driven by our common humanity. They said they were concerned about our daughters, who were forcefully taken over by the terrorists. They wanted the girls back because they said it was unimaginable that over 200 teenage girls could just disappear without a trace. They said it was the shame of a nation. They said they would not leave their campaign arena until the girls were brought back. A few doubted their sincerity, but many believed them.
So, what could have happened? Have the milk and blood of our common humanity suddenly gone dry in the veins and marrow of the campaigners? Is it no longer abhorrent to imagine terrorists forcefully taking over our innocent daughters as sex slaves? When and how did the standards change? I will need one of the Chibok campaigners to address these nagging ques­tions. If they do not, those of us who are still worried about the silence that has enveloped the country over Chibok will be forced to believe otherwise. We will begin to see the campaigners as hirelings, indeed as people of little or no integrity who lent themselves out to be used for an odd job.
 On the side of the government, it will be interesting to know why Chibok is no longer an issue. Why is it no longer urgent to rescue the girls? Where is the magic wand that Buhari touted? Is he also clueless as they said Jonathan was? Indeed, where is Buhari’s own clue? We need to see it in action. And the best and most urgent action here is the rescue of the girls.
 The government of the day should not allow us to be driven into the belief in some quarters that no girls were abducted after all. That Chibok was a fraud. That it was a well programmed instrument of blackmail di­rected at the Jonathan presidency in the push for its fall. And that it is now time to throw away that instrument since its objective has been achieved. Like the Chibok campaigners, government also needs to explain to Ni­gerians what has become of the Chibok affair. Should we continue to talk about it? Or should we consign it to the ash heaps of history?
 *Amanze Obi can be reached via

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