A mother stretched out her arm, sobbing uncontrollably, blinded by tears but willing to pull her daughter out from the laptop screen where she saw her, after two years, since her abduction.
Rifkatu Ayuba, one of the mothers of the 276 abducted Chibok school girls, whose children was kidnapped, had the rare privilege of catching a glimpse of her daughter through a video recording.
This was sent to the Nigerian government by negotiators of the insurgent group – Boko Haram.
According to CNN report, on sighting ‘her long-lost, desperately missed, now 17-year-old. “My Saratu” she wails.’ A helpless situation: because she was unable to reach her long lost daughter, to comfort her.
On the second anniversary of their abduction, President Muhammadu Buhari said he “shares the pain of their continued absence from home”, while assuring that he would do all within his capacity to ensure that the girls come back to their parents and relations.
How did this happen
The world was outraged two years ago, on 14 April, 2014, when insurgents broke into Government Secondary School Chibok – Borno State, and snatched 276 students, aged 16-18: they were to sit for examination, and killing armed security men stationed to guard the school.
The act spiralled a wave of reaction within and outside the country which culminated in the social movement #BringBackOurGirls, led by the former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, and supported by some international celebrities – this includes the wife of US president, Mitchel Obama and Malala Yousafzai – the Noble Prize laureate.
Malala in a letter to President Buhari , on the week of the second anniversary, of the kidnapped Chibok girls said:
Would a president give up the fight for his own daughter? These girls are just as precious to their families.”
As if to respond to this call, the Senior Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “as a parent and leader of the country, he understands the torment, frustration and anxiety of the parents and will not spare any effort to ensure the safe return of the girls.”
He reiterates that with the total commitment of the Federal Government, Nigerian Armed Forces and security agencies, and the support of the international community, the girls would be eventually rescued.
The abducted school girls who are mostly Christians, must have yearned to also see their parents or to bring some comfort to them: by an act of omission or commission a video recording was produced on 25 December, 2015; a day Christians world over celebrate with their loved ones.
The dreaded terrorists could not possibly have developed compassion and decided that the girls should be where they belonged – with their parents.
The reason was not far fetched, as a CNN report indicated that one of the girls – Naomi Zakaria, read out after the two minute clip came an end, she “appeal to whoever is watching, urging the Nigerian authorities to help reunite the girls [them] with their families.”
This is an unusual trend as the Boko Haram members pride themselves on the use of social media to post their latest conquests and to make a warning of an impending raid by them.
The video had all the colouration of a negotiating instrument as observed by Captain Aliyu Umar, a security solutions Consultant, Lead and member Inter-Ministerial Committee on planned handing over of areas liberated from Boko Haram by the armed forces to constituted civil authority, who noted that the chibok girls would remain a trump card in the hands of their kidnappers.
Will the players go back to the negotiating table?
Former President, Goodluck Joanthan’s government had made it clear through its Minister of Information Labaran Maku, that the government would not negotiate with terrorists.
Likewise, President Muhammadu Buhari also made it clear he wanted to know on what ground he would be negotiating, since there are no indications on the condition of the girls and their safety; he wants to talk with those who would be bold enough to come out and be identified as members of the group.
In buttressing his point, Umar said: They [insurgents] are no fools. They know these girls will remain human shield; those girls will remain what you call collateral for negotiation and those girls will remain their trump card.”
He decried the inability of the government to utilize “technicalities for intelligence acquisition’ and further said there was an amplitude for “open source and human intelligence” which according to him was lacking.
He said there was no way the Boko Haram members would have been able to keep about 219 girls without having a ‘landing base”. This the Captain said: “was one thing which the government and the agencies refused to see.
Human beings are creatures of habit and nowhere will over 200 people camp without being close to a source of water supply, particularly in arid areas like Maiduguri; the river runs through sambisa.”
He said the United States intelligence found the camp but was unable to encourage a strike because of concerns for the safety of the girls. The Nigerian government could not spot the location because of poor satellite imagery which the Minister of Science and Technology Dr Ogbonnaya Onu promised would be upgraded.
The past president launched a search through the Nigerian Army into Sambisa forest where their abductors retreated into – a forest said to be home to “wicked and poisonous reptiles such as loud hissing rattle snakes and giant crustaceans crawling underneath the forest vegetation which can be as high as two metres in some sections.”
Countries around the world such as USA, France, Isreal, China and neighbouring West-African countries formed a coalition: Niger, Chad and Cameroun.
The captain said the negotiation process needs to be handled by serious people, not the kind of people he said “would take our president out to another country for what I will call cocky negotiation.”
He demanded that the president should choose negotiators who are serious and reliable and are able to disclose verifiable facts.
Another guest at the NTA Breakfast show, Barrister Mike Ejiofor, a former Director DSS and a security consultant, asked why it was so difficult to extract appropriate information as to where the girls might be?
The video which was released by the Boko Haram group shortly before the two years anniversary, claiming they wanted a ceasefire and peace; the Nigerian army said they were not to be believed and regarded it as a ploy to weaken the military defence and to launch an attack when least expected.
This triggered further spate of attacks by the group. This belies their call for a negotiation and could jeopardize any possibility of trust and an action to call as viewed in the second anniversary footage.
It is now left for the FG to decide if to once more take the bait and initiate a negotiation.
Ejiofor asked: “Why release it now? Is it an instrument of propaganda? Does Nigeria lack the technicalities to extract the information needed? The Federal Government had said they have information on good number of people involved but arrest are yet to be made.
Will Chibok children catch up with education?
The Commissioner for information, Borno state, Mallam Mohammed Bulama, said the activities of the insurgents had cost the state so much hardship as: “so many lives have been lost, tens of thousands of lives, no fewer than 10,000, the economy of the region particularly in Borno state has been brought down completely.
We are almost on ground zero, businesses have been crippled, the collateral damage has been heavy, public schools are closed for nearly two years now, those in public school have not been able to go to school.”
Due to the trauma, some parents became reluctant to let their children go back to school. what hope lies for these children who are already in an economic difficulty, with no education nor skills, where will they fit in future?
This only deepens the possibility of embracing terrorism as the last resort – to survive or get killed, a trade birthed by poverty and consumes the poor who dare get entangled in its fold.
Aisha Oyebode, daughter of former late Head of State, Murtala Mohammed and Chief Executive Director, Murtala Mohammed Foundation. Said a total of 18 parents have died since the kidnap of their children.
She said the challenges for the family members are absolutely enormous: as some parents do not wish to know that their children are being used as suicide bombers.
Oyebode noted with sadness that the young children in Chibok are not going to school and that there is not one functional school in the whole of Chibok.
She said the children are having to trek several kilometres to get to primary schools, but now, efforts are in place to setting up adhoc primary schools in some of the communities although, initially, there was a lot of fear.
The younger ones didn’t want to go because they were afraid of being abducted, now they say to their parents, please let us go to school, even if we are abducted, it is more important for us to go to school.”
According to a report from Guardian, Ezekwesili, at an educational summit with the theme ‘Endangered Education,’ held as part of ‘Global Week of Action’ in commemoration of the 2014 abduction, stated that only 20% of women in the north west and north east of the country are literate and inequality and its root cause can be traced to unequal access to education.”
And as a fallout of lingering Boko Haram’s attacks in the north east , about one million children have been robbed of education, the former minister added.
Also, according to the Human Rights Watch report, between 2009 and 2015, Boko Haram’s attacks had destroyed more than 910 schools and forced at least 1,500 more to close, with at least 611 teachers deliberately killed and another 19,000 forced to flee.
Girl child suicide bomber
A lot of young girls have been strapped with explosives which shatters their fragile bodies to bits and pieces after detonating and killing people in their assigned missions.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICCEF) has alerted that the number of the children involved in ‘suicide’ attacks in Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger has risen sharply over the past year, from four in 2014 to 44 in 2015.
UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said; “ let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators. Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.”
Majority of the girls are Christians. According to Ejiofor, the suicide bombers are aged between 9-12 which the captain disagreed with and said that there is no medical examination conducted on any of the girls to ascertain their real age, but pointed out that non of the captured girls was below 16.
The “trumped card” has been passed by the insurgents, through the video recording of the abducted Chibok girls, what is left to be seen is what card the Federal Government would lay on the table.