Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Chibok 200: Dilenma of A Nation

On April 14, 2014, a bomb blast on a commercial motor park at Nyanya, on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria's federal capital territory, left 75 people dead and about 200 wounded; 22 days ago, just a few days after the Nyanya blast, the same group who claimed responsibility for the bombing at Nyanya, the now-dreaded Boko Haram sect, raided a secondary school at Chibok in Borno state, northeast of Nigeria, and carted away over 200 senior secondary school level 3 girls who were in the middle of taking their West African Examination Council exams. In both incidents, as he has always done over the years, the Nigerian president vowed to bring the "perpetrators of this dastardy act" to book.

While bombings and killing of students in remote schools and colleges have been a norm for the sect, the abduction of over 200 girls, some of whom braved the unknowns of the night, and risks of death, to escape from their captors, was a new twist to the excesses of Boko Haram. What is more confounding to Nigerians is the fact that for 22 days, a combined team of the Nigerian army, navy, airforce, Directorate of State Security, national Intelligence Agency, and a 250,000-man police force, among the most brutal in the African continent, have not been able to locate a herd (forgive my choice of words) of 200 teenage girls in the forests bordering Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Not only that, there is no credible intelligence report as to where these girls are. Questions have even been raised by some in government circles who doubt the veracity of this abduction claim; even the person of the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, had insinuated that something is not right here; complaining that the First Lady (this is Nigeria, everyone is a first lady of some fiefdom all the way to the local government level) of Borno state has twice refused an invitation to come and see her in Abuja (not that she, Patience, made any efforts to fly down to maiduguri). Therefore, she - the Borno first lady -must be hiding something.

To buttress these doubts, the president, in this recent media chat, complained that he has not been furnished with the identity of the missing girls, especially their pictures, names, etc.; thereby, insinuating that he could not do much without the pictures of these girls. Meanwhile, the world - and Nigerians - watched and waited for the self-styled giant of Africa to do something about her missing citizens. It was not untill the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN published the names of 180 missing students, about 160 christians, that the concern reached fever pitch in the southern part of Nigeria. It was not until, as has always been the case, the few concerned ordinary Nigerians, joined by the international community, began to openly voice their frustration at the inpetitude of the Jonathan administration concerning this abduction issue that increased activities began to emanate from Aso Villa.

All along, the president have been promising Nigerians that he will do everything possible to free the girls; besides prayers and fasting organized by churches and retired General Gowon, there were no other concrete evidence that the government was doing anything beyond what it had done before now. Convinced by the release of the names of the girls by CAN, and subjected to gross international ridicule, the president finally set up a committee to...... frankly, I have no idea what the committee is supposed to do. All this while, the US and Chinese, later the British, have been offering to assist in the location and possible freeing of these girls, if only they would be approached by the Nigerian government. So far, until today, their offers were declined by a president who considers it more shameful to admit the limits of your capability and seek assistance, than sacrificing 200, or so of his country's teenagers to a brutish Muslim sect.

Why was the government incapable of locating, pursuing Boko Haram, and freeing the girls? A few reasons:
1. The Nigerian military is not trained in guerilla warfare; therefore, unable to match the skills of Boko Haram. They also lack the necessary tools to track their movements - the casualties of corruption in the military.
2. The Nigerian intelligence community do not have the required training to infiltrate organizations like Boko Haram. Not that allocations are not made annually for these trainings, the funds just disappear into the pockets of a few senior officers. This cuts across every intelligence agency in Nigeria.
3. The Jonathan administration still believes that Boko Haram is a political tool controlled by the opposition, and used to destabilize his government. So, he felt that with the win of a second term, the organization will disappear into thin air
4. The southern consensus was that these are muslims killing each other, so let them destroy themselves. Unfortunately, one thing about oil is that it has a way of rubbing off on all the five fingers.

The Boko Haram issue has exposed Nigeria's soft underbelly; it has exposed the confusion and ineptitude of the administration, the weakness of the Nigerian military to our neighbors - a very dangerous thing, because now they will regard our supposed might with a grain of salt. Worse still, Boko Haram will be more emboldened to widen their attack beyond the northeast, as they have shown by the two explosions in Nyanya within a month. They are aware that the Nigerian military is incapable of defeating them, or even matching them weapon for weapon. Thanks to the corruption and graft that left the Nigerian army with scraps as fighter jets and immobile tanks and howitzers.

President Goodluck Jonathan, though a kind-hearted man who may have meant well for Nigerians, has shown himself weak in the face of threats. He has appeared confused and cluless at times when strong leadership is requires; when decisive action is needed to nip a problem in the bud, and in doing so, exposed himself to ridicule and laughter by his political enemies and even friends who doubted his choice as president in a time Nigeria needs a strong hand to tackle the Boko Haram problem. In many issues of national interest, he dilly-dallied for too long that one cannot help but feel sorry for him. One is hard-pressed to figure out whether this is his character or if he is following some advise of his leutenants.

This national crises needs a collective action, it should not be left for the government alone. The international community should not wait for the administration to ask for assistance before offering what they can; after all, 170 million people are more important than a handfull in government. As for Mr. President, to whom much is given, much is expected.

I will leave it at that
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