Do They Really Want to #BringBackOurGirls?

ChibokgirlsIt’s been over 180 days now since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State, during their WASSC examinations. It’s been over 180 days of pushing the government to do its best in ensuring their safe return, over 180 days of political “gymnasts and acrobats” and cheap publicity seekers seizing this “august opportunity” to showcase their skills.
A lot of people, including me, had always wanted the government to seek foreign help in combating the insurgency long before the girls were kidnapped. The thought of foreign countries offering their help in any capacity brought us unquantifiable joy. But how has this helped us? Besides reports the girls were still at Sambisa Forest at some point, one can’t point to anything concrete from our good friends – and I am not blaming them in any way; I am blaming the government for not utilizing the offers to the maximum, bearing in mind that we can only sleep with both eyes shut when the insurgency is fully exterminated. And I’m being as objective as possible because I have placed into consideration the implications of a leader of a nation of the calibre of ours appearing incompetent and being unable to deal with its problems.
I for one have spoken of the ills of conceding easily to demands made during strikes by trade unions because everyone would want to strike. So I am very much aware of what governing a people like us could entail, but placing it alongside the opportunity for foreign nations whose egos have been properly massaged to play big brothers who send combatants, arms, modern military gadgets and aid to victims, the merits of the latter outweigh any consideration.

Well, there’s no point pondering what ought to have been; we have to play the hands we have been dealt. The military came under heavy criticism some time ago for saying the Chibok girls had been released only for it to be withdrawn. Subsequently, we were told negotiations for a swap deal were ongoing — the girls for some prisoners of the Boko Haram sect. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were supposed to be knowing this at all. In better climes, where competence and adherence to professionalism and due process are considered paramount, we would only hear of the release of the girls.
Firstly, you could lose the trust of the insurgents at some stage if the proposed deal had been made public, and, secondly, the implications of losing the trust of the people who have been fed all sorts of stories by the military over time. When I read details of the failed negotiations in an online publication (not Eyeway), I was totally flabbergasted to say the least. The insurgents reportedly backed out because of the large military presence at the place where the exchange was supposed to happen. And, again, I dare say, a flawless negotiation process in this regard is one in which everyone is kept in the dark.
In addition to the reasons already adduced, is it right to raise the hopes of parents who have only started to live life again, only to dash it? Even if the president who is responsible for the success or failure of the process disregards all of these, he should at least be bothered by the political implications, as it is a huge minus to his party and whoever bears its flag in the 2015 general elections.
We really do have an absurd way of dealing with sensitive issues which could be highly detrimental in these trying times. One can’t help but remember how a security agent who is assumed to be trained got carried away and divulged to the press how they tracked an insurgent through his cell phone. The insurgents attacked the offices of a telecommunications company and brought down several masts. This is a pointer to how inept we portray ourselves to be in dealing with issues as delicate as this.
So, it is only right we involve the foreign nations who have offered their help more. As far as worrying about our reputation goes, we have soiled it to a disgusting extent. The good thing about the whole mess is that at least those who negotiate on their behalf are easily accessible. They could reach out to them again, earn their trust and return to the table, that is, if we are willing to re-initiate the process. It could be complicated if you put into consideration the fact that they gave a list of members they wanted released, which automatically makes them guilty until proven innocent.
The interrogators could revisit their cases and make sure they get more useful information. Also, the leaders reportedly had disagreements over their initial list which was said to have favoured the Kanuris. This played a key role in the safe assumption that all was not well in their midst after some members were slaughtered by their colleagues. Bringing them back to the table might not be easy but if we go the extra mile to allay their fears and prove we still mean business, they might agree to listen to us again. If this is successfully achieved, then, I hope we will be more professional about it. We should only see pictures or video clips of the girls being reunited with their families.

Everyone is on the same page on this but those in the position to make it happen have to act like they actually want to #BringBackOurGirls.

By Umar Sa’ad Hassan, a lawyer based in Kano.

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