By Fulan Nasrallah
I remember writing on my blog last year when news broke that Pesident Jonathan had secured an agreement with Shekau through the Chadians for the Chibok girls to be released, that Shekau cannot give back the Chibok girls as he does not hold them. A lot of so called ‘Boko Haram’ experts across the world disputed my claim and hailed the purported agreement as a step in the right direction for Jonathan’s administration. Very few people took my naysaying seriously. Here we are more than half a year after that naysaying, and there are still no Chibok girls that have been released.
On that dreadful day when the Chibok girls were abducted, bombs went of in Nyanya close to Abuja, killing so many people. The Nyanya Bomb Attack would go on to dominate the news, pushing the story of the Chibok girls abducted on the night of the same day to the side. Most of Nigeria would not be aware of the tragedy of Chibok until six days after they occurred. This was when news of what had happened trickled into Maiduguri the Borno State capital with the parents of the abducted girls.
The initial response of the Nigerian Government was laughable and ludicrous to the extreme. The then First Lady, Patience Jonathan initially denied that there was any sort of mass abduction of girls in Chibok, then recanted and acted in an incompetent manner by summoning the principal of the school from Chibok in the middle of Boko Haram to come and answer her in her palace in Abuja, a meeting which culminated in the famours “There Is God O” moment.
While the parents and relatives of these girls mourned and grieved, the rest of Nigeria outside the conflict zone had a heyday making memes of Patience Jonthan’s “Diaris God” moment, weaving conspiracy theories linking everybody and anybody to the abduction of the girls, or just plain denying something like that ever happened. But here we are 500 days after tragedy struck Chibok, and the girls are sstill nowhere to be found. What happened to them?
It took me months and a lot of digging before I was able to understand the basics of what happened in Chibok that day, and what happened to the girls thereafter. And I came away from my search for understanding with one thing embedded on my mind. The Chibok girls are gone for the most part, sold into the sex trade, married off to Boko Haram fighters, in use as communal slaves and domestic help in insurgent camps, bartered and traded like stocks in a stock exchange. Their lives permanently ruined, their families deprived of them. There is nothing any man can do except to compose an ode in their honour. They have been reduced by the politicians to soundbites and wonderful slogans, or even election promises. Many of them have been killed in escape attempts, air-raids on camps they were present at etc.
On that fateful day that Ansorul-Muslimiina Fii Bilaadis-Sudan entered into Chibok town and rounded up as many girls as they could lay their hands on, their fate was sealed for the most part. From then onwards, the insurgents did not need complicity of any Nigerian official to traffick, enslave or otherwise use the girls, as the incompetence of the Jonathan administration was more than enough to doom the girls and make recovering them complete an impossible solution to their problem. If the Nigerian Army had launched a full scale operation in time, these girls would not have been moved into Cameroon and then dispersed to other places. But some how there was a break of communication that for six days no one was aware in Maiduguri or Abuja that something like this had occurred.
Six days was more than enough time to seal their fates. But if immediately the authorities became aware they took measures to trace and find out where the girls were, there would have been hope. Rather, the bosses in Maiduguri and Abuja all persisted in throwing blame up and down away from themselves, while the politicians engaged in a foolish game of denial until it became very clear that denying it occurred was not feasible as a long-term strategy.
Finally when the authorities decided to do something about the whole situation, they focused their attention on Abubakar Shekau because he is loudmouthed and a very recognizable villian that it was easy to pin the blame on. Meanwhile Abu Usaamah Al-Ansari and his men were distributing the spoils of war from Chibok amongst themselves, and selecting which girls they were to sell etc. Shekau did not have these girls, video footage of him and many girls claiming conversion not withstanding. He never had them, and when they did their little ceasefire agreement in N’Djadmena, he promised the Nigerians what he didn’t have. And when time came for him to provide what he promised, he couldn’t.
One can only hope that Nigeria has learnt from the debacle that happened with the Chibok girls, Five hundred days after they were abducted, the hope of ever getting them all back is gone.