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Abducted schoolgirls in a failed state

There are many reasons to believe that Nigeria is indeed a failed state, regardless of what the Federal Government might say to dismiss that truth. The economy is in a shambles. Businesses are groaning. Unemployment has rendered many educated young men and women hopeless and useless to themselves, their parents, and their communities. Jobless youths have become easy targets of recruitment by local warlords, kidnap kingpins and armed robbery linchpins who hire them to oversee their criminal empires. Insecurity is rife across the country.

In our current environment, human life means nothing anymore. Look around and you will find people being killed for nothing. Why are so many people losing their sense of justice, morality, and kindness?   

Higher education is in a state of coma. It is weakened further by poor funding, as well as declining quality of teaching and research, and an academic calendar that is hardly observed and regularly disrupted by strikes. Health care has since collapsed. Public hospitals have become a breeding ground for frustrated health care workers. They are patronised by people in failing health who cannot afford to travel overseas for medical examination and treatment. Politicians travel to overseas health facilities for routine medical check-up. Our roads are like jagged tracks used in cross-country motorbike races. Unstable electricity supply has become the greatest challenge to business growth and development. Nothing works without regular supply of electricity. Quite frankly, electricity is the oxygen that sustains the life of every nation.

Everywhere you go, there is that feeling that Nigeria is like a ship without a captain, a country without a visible and effective leader. I have often wondered whether we have federal ministers in Nigeria. If they exist, they must be so introverted, so distant, so cold, so silent, and so uninterested even in matters relating to their ministries. This is perhaps why primary school students can’t recite the names of ministers. Don’t blame the students and their civics teachers. What they do not know, they cannot recall. It is that simple.

I cannot recall the last time I heard about Ogbonnaya Onu and his ministry or Chris Ngige or Babatunde Fashola or Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, and others. If someone says all the federal ministers are active, it must be an exaggeration. We don’t feel their presence in society. This has prompted the query: Where are the ministers? What do they do? How often do they interact with the people and communities they are supposed to serve? How often do they render accounts of their ministries? Is there value in having federal ministers whose activities are not felt by the people?

Perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari was right when he delayed appointment of ministers in 2015. Prior to nomination of ministers, Buhari had argued that his government could do without ministers. He said he could govern with only a few key cabinet members. Now we know why. It is obvious that he does not hold his ministers to account, that he does not require them to provide him with regular reports of the activities of their ministries, and, certainly, he does not need to see them, if he could avoid them. 

We live in a crazy society. Here is a laid-back government that conducts official business in an unhurried manner, a government that treats serious cases of corruption with apathy. Look at what happened to young schoolgirls on Monday, February 19, 2018, when they were forcibly taken away from their school premises at the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. Although this is not the first time the nation has experienced abduction of this scale, I am still mystified how possible it would be for a terrorist group to kidnap over 100 students, with all the logistical challenges involved, such as transportation, clothing, provision of toiletries, food, and other important personal items such as prescription medicines.

The question the Buhari government must answer is: How could more than 100 students be kidnapped so quietly in an open space without anyone hearing their cries for help, their screams, their agitations, their kicks, their groans, and their shouts? Buhari came into office with bogus claims and swagger that he would put an end to the menace of Boko Haram. Two years into his first term, it is Boko Haram that is embarrassing Buhari’s government on a massive scale.

The kidnap of the Dapchi schoolgirls, much like the preceding abduction of more than 230 female students in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014, is a failure of intelligence, a failure of national security, and an adverse vote of confidence on law enforcement agencies. Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said the attack on Dapchi took place a week after soldiers were withdrawn from the school and other parts of the state. If that allegation is sustained, someone in the military command in the state must be held blameworthy.

The reaction of the Federal Government to the abduction of schoolgirls in Dapchi bears some close resemblance to the apathetic response of the government of Goodluck Jonathan when the Chibok girls were kidnapped in 2014. In both incidents, delay by the government gave the terrorists all the time they needed to disperse the students by ferrying them to various locations in the forest.

The Federal Government’s deployment of police and soldiers to various parts of Yobe State to search and rescue the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls long after the event was useless. The terrorists knew the government would always be one step behind them. They knew well ahead how to hide their prized victims from the eyes and ears of soldiers who were in pursuit of an enemy they could not see, an enemy they could not locate, and an enemy they could not decipher where they were hiding.

The kidnap of more than 230 Chibok girls in 2014 and the abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls in Dapchi constitute two significant blows against girl-child education in Nigeria. It would appear that terrorists are winning the long-drawn-out war against the government. And there is no indication the Dapchi incident would be the last in our history.

The two incidents occurred because we have politicians who are more focused on what they would snare from the national treasury rather than how they would protect the safety, security, welfare, and wellbeing of ordinary citizens. While government might be committed to rescuing the kidnapped Dapchi girls (and there are no strong indications how that objective would be achieved soon), it must be said that liberating the girls from their abductors is an interim and mindless strategy that will not solve forever the problem of kidnapping of schoolgirls in our society. We have no guarantee that Buhari’s government can prevent another abduction of schoolgirls.

Government must stop playing politics with the lives of young girls who ought to be in their schools rather than remain in dangerous forests where they are held against their will.

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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