AMINA Ali Nkeki is still in dazed. She is still struggling to comprehend the chess game fate is playing with her little life. That is understandable. What has happened in her 19 short years on earth is enough to keep anybody’s brain swirling in a sea of emotions. She was only 17 when, on April 24, 2014, Boko Haram militants swooped on her school in Chibok, Borno State, and abducted her alongside 275 other girls (fifty escaped shortly after). For the two years she spent with her colleagues in captivity, Nigerians, indeed the world, could only wait and hope. Nobody was sure of the fate of any of the girls.
In fact, at a point, all hopes that the girls might be found alive had begun to appear foolish. This was so because there was no concrete assurance from any quarter concerning their location and situation. Then, one morning, last month, CNN pleasantly surprised the world with its Proof of Life exclusive video. The clip showed 15 of the 219 missing girls being interviewed by a Boko Haram jihadist. That effectively proved that there was nothing absolutely foolish in our hoping and waiting. Regardless of our ever present fears, the video rekindled our hope.
On Tuesday, hope took on flesh and became Amina Ali Nkeki, who was found with her four-month-old baby girl, fetching fire wood (according to a report) in the precincts of Sambisa forest. The rescue by the Nigeria Army, assisted by local vigilantes, has become an important landmark in the nation’s search for the missing girls. It is also a significant milestone for Amina who became an instant celebrity the moment she and her baby landed in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Her story and face have been making headlines across the world ever since. On Thursday, after having been re-united with her family, the young woman was flown in a Presidential jet to Abuja for a reception by President Muhammadu Buhari. In a twinkle of an eye, God turned around Amina’s captivity and she landed in a dream world.
Few days ago, this same Amina was swooning in a crushing lowness of spirit. Few days ago, the young mother was still so buried in such depth of depression that she, perhaps, would have been thinking that freedom would only be possible in her next reincarnation. In her despair, there might have been little or no chance she knew God’s plan for her. Now, that same God has turned things around for her. He has made the sun to start shinning powerfully in her world. Surely, it would be naive to expect Amina to get the same world class treatment as Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace laureate who was shot by the Taliban for crusading for girl-child education in her native Pakistan. However, I expect life to become one huge paradise for her and her baby girl, knowing the kind heartedness of Nigerians.
Despite the significance of this event, I have heard a few cynics sniff at the euphoria that greeted Amina’s rescue. They said it was too early in the day to celebrate. They said we can only roll out the drums when the remaining girls regained their freedom. I differ a little. Though only one girl has been rescued so far, it is worth the elation that we have seen in the last couple of days. One, the event reinforces the hope that the remaining girls may, one day, breathe the fresh air of freedom. And when that day comes, the nation would be almost paralysed with excitement. That’s everybody’s prayers, God willing, our military unrelenting. Two, even if scoring one out of 219 is abysmally low, it is still significant in the sense that it has provided yet another evidence that at least somebody is doing something. If we consider the symbolism, and not the quantum of the rescue, it clearly underscores what can be achieved when leadership is focussed, committed and places the overall good above primordial interests.
That, however, is not to suggest that we should bury ourselves in the glee of the moment. There is still a lot of work to be done to keep our country safe. We still have to grapple with the group’s dangerous alliance with the Islamic State; a development that is already giving all right-thinking people insomnia. If the alliance is not promptly aborted, then, real hell looms, not only for Nigeria and West Africa, but also the entire continent. That was why the leaders of Nigeria, France, Benin, Chad, Gabon, Niger, Senegal and Togo met in Abuja, last Saturday, to tackle the matter. So, we cannot afford to take a nap yet. In the extant case of Amina, there’s still a lot of work to be done if she must enjoy the anticipated paradise. First, we all know that one of the major reasons extremist groups like Boko Haram abduct women and girls is to help them procreate and regenerate their kind. That being the case, the question is: would we be fair to conclude that Amina’s four-month old baby, sired by a jihadi father, and born in captivity, would automatically become a blood-monger? Would the violence in the father’s DNA be automatically transferred to the poor child?
The answer is no. One, the child is a girl. Even if she were a boy, it does not necessarily follow that if the father was or is a bandit, the son would automatically become an armed robber. Growing up, the boy may imbibe some attributes from the mother that would distinguish him from his father. After all, we have seen children of murderers who became Ministers of God and excellent community leaders. Therefore, I declare that this girl will not be a suicide bomber. But it behoves us, as society and individuals, to help Amina raise her in the way of God so that when she grows up, she will never depart from it.
What I’m saying is: let no one stigmatise Amina and her child on account of her traumatic ordeal and the circumstance of the latter’s birth. Rather, let us all welcome mother and child with unadulterated love. Like Malala Yousafzai, let us all, through our love, help Amina prove to her abductors that love is more potent than all the A.K. 47s and uzis in this world. Let us help speed up her re-integration to society. She must be helped to get sound education and equipped to achieve her loftiest aspiration, thereby showing her abductors that there is absolutely nothing evil in Western Education.