I know you have questions, I do too. But who will ask our questions, who will confront the establishment, who will bell the cat? Who will confront the gods without the wrath of the spirits? Who will dare ask our questions regarding the politics of Chibok?
In April 2015, the Nigerian army, under the “renewed” leadership of former president Goodluck Jonathan, days before he handed over power, rescued 293 women and girls from Boko Haram in Sambisa. When the news broke, there were talks that the girls who had been rescued were part of the 276 girls kidnapped from the famous Chibok school.
I took a trip — funded by TheCable — to Adamawa state, Malkohi camp to be precise. This was where the women and girls were being held by the army and “reintegrated” into society. First, they were not the Chibok girls; second, the facilities were next to nothing, the food was a “no-go”, sanitation was very poor. If not for Oxfam, an international confederation of charitable organizations fighting poverty, the camp would have been without toilets.
Security was also an issue. I wrote a series of reports on life at the camp, and fortunately got the military to move a good number of these women and girls to better facility.
Some lessons I learnt from that trip will forever stay with me. To be honest, these lessons are the only ones that have helped me make sense of these whole Chibok issue.
To the first question: Is the Chibok abduction real? Is it just political propaganda projected by the All Progressives Congress (APC), when it was power-thirsty, as Ayodele Fayose, governor of Ekiti state, postulates?
Mahatma Ghandi, father of modern India, listed seven sins he called “deadly sins” in the course of his lifetime, they are: Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice, and politics without principle.
The sin Jonathan committed, that Fayose keeps committing on Chibok, is that of politics without principle. It is all right to suspect the opposition for trying to play games to get you out of power. But if they say a part of your house is burning, you do not just see it as politics, you check your house to confirm if the fire is a distraction game or the reality on ground.
Based on my interactions with the girls rescued from Sambisa in 2015, Chibok abduction is real. It happened, Jonathan handled it very poorly in the initial stages and almost throughout his stay as president. It was a deadly sin with deadly consequences.
Question two: How can you say this Chibok thing is not a scam, when SS3 girls who were about to write WAEC cannot speak simple english? Were they going to write physics in Hausa?
I am sure you may have seen something like this on social media. Here is what I know: In 2015, I spoke to a number of women and girls who just returned from Sambisa, but the most resourceful of all was Zahra Umoru, a teenager who revealed that Boko Haram always knew the movement of the military.
Umoru, who was in Boko Haram’s captivity for nearly six months, was in a senior secondary school in Gumsuri, a town only 20 minutes away from Chibok. She could also not speak to me in English, yet she was in school — in fact, she struck me as a very bright young girl without the right education. Based on this assessment, it is possible for many of the Chibok girls to be very poor in communicating in English. It simply meant they were on their way to a probable failure in WAEC. In the north, being a school student does not mean you have a good grasp of English.
This should bring us to the question Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano, has been asking northern elites: when will quality education return to the north? When will the mind of the average northern youth be educated enough to challenge poverty, to face maternal immortality, to upturn poor human development indices?
Question three: Is Chibok return really the end we seek?
Since Gumsuri is only about 20 minutes away from Chibok, I seized the opportunity to ask the Gumsuri women and girls about Chibok. What they said could not be reported at the time, in the interest of peace. They were not in any means happy with Nigerian authorities, Boko Haram, or the Nigerian people.
First, they complained that while they were with Boko Haram, the girls from Chibok were treated specially, and kept in a very secret part of Sambisa forest, they were treasures. When the military rescued the 293 women and girls, part of their first questions were “Who is from Chibok?”.
When the girls eventually got to the Malkohi camp, the first set of questions they were being asked by health workers and journalists, also revolved around the Chibok girls. They believe Nigeria was fixated on Chibok that it forgets these other people are in need of care too.
With over 100 Chibok girls rescued from Boko Haram, the federal government has been giving them utmost care and attention. And President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that the battle against insurgency will not be over until all the girls are rescued. But when all the Chibok girls are rescued, what happens to the likes of Umoru, the women and girls from Gumsuri, the unknown ones who were kidnapped from other villages in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa?
Who reintegrates them into society? Who teaches and takes them through the training Chibok girls are “enjoying” at the moment? How do we ensure they do not become problems in our future?
There are still questions we dare not ask. But let me leave you with these ones: What happens to the AK-47 wielding girls in the new Boko Haram video? Why did Boko Haram get more vocal and seemingly powerful after the release of the 82 girls?