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July 20, 2018

Chibok Girls: Exchange for more blood

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There is no doubt  that Nigerians wants the 217 schoolgirls forcefully taken away from their school by Boko Haram, nearly three years ago, back home.  What they do not want is to exchange the girls for more kidnapping and more blood, which is what Boko Haram represents and promises Nigeria.

It is sad that kidnapping, even of school children, is no longer a strange thing in Nigeria.  Since the Chibok girls were whisked away from their school on May 14, 2014, other cases of kidnapping of students have occurred. Nevertheless, none was on the same scale as the Chibok kidnap or has the same twist and turn or political twists. What happened at Chibok was different from every case we have had or known but that is not to deny that the ugly incident actually took place, as some people have.

It is three years now and some people are not yet convinced that an actual kidnapping took place in Chibok.  There are those who think the incident was pre-arranged. That it was used as a blackmail against former President Goodluck Jonathan.  Anything is possible in today’s Nigeria. But we have gone beyond asking if the kidnap was real or staged. Whether or not Chibok was planned is no longer an issue. What we know is that some innocent schoolgirls were forced out of their school and taken into captivity, by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Nigeria’s number one enemy.

Undoubtedly, it has been a hellish experience for those parents  and families whose loved ones were taken away. We all thought initially that the Nigerian Army had both the experience and weaponry and whatever it takes to battle the terrorists and free the girls but what happened after the incident has forced us to rethink. There have been stories of sabotage of all sorts and manner against initial government’s efforts to decisively deal with the incident even within the military itself.

We hear that our army has combed the Sambisa Forest, hide out of Boko Haram and beaten them to submission. Yet the   group continues to attack innocent people, kidnap, kill, maim, bomb, burn and render communities homeless. That means the terrorists may be down but definitely not out.

When the first 21 girls were freed, the nation rejoiced because it raised hopes that the rest of the students would soon be reunited with their parents.  People reacted the same way when the latest group of 82 girls regained their freedom, early this month.

What put a damper on our joy was when we heard that the girls were exchanged with some 18 hardened Boko Haram commanders in police custody.   As if to prove us right that the exchange was inappropriate, one of the released commanders, one Shuaibu, immediately threatened to bomb Abuja as a thank -you gift for his freedom. How sad!

Nigerians are happy to see the girls back but they are sad that the nation could do no better to secure their freedom than to exchange them for more blood. This is penny wise pound foolish.

With 18 terrorist commanders on the loose, we can only  hope and pray that our army and security personnel are equal to the task.  If the Federal Government had no option than to consent to a dangerous swap, it is possible that more swaps are coming. And why not –  the man who  negotiated the release of the girls has revealed that there are more girls in Boko Haram’s den than the remaining 117 from Chibok.  One can, therefore, see another swap and another, until all the girls in captivity are freed.  But we must realise that each swap releases more criminals into Sambisa forest or elsewhere and empowers Boko Haram.

In the end, the terrorists may become so powerful that they may be the ones calling the shots. They could walk into a school, pick up students and demand whatever they want in exchange. Is Nigeria ready?



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