by Alabi Usman
We are still basking in the euphoria of the release of the 21 chibok girls by the Boko Haram terrorists last week. It is something worth rejoicing on in Nigeria, things that are not normal anywhere in the world just becomes normal here and funny enough, we get used to this anomaly that they become a part of our lives. We never saw the release of the 21 chibok girls coming, we have moved on with our lives not until a recent video of the girls in the impregnable den of Boko Haram brought us back to life, we also never asked ourselves if the video was a tacit ploy by the BH group to set the agenda, and that this whole process of release and negotiation was purposed in that video.
And so we received the news of the magnanimity of the BH terrorists, that they had decided to shut out the argument of cynics and doubters who felt that the chibok girls kidnap is a scam, it is not real. And before we began thinking about what it cost the government to secure the release of these girls, the information minister had to set the matter straight, by informing us that the girls were not swapped for Boko Haram prisoners, it was just part of a confidence building, but like I have argued somewhere, the veracity of that statement cannot be ascertained, so I find it difficult to believe the honourable minister that the elusive and macabre BH group suddenly became magnanimous and decided to part with 21 of their prized catch. But that is just my opinion, time and events have made me to be cynical of the Nigeria state and them in turn to be cynical of me.
And so when I heard the news of the release of 21 girls, I heaved a sigh of relief and could not wait to make it known to the world around me via my platform, maybe it is right for me to suggest that you also experienced that. But I must also confess here that the news sent cold shivers down my spine, we could not win our girls back for two years!, we could not rescue them, we left them at the mercy of a group with anti state and rebellious ideas and exposed them to a trauma that we might not be able to find out nor erase from their memories. And then to crown it all, they released the girls at their own terms, when they were ready to, finally we negotiated with terrorists. The problem is not the negotiation, because it is advisable to do whatever it would take to bring these girls back since we have failed them for two years and there was no hope that we could bring them back home if we had not realized that we might be losing them, even if we deceived ourselves that we are winning the war on terror. One of the conditions I gave for negotiating the release of these girls was: if the Nigerian military do not have clear intelligence information about the whereabouts of these girls and they are not likely to find out in the shortest possible time, then they can consider negotiating their release, because you cannot plan a rescue mission if you do not know their location, Yet deep inside me I wished the DSS and the DMI after two years of the kidnap could be able to get the exact location of these girls that we might rescue them rather than negotiating their release.
But I am sure that you are not carried away by their release to the point that you are not sensitive to what it has done to the level of confidence you have in the Nigerian government. Are we to assume that The Nigerian state is too big for the government to govern and that after two years, all our intelligence agencies cannot tell where these girls are, are we to assume that there are still swaths of land in the hands of Boko Haram that cannot be assessed or perhaps they are not exactly in Nigeria? Maybe in the impregnable Sambisa forest, a forest I never knew exists, thanks to Boko Haram. Why then do we have to be worried? This is it, when you have to negotiate with your enemy after you had done everything unsuccessful to take the initiative, it means that you are actually giving him the initiative, you are at his mercy, in the case of Nigeria, it actually means that the much publicized victory that we had had against BH is a fluke. We might be reducing their fighting capacity, but that is not enough. And that is the reason why we are left with no choice than to negotiate.
Another reason is because we politicize every damn thing in this country, the chibok girls matter had become such a political fiasco such that it conflicts with the responsibilities of the necessary agencies responsible for their release, this is exactly what the BH group is riding on. Can we confidently say by now that Boko Haram is one of usuals of the Nigerian system and like the usuals, it would come and go, could it be that we might have to cope with this blight for a long time, I tell you the latter is exactly what the release of the 21 chibok girls brought home to us. No terrorist organization negotiated with fizzles away easily. And for these reasons we should be worried, we should be worried because like Al shabaab, they have grown into cross border terrorist organization disturbing most of the countries in the lake Chad region, we should be worried because when we are reducing their fighting capacity here, same is not done in other neighbouring countries, we should be worried because the terrain they operate makes them elusive and contribute to their continuous survival in all ramifications, and this is what the state alludes to, the implication of last Thursday.
We should be worried because the DSS and the DMI are just not doing enough in terms of intelligence gathering basically because the skill sets of the Nigerian intelligence community are inadequate in the face of the challenges posed by BH, Indeed most of those in the intelligence community seems to have a background in the protection of senior political office holders as opposed to intelligence gathering. We should also be worried because the federal government is only concerned about defeating BH, but not considering deradicalizing the North, we need to look into our educational curriculum, we need to place more emphasis on education, and we need to address the fundamental problems that youths face in this part of the world. I suspect we have still not learnt our lessons, especially as regards the way we are dealing with the Shiite issue in Kaduna.
When Nations negotiate with terrorists, they negotiate from a strong ground and the negotiation is all inclusive, for the chibok girls though a pain in our neck because of our political shenanigans and personality driven government is a very serious matter that needs our attention, but we must not ignore the message inherent in the process of bringing these girls back even if the ends justifies the means.