It is embarrassing that seven years after the abduction of the 276 Chibok girls, 112 of the girls are still unaccounted for. Nothing demonstrates the failure of the government’s war against Boko Haram as its inability to rescue the rest of the Chibok girls who are still languishing in captivity. The promise to rescue the girls and end Boko Haram’s terrorism was critical to President Muhammadu Buhari’s election in 2015.
Millions of voters who could have held their nose and voted for President Goodluck Jonathan tilted on Buhari’s promise. If Nigerians knew that Boko Haram would survive six months, to say nothing of six years, of Buhari’s war efforts, they probably would have made a different decision. The freedom of the abducted girls was squarely a campaign issue, and Buhari did not pass up any opportunity to promise the parents of the girls. It is no wonder, therefore, that the exhausted and frustrated parents are now in support of the engagement of mercenaries to fight Boko Haram, seeing that the war has reached a stalemate in its eleventh year.
When in 2014 he went to the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, London, Buhari was unsparing of the incumbent goverment of Dr. Jonathan. ”If President Jonathan’s government had deployed the same resources to fighting Boko Haram as it did to political ends, the army would have rescued the more than 270 school girls abducted by the extremist movement in Chibok last April,” Buhari told the worldwide audience. He ridiculed the then National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, for suggesting that the army’s defeats in the hands of Boko Haram were due to cowardice. “I’m a retired general and a former head of state. I have always known about our soldiers. They are capable; they are well-trained and patriotic and always ready to do their duty to the service of their country,” Buhari said.
He blamed the Jonathan administration for not giving enough support to the military. “… our soldiers have neither received the necessary support” nor the required incentives to tackle the problem. He believed that there was faulty intelligence and analysis. The military ought to know the location of the Chibok girls who have been abducted “for more than 10 months now.” Buhari told the world that the Nigerian parliament had been thwarted in its attempts to find out what happened to the “trillions of Naira” allocated to defence procurement. History seems to have repeated itself when last week, the new Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, had a dramatised public disagreement with members of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on military procurement. Not only was the Army Chief impolite to the committee, he exhibited the well-known impatience that has been the hallmark of the Nigerian Army, and why it is rated low on the observance of the rule of law and high on civil rights violations. And the object of the committee is to find out what has happened to “trillions of Naira” which the Buhari administration has appropriated for the war, a war Nigerians view as an extremely costly project with no sign of victory at the horizon, especially, after the administration plowed in the “expropriated” $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account in 2017.
When on May 6, 2017, 82 of the Chibok girls were released following negotiations among agents of the Buhari government, the Swiss Foreign Ministry and the Red Cross in which three million euros (approximately $3.7 million) in cash was handed over as ransom to Boko Haram, the hope was that, soon the rest of the girls would follow. The government promised as much and Nigerians were full of hope. It is now nearly four years and the prospect of returning the young girls to their parents is growing dim with each passing day. Things have deteriorated further. We had thought that the abduction in Girls Secondary School, Chibok would be the first and the last. Indeed, there have been at least four more school abductions after Chibok. This is a reflection of the sad security situation in the country which also reflects the unfavourable battle field situation between the Buhari administration and Boko Haram.
It is obvious that the government cannot get Boko Haram to let go its captives and the government cannot protect the schools. But the reality is that Nigerians cannot forget those young girls taken from us in such a manner. Neither should the government expect to be forgiven of its inability to return them to their parents. We may be unsure of how wise the policy of engaging soldiers of fortune would be. That the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Zulum contemplated and actually suggested the idea shows how the government’s performance in the war has distressed many Nigerians. There is no alternative to recovering the girls. The government should do everything within its powers to secure the release of the Chibok girls and other abducted Nigerians. The war against the insurgents must be intensified and won.