The forceful seizure by Boko Haram marauders of over 200 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, more than two years ago has become something of an epic. The story has been assuming all manner of protean dimensions, ranging from the absurd to the ridiculous.
When we were first struck with this oddity, our initial reaction bordered on disbelief. There was disquiet in the land. Government could not confirm whether the abduction actually took place. Indeed, government was forced by the inquisitive foreign media to admit, even when it was not sure, that the incident took place. That was what the mood of the moment permitted. A government that was going into an election needed to act reassuringly. Besides, it needed to do so to stave off more attacks from a vicious opposition. That was how we came to settle for this story.
But the point must be made that the entire saga is still shrouded in doubts and assumptions. It is one blight, which we must live with, whether real or imagined. In fact, we can safely say that the Chibokian captivity can no longer be regarded as mere happenstance. If anything, it is well-choreographed enemy action, which we have been unable to kick out.
It started in the manner of political theatrics. Then it was more of a political weapon than anything else. It was the Achilles heel of the government in power at that time. Strangely, however, after its successful deployment, as an instrument of blackmail and decapitation, the monster has refused to go away. It has continued to rear its ugly head. At moment, it has come to assume a life of its own. It has, indeed, risen to a proportion that compares very favourably with the biblical account of the Babylonian Exile or Captivity.
The Babylonian Captivity refers to a period in Jewish history during which a number of Judahites of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylonia. The captivity formally ended when Cyrus the Great, the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, gave the Jews the permission to return to Palestine.
From what we know and can see, the Chibokian captivity is in dire need of a Cyrus the Great, who will conquer and liquidate the enemy territory so that the captives can be freed. The government of the time partly fell on account of its inability to play the Cyrus. The opposition, which desperately wanted power, cashed in on this seeming drawback of the government. It presented itself as a viable alternative, which would succeed where its rival failed. The campaign went to the point of frenzy. Reason took flight. Many were taken in by the antic. It was as if the government in power was the weakest point of Nigeria. The people envisioned an Eldorado in the government that was to come.
Some 16 or so months after the dawn of the new era, Chibok has remained a Gordian knot. The darkness that surrounds the saga has become more impenetrable. The situation has become one of the more you look the less you see. Government has put the issue behind it. The sense of urgency with which it approached the matter has taken flight. Chibok has become an inconsequential footnote. Government is hardly bothered anymore about the Chibok schoolgirls. And those who goaded the opposition on when it said that it possessed a magic wand on Chibok have gone under. They must be hiding their heads in shame and disappointment.
The only shrill voice left in the wilderness of Chibok is that of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG). It is the only group that has continued to remind Nigerians and the world of Chibok. Just recently, government hacked into the soul of the group and took away one of its most vociferous advocates. That was when it appointed Hadiza Bala Usman, a co-founder of BBOG, as the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority.
Since her appointment, Hadiza has never had any cause to talk about Chibok anymore. She has clearly jumped ship. And this leaves one wondering. Why has Hadiza gone silent? Why is Chibok no longer an issue? Has her appointment overshadowed Chibok? Was she appointed so that she would drop the agitation? If that is the case, do we then take it that Hadiza never really believed in the cause she was fighting? Was she involved in the Chibok campaign in order to be noticed? These questions are struggling with one another for consideration. But they throw up something worrisome, and that is the gap between commitment and camouflage. Was Hadiza merely covering up? If the Chibok captivity really meant something to her, will the dream just die overnight because of political appointment? Should we then take it that government and Chibok are implacable foes? Are they at each other’s throat to the extent that belongingness to one necessarily and compulsorily alienates you from the other? These are the worrisome throwbacks of Hadiza’s appointment. I dare say that if government and Chibok were one and the same thing, Hadiza would have no reason to shield Chibok from her activities, as she has done since her appointment. The joke is really on Hadiza. She has a lot of integrity test to pass.
With the stealing away of Hadiza and her obvious acquiescence to the order she once stood against, Oby Ezekwesili, another co-founder of BBOG, has been left alone to deal with the Chibok issue. Oby is now the lone, shrill voice from the wilderness of Chibok. From what we know of Oby, she is not complaining. She has a cause to fight and she is doing so with a single-minded determination.
But the snag here is that government has turned against her. With the exit of Hadiza, Oby is now seen in government circles as a nuisance. She is disturbing the peace of the government. Yes, government wants to be at peace with itself even when the entire nation is in pains over the missing girls. Oby says she will take none of that. She has continued to prick the conscience of government that once made Nigerians to believe that the rescue of the schoolgirls would be a priority in its scheme of things.
The government may have forgotten where it is coming from. But Oby and whatever that is left of BBOG are not relenting. They are keeping government on its toes.
But because government has departed from its promise to Nigerians on Chibok, it is no longer comfortable with what Oby is doing. That is why it is has decided to sponsor a counter group. The other day, the government-sponsored howlers sought to steal the show from the BBOG campaigners. They carried placards in which they denounced Oby to no end. They asked her to leave government alone. Government did not stop there. It has even gone to the extent of stopping the march by BBOG campaigners. Government does not want them any more. That is how far the story has changed. Government wants to be left alone over Chibok. It has forgotten that Chibok was its major selling point before it assumed the reign of governance. What an irony. What a ridiculous turn of events.