Categories: ColumnsShola Oshunkeye

The lone hostage

Truly, politicians are a rare breed of humans.  Self-interest is the foundation of their ways, thought process and behaviours. The meanness of most of them is as shocking as the extravagance of the poor (Voltaire); their poverty of the spirit beyond comprehension. Their lives and everything in them are about self, self and self. With them, all things start and end with the quantum of political capital they can make out of any situation, no matter how grim and heart-shattering. Like the mass abductions of 273 students at Government Girls Secondary School,  Chibok, between April 14 and 15, 2014, and 110 from Government Girls Science and Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, this year.

That is the only way I could interpret the staccato of responses that have been coming from the various political camps in Nigeria since last Wednesday, when Boko Haram returned 104 of the 110 girls abducted on February 19. Five were reported dead while one is still in captivity. Since that day, there has been exceeding rejoicing in the homes of the 104 returned alive, deep sorrow in the families of the deceased, and apprehension in the camp of the lone hostage, Leah Sharibu. 

Weighed against the response to the mass abduction at Chibok, four years ago, I think the Buhari Administration deserves all the accolades it has been getting since the freedom story broke last Wednesday. I think the government deserves the encomiums, notwithstanding the manner the girls’ freedom was procured-whether bought (as in payment of ransom), or negotiated (in exchange for captured insurgents or for a ceasefire), and despite the fact that Chibok is still outstanding. The last time I checked, 112 Chibok girls are still unaccounted for. They too must breathe the air of freedom.

However, while the nationwide celebrations over the Dapchi girls’ release continue, the responses from some political blocs have been dumbfounding.  Rather than unite at this hour in showing gratitude to God for the safe return of the girls, and praying for the safe return of the lone hostage, politicians have turned everything into political chess. There has been fierce cross-fire between the ruling APC and the main opposition, PDP, and some others. The opposition has been crying itself hoarse that both abduction and release were a big swindle, orchestrated by the ruling party to score a political goal. APC has also not failed to remind its traducers of the PDP’s initial denial and belated response to Chibok which, they claimed, formed a major plank of why Nigerians rejected the party during the 2015 general elections.

While the political brickbats progress, some critics have even introduced a conspiracy theory against the Administration. It bogs the mind. They reasoned that the Chibok mass abduction happened about a year to the 2015 general elections. And almost a year to the 2019 vote, Dapchi also happened. They added these together and concluded that both Chibok and Dapchi were more than a coincidence.

They thought there was more to them than meets the eye. They felt Dapchi could, after all, be an arrangement to shore up the government’s popularity and goodwill before its various publics ahead of 2019.  Well, since I do not have the gift of clairvoyance, it is difficult for me to establish the validity or otherwise of all these postulations. One thing stands sure, though: no administration would attempt self-immolation to score a political point. To me, that would be a senseless gamble.

I’m, however, saddened by the fact that, in all of these, scanty thought is given to Leah Sharibu, who is still languishing in the deadly clutches of the insurgents. The brave girl remains in captivity for allegedly refusing to convert from Christianity to Islam and wear the hijab like her colleagues. So, while the parents of the 104 are rejoicing, while the parents of the dead five are in deep mourning, and Leah’s are in a serious state of confusion, our politicians have been behaving as if one life is less precious than 104. Sad.

Leah’s situation brings to mind the biblical story of the good shepherd as recorded in Luke 15:3-7. It is the story of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to scout for a single one that got lost. And when he rescues the lost sheep, there is great rejoicing. Like that good shepherd, I would have expected our politicians to push aside politics at this hour and channel their energy and prayers at rescuing the lone but very precious hostage. But are they doing that? Would they? As far as they are concerned, 2019 is it. Nothing more. Yet, our joy would be fuller as a nation if Leah is freed from the valley of the shadow of death she is currently entangled and returns to her family, unhurt. That should be our focus at this hour.       

The current behaviours of our politicians on this matter have once again underscored their illogical nature, their desperate wickedness, and self-centeredness that defiles definition but progresses speedily like cancer in metastasis. They need to repent. They need to behave more like genuine humans, with blood flowing in their veins and the breath of God sustaining their existence. Enough of this shameless display of gross insensitivity.

For the Buhari Administration, it is not yet uhuru. There should be no chest-thumbing until Boko Haram is stopped from strolling into communities on machine-gun mounted trucks and ceasing girls for use as sex slaves and as merchandise whenever they are broke. The administration needs to work harder on its intelligence architecture with the military stepping up their response time. As it was in Chibok four years ago, so it was in Dapchi on February 19 when reports had it that the military commanders knew at least four hours ahead that the insurgents were coming. Amnesty International quoted locals who claimed to have made desperate calls to some military formations but that soldiers only arrived after the deed had been done and the militants long gone. This is indefensible and should never have happened. The concerned authorities must work on this.

Overall, the whole security apparatus need regular review to tackle challenges promptly. Education is an inalienable right of the child, especially the girl child. No effort should be spared to deliver same to the girl child with her security comprehensively guaranteed. No child should have to learn under an atmosphere of fear. There must be no mass abductions again. Never.

I rest my case. God bless Nigeria.

Uche Atuma :

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