By Paul Okolo
My teenage daughter is returning to school today as the second term holidays end. Like any other teenager she’s looking forward to being with her friends again to share tales of their escapades while at home. My girl and her classmates have dreams and are living their dreams.
Not so for more than 200 young girls in her age group. Theirs was truncated by the merchants of death called Boko Haram on April 14, 2014 in Chibok town in the far north-eastern corner of Nigeria.
Two years on, the abduction still gives me jitters as I see my daughter growing up into a young lady before my eyes. As she goes off to boarding school I feel her absence sorely but I know she’ll be back home again at the end of the session. But many families in the territory can’t have the same expectation no thanks to the devastation done to them by vicious terrorists who won’t rest until they’ve shed innocent blood.
The girls’ abduction has brought the horror of terrorism closer to Nigerians and to people everywhere. Their ordeal touches every one of us in a way. The thought of these girls being used as sex slaves, suicide bombers, or at best human shield, is unsettling to anybody who like me has a daughter, wife, sister or mother. I often ask myself if I wouldn’t have gone berserk if, heavens forbid, someone close to me were to be one of the victims. Who knows what I’d do in all honesty? I always try to dismiss the idea as quickly as the thought comes. The thought alone is so very unnerving that it’s sparked worldwide anger, prompting global icons to join in calling for the release of the innocent girls. From mother-of-two Michelle Obama to our own Oby Ezekwesili, Aisha Yesufu, Bukky Shonibare, to Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Laureate who herself nearly got killed in her native Pakistan, millions marched in solidarity. The hashtags #BringBackOurGirls, #Never-to-be-forgotten and #BBOG caught worldwide attention.
If this has brought some consolation to families of the girls, still some among them couldn’t bear the psychological trauma for too long and have died as a result of the deep wound inflicted by their daughters’ affliction. And those still alive are perhaps wishing they were dead every day they wake up with no word on the whereabouts of the girls.
While the world awaits news from Sambisa Forest or other Boko Haram hideouts, the abductions have brought out the best in us as humans. The determination, tenacity and courage displayed by people abroad and in Nigeria who are dedicated to the cause of these girls give us all hope that we are still capable of doing good. It shows we still have the capacity to love our neighbour as ourselves. People from varied social, ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds have risen in unison, and organised marches, meetings, and prayers with little or no supervision and absolutely gratis.
Yet those who are so deeply involved, despite huge financial, physical and emotional costs, are too decent to want to take credit for their exemplary commitment. It amazes me how the “Bring-back-our-girls” campaigners have managed to gather daily without fail in Abuja together with relations of the girls, members of the Chibok community, activists and religious leaders even under very hostile and harsh human and natural conditions. Others around the world also congregate like that occasionally to keep their story alive.
But there is also a flipside. The worst species of Homo sapiens also manifested in the story. The most irritating are the unfeeling who, despite abundant evidence, deny that the kidnappings of April 14, 2014 took place. I’m amazed at the people who see it as mere propaganda and a staged managed affair. It’s one reason the government at the time didn’t pursue the brigands and rescue the innocent girls. In the name of politics, people in public office who should demonstrate good manners have shown the worst form insensitivity to the misfortune of fellow human beings, still insisting that nobody was abducted. How can somebody be so stupidly arrogant? When there’s a national emergency, what politicians of all shades do in other places is to unite, deal with the problem and move the nation forward. This country shouldn’t under any circumstances be different.
So as I drop my girl at school today (Sunday) I’ll be praying for divine intervention on behalf of the Chibok girls that they too would very soon be free to resume their education in a safe environment if at all possible. More importantly, I pray their story will soon have a happy ending, so that there’ll be no third anniversary of this ordeal. And, hopefully, they too can one day live their dreams.
The day Chibok girls will be back at home
By Paul Okolo