Friday, July 4, 2014

219 GIRLS & A GOVERNMENT'S MORAL BURDEN


For eighty days now, 219 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok remain captives of the Boko Haram insurgents. At the same time there is growing frustration about the rescue operation.


A clear indication of the unfortunate situation was the revelation by the United States last Friday that it had no idea of the girls’ location, and that it had decreased its surveillance flights in the area.

This development further contradicts the previous claim by Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh that the military knows where the girls are being held hostage. The longer the girls remain in captivity, the more the moral burden grows on the Jonathan Administration.The abduction and rescue operation have been characterized by a series of official blunders, all because of the leadership’s inability to depoliticize the issue and accept constitutional responsibility for protecting the Nigerian populace.The latest blunder is the $1.2 million deal with the U.S. public relations firm, Levick, in conjunction with Perseus Strategies, a law firm, to change the local and international media narrative about the abduction and other issues related to the Boko Haram insurgency.





The simple fact is that no amount of image laundering will compensate for rescuing the girls especially through a negotiated process, or replace the need for government to do more in funding a more effective counter-insurgency programme. It is rather unfortunate that we do not have a sense of history as a people. Gradually people are forgetting that some young girls are still in captivity.Yet, those at the corridors of power, who swore to protect and uphold the constitution, which expressly states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of governance, are busy popping champagne and living in excessive luxury and opulence while the Chibok girls are being exploited and dehumanized as sex slaves. There is no doubting the fact that the government has failed these girls and obviously disappointed itself.If not for a small group of Nigerians and the international community who have kept the fire of optimism burning and putting pressure on government to do something fast to get the Chibok girls back to their parents, the government would have consigned the whole saga to the dustbin of history as it has continued to blame its political enemies for the unfolding tragedy.


A government must always inspire hope and confidence in her people, and it must show concern at all times for the welfare and wellbeing of the people. If it does not, it means the government just exists for itself and is not truly bothered about what becomes of the citizenry.It would be recalled that, during the Day of the African Child anniversary, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown had urged the world not to forget the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.“Thousands of people have come together united with one cause: safe schools for every girl and boy,” the former prime minister of Britain said as the world celebrated the African Child Day.“While the global community has failed to deliver safe schooling, young people are demanding safe, quality schools for all children everywhere and stand in solidarity with the northern Nigerian girls of Chibok and all those around the world who face these struggles.” Over two months after 287 girls were kidnapped from their school, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education has also praised young people around the world as they mobilise to demand education for all. Young people, schools, teachers, and faith groups from across the world united and dedicated the Day of the African Child 2014 to the delivery of quality education and safe schools.


Speaking further, the UN special envoy said: “Young people throughout the world have dedicated today, Day of the African Child, not only to education, but in solidarity with the 287 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Thousands of people have come together united with one cause: safe schools for every girl and boy.”

The point is that if the international community is showing so much concern about the abducted school girls, what is the Nigerian government doing? Should the government not have frequent media briefings detailing how it is trying to get the girls back as soon as possible? If the children of those in government were amongst those kidnapped, would they apply the same snail speed approach in the rescue mission? These questions are very crucial because some of the abducted girls that escaped claimed they were gang raped 15 times a day, yet the government has shown so much aloofness in the matter.Well-meaning Nigerians demand that the government must squarely and promptly address the issue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, rescue them and give all the support they require to integrate them back into the society.This is the proper direction for money to be invested and not in a ridiculous overseas public relations exercise that won’t make the government look any better in the eyes of the outside world. The government must come to terms with the moral burden on its shoulders and deal with it appropriately now.

The New Telegraph
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