This was the outcome we wanted, that the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, or even the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would appear on national TV himself with the exciting news to Nigerians, that within a few days of their kidnapped, the 110 Dapchi girls had been found. Well, while we didn’t exactly get the President to deliver the breaking news with some explanation of sorts, hearing it from the mouth of the Honourable Minister, Lai Mohammed was equally as good. Scratch that! It was beyond good, because in the end it doesn’t even matter who or how the news was broken to us, the important thing is that the girls, most of them, are safe and sound with their families and would be sleeping at home in their own beds!
This was the outcome that we wanted, that after one month in captivity by the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram, the abducted girls would come home unharmed, untouched and alive. Well, that wish almost came true. I think I have to rephrase that statement: that wish came true for the 104 girls that returned to Dapchi unharmed, untouched and alive. We have been told that 5 of the girls died from heart attack or something like that and that one of them, a brave little heart called Liya Sharibu—of whom I am sure movies would be made and books written in the future—held her grounds and refused to denounce her faith before bloodthirsty machine-gun-toting Muslim fundamentalists. I say a prayer for her every time someone mentions Dapchi, and whether in death or life, she would occupy prime real estate in my wall of heroes. I earnestly look forward to her regaining her freedom too!
This was the outcome we wanted, that on both terrestrial and online news outlets, local and international, the lead story would be about the Dapchi girls and their release – and we got it. What we didn’t quite expect was that when it happened, the news would be qualified with the phrase “mixed reaction,” and that made me unhappy because it kind of took something away from the ordeal and psychological trauma the girls must have passed through no matter how nicely they say they were treated by their captors. Driving to work on Thursday morning, the radio station I was listening to, reported in its 7am news broadcast that residents of Bayelsa welcomed the news of the girls’ return with mixed feelings. On one hand they were jubilant that the girls had been freed, but on the other they expressed concern that the government may have made a deal with dangerous repercussion. The reaction from my colleagues at work, my family at home, my friends I chat with and the few people I follow on social media was identical. They all thought something didn’t add up. They can’t quite place a finger on it, but it would seem that the girls coming home have raised more questions than answers.
This was the outcome we wanted, that the girls would come home alive, but the way Lai Mohammed struggled and stumbled on his words as he explained that the insurgents brought the girls back themselves you could tell something was amiss. There was no posturing or beating of the chest as Lai is wont to do. I’m not saying I am an expert in body language or anything like that, but the darting eyes and his use of the word “negotiate,” sent my antennas to work. What sort of negotiation and arm-twisting tactics or skills (that didn’t involve the payment of money or prisoner exchange) did the government suddenly acquire that made the terrorists drive the girls home themselves? I would really like to know. And if security had been beefed up in Dapchi and in the areas around it since the abduction on the 19th of February as has been claimed, and as it should be, how come the vehicles (11 of them, one of the eye-witnesses I saw on CNN said) were able to drive so freely and confidently back into Dapchi and even warning the community not to send their daughters to school and the security forces did nothing about it?
This was the outcome we wanted, but why didn’t anyone try to stop them or have the bad actors become invisible, or so powerful they now kidnap and return just for the thrill of it? I wonder, and so are many Nigerians, foreign observers and organisations like Amnesty International who only a few days ago delivered a damming assessment of the role played by the military prior to the incident in Dapchi.
This was the outcome we wanted, and you can call me paranoid for thinking it, but why wasn’t this ace played to secure the release of the Chibok girls sooner? Could it be a case of double standards? One for the girls abducted during the Jonathan years and another for anyone abducted in this dispensation.
This was the outcome we wanted, that we get all 110 girls back, but we got 104 plus a boy. My heart goes out to those parents who might not be getting their daughters back. We pray that the Lord will strengthen them, but while praying let’s not forget about the boy. This one boy came back with the girls even though no Dapchi parent complained of a missing son. I hope Lai Mohammed would fill us in on that situation when he gets a clearer picture from his visit to Dapchi.
This was the outcome we wanted, but something doesn’t quite add up and in our excitement of seeing those lovely innocent girls and boy reunite with their family and friends, let’s not sweep our concerns under the carpet. If we do, Dapchi could happen again.
This was the outcome we wanted. We have 104 girls and a boy back in Dapchi where they should be and I am extremely joyful. Why then am I pinching myself and hoping that this is not another dream I am having about being from Wakanda?
PHOTO CREDIT: News Agency of Nigeria
This piece first appeared on Bella Naija.