“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.” - Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan Activist for Female Education)
Sunday, April 14th, 2019 marks 5 years since the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the Government Secondary School in the rustic town of Chibok, Borno State. So far, 164 girls have either escaped, were released or found. However, 112 #ChibokGirls still remain in captivity. But the depth of grief and bitterness, from the sense of loss and frustration felt by the abducted girls’ parents and loved ones, continues to abide. Five years after that criminality by the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, the federal government did not learn from the abduction of the #ChibokGirls. Monday, February 19, 2018, 111 secondary school girls, one primary school girl and boy were abducted from Government Girls Science & Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State by a splinter group of Boko Haram. 31 days after, 5 died in captivity, 106 of the girls and the boy were released. Leah Sharibu remain in custody because she refused to renounce her faith. On March 1, 2018, Saifura Ahmed & Hauwa Liman (Red Cross) were abducted and later executed while United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) worker, Alice Ngaddah is still in captivity. Nothing so far has been able to attenuate the feeling of hollowness created by the lengthy absence of these girls. President Muhammadu Buhari had promised that no efforts would be spared “to see that they and all other Nigerians who have been abducted safely regain their freedom.” However, as days turned to weeks, months and now years, even that promise and the flicker of hope it ignited now seem like echoes from a distant past. The sum total of what has unfolded so far is that we have a nation that has failed her citizens in more ways than one. First, this is an abduction that should never have happened at all had the government carried out its responsibility of providing the schoolgirls with the security that they rightly deserved; they were on their school premises, preparing for their final examinations, and did not err in any way by doing so. Second, the privacy of the school, having been violated and the girls taken away, it was the responsibility of the government to mount a prompt response for their rescue. Sadly, none of these was done.
As the federal government intensifies efforts to secure their release, including through dialogue, for the parents of the kidnapped and still in captive, the waiting continues until their children are back, preferably alive. There is urgent need for the National Assembly to work with the Presidency towards the safe return of the remaining 112 girls as well as that of the lone Dapchi school girl, Leah Sharibu, who was held back by the insurgents on account of her Christian faith. Without the return of the remaining girls, the promise of the constitution that the welfare of Nigerians shall be the primary purpose of government will continue to ring hollow. Therefore, giving up on rescuing the remaining girls cannot be an option for any self-respecting society, especially when education remains the only path to sustainable progress and the anchor of any serious government. We truly need an atmosphere where our girls will not be afraid to go to seek knowledge.