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It was two gruesome years penultimate Thursday since the Chibok girls went missing following their abduction by the Islamic terrorist group called Boko Haram.
That fateful night, 276 school girls were forcefully abducted from their school hostels in the quiet Chibok community in southern Borno State. The students were “loaded” into big waiting trucks. On their way out, one of the trucks broke down. While trying to fix it, 57 of the students managed to escape, leaving the other 219 stuck(?) in the hands and enclaves of the Boko Haram gang.
Too soon, and understandably so, the abduction of the school girls caught a global attention, after the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign kicked off. In all the corners of the earth, the Chibok girls’ fate was a topical issue.
Many countries sent troops and military aids aimed at, not only rescuing the Chibok girls, but also routing and decimating the Boko Haram terrorists.
And for a while, it seemed the end of the Boko Haram menace was near, so near. Hopes rose sharply at the rescue and return of the abducted girls, what with the drones, fighter and surveillance jets etc. that were deployed. France, Germany, US, Japan, Israel, United Kingdom, etc., all came calling and collaborating with the Nigerian troop.
Who would have thought that after all the media blitz that heralded those collaborative efforts, that two years after, the same Chibok girls will remain elusive, leaving in their trail trauma and anguish for their parents and indeed a bewildered nation?
It is difficult to explain, how one-by-one, each of the foreign nations who had volunteered their support parked their bags and left us in our lurch.
Not even the regional coalition comprising Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Benin and Nigeria which ought to have reined in the terrorists wherever they may be hibernating within the region, has been able to completely undo the gang. Worse still, the fate and memory of the Chibok Girls is almost now in the dustbin of global history.
In fact, some persons had argued that the Chibok story was a mere creation by political strategists to make Jonathan look very much like a wicked weakling, for the sole purpose of his ouster.
Until the second anniversary of the abduction, Chibok girls were no longer a regular topic of national discourse. Even the BBOG group had seemingly gone weary in the campaign for their rescue.
But penultimate Tuesday, Boko Haram released another 2-minute video clip showing 15 out of the 219 girls all donning the trade mark hijab, raising hope again, that they are indeed alive. Some three mothers who watched the organized video show, identified their daughters in the video.
But pray, where are the other 204 girls? How come it is only 15 girls that were captured in the video? Could it be that the girls have been shared among the Boko Haram overlords and the ones shown are just a set? How come there is no much physical change in their looks, two years after? Is it truly possible that all 219 girls are alive and have been cohesively preserved for two years? How has the gang been able to feed and clothe the girls with all such feminine cares/complexities for two years? Have many of them not been married off by the insurgents?
The poor handling of the Chibok girls’ abduction was a major campaign issue that worked against former President Jonathan. And the unstated belief was that with a Buhari, a retired army general, on the throne, the Boko Haram menace would soon be a thing of the past with the rescue and return of the Chibok girls as one of the assured benefits of Buhari’s return.
But almost a year in office, neither the annihilation of Boko Haram, nor the return of the abducted girls is a done deal. That thus means that the problem was not all with the Jonathan personality or approach.
The confession and admission of President Muhammadu Buhari last January (during his maiden media chat) that he did not have intelligence on the where about and fate of the Chibok Girls, further dampened the hope of their eventual return.
Under Buhari, Boko Haram has been remarkably routed and “degraded”, but the killer group remains as deadly as ever, although with fewer incidences of attacks. It is remarkable that the terrorists are now luring young persons into the fold with loans. This should worry our financial institutions which make it tough getting loans.
It is amazing how despite the frequent reports of the killing and arrest of scores and hundreds of the terrorists, they never really get depleted.
It is even more mystifying that after reports of cutting off their supply links in food and fuel resources, the terrorists still manage to not only exist but also launch attacks.
One popping question is this: from the many Boko Haram members so arrested and detained, how come sufficient intelligence on their modus operandi as well as their armoury, external links, and even location of the Chibok girls have not been extracted from the detained members?
Yes, the notorious “Sambisa forest is as large as Enugu State”, but how come it is impregnable?
Perhaps more worrisome is how the Nigerian government seems to be pampering the Boko Haram menace. Those who are arrested and detained are treated like Kings in Kuje prison, Abuja. They enjoy preferential treatment in the name of re-orientation and de-radicalisation of the insurgents. They even have access to internet facilities and communication equipment, which they use in communicating with insurgents still in the field/forest. They organize and co-ordinate attacks even from prison, while being fed and pampered by tax payers’ money.
Few weeks ago, Cameroun executed some convicted Boko Haram members. Cameroun has not recorded even a tenth of what damage Boko Haram has wrought in Nigeria. Yet they have already recorded execution of condemned persons. But we are still labouring to re-orientate and de-radicalise those who have chosen to kill and be killed.
The Republic of Chad, last year, banned the wearing of hijab in public places as a way of checking the spate of suicide bombers. Chad is a preponderantly Muslim country, yet they had the courage to ban the wearing of hijab. But in Nigeria where Muslims are almost in the same number as Christians, we have not had the courage to ban the wearing of hijab. The consequence is that in the last three or more months the female teenage suicide bombers are all those using the hijab to cover up the IEDs they strap around their bodies.
We are better made up our minds if we are going to tackle Boko Haram like enemies or like allies.
All said, President Buhari must realize that in all he does, the eventual fate of the abducted Chibok girls will either swell or sink his approval rating.
Budget Blues and the Common Man
Did you hear that the inflation figures rose to 4.8 per cent last month, thus making it the highest in four years?
Why will it not rise when the national lawmakers are dithering over the budget? How can it be explained that this is middle of April and we are still going back and fro with the national budget for 2016 when they should be gearing up for the 2017 budget?
Why are you making it look like the lawmakers are the problem? Blame it on the Buhari style of government wherein everything comes slow and in droplets. Are you not aware of all that has befallen this budget? Did you not hear at a time that the budget was missing? After it was found, they discovered that it was heavily padded by some “executive ghosts”? Did you expect the lawmakers to pass the budget, just like that?
So who was it that padded the budget? Was it the lawmakers or the budget mafias in the ministries?
Are you asking me? Are you not following how some ministers added some projects into the original budget? Are you not in this country?
You talk as if you did not hear of how the lawmakers in the lower house engrafted many projects including street lights, town hall and supply of tricycles and grinding machines into the national budget as if it is a local government budget.
And after the padding had been redressed, the lawmakers not only removed as much as N17 billion from the budget, they added several more items amounting to N40 billion in the House of Reps alone, as if they are the author of the budget? I don’t know by how much the senate influenced the budget.
Pray, what is the business of a federal government and town hall? How does a town hall develop the country? Can’t you see how some of these lawmakers abuse their privileges of appropriating the budget?
Look, the lawmakers, in exercise of their privilege of appropriating the budget, have the right to re-cast the entire budget. They can remove and add items as they deem fit, guided by the overall interest of the nation.
Is that why town hall is in a national budget, for instance? How many towns are in Nigeria for a federal budget to accommodate an inconsequential project like town hall which will be built with N100 million? What kind of town hall is that? If you check, it will be the town of one of the leaders of the House of Representatives. Does that community not have a town Union? Look, if such silly shenanigans are not stopped right now, next time, they will engraft the kitchen of their grandmothers into the national budget. Hey, Can we be serious for once in this country!
So you are justifying Buhari’s refusal to assent to the passed budget? Do you know the implication of this in the economy?
I am not justifying anything. I am saying we must show seriousness. Did you expect President Buhari to blindly sign such a budget into law, just like that? Do you know that the foundation of corruption is laid during the budgeting process?
And let me shock you with this: do you know that right now, the budget has been reduced to a bargaining chip? Do you know that the senate is holding on to the budget so they can use it to negotiate the fate of Saraki at the CCT? If you doubt me, ask your senator.
You have not answered my question. Do you know the implication of this delay of signing the budget on the life of the common man on the street?
You can direct your question to the lawmakers who have a perennial habit of distorting a budget all in the name of exercising their right of appropriation.
And if I may add, please tell them to face the business for which they were elected: to make laws for the order and good governance of the country. QED! They were not elected to become contractors or project supervisors.
You talk out of banal ignorance. You don’t know the lawmakers have a responsibility to attract federal government projects to their various constituencies so as to impress their constituents that they are effective at the centre? If they fail to achieve this, why will they be re-elected next time?
Get it straight. Lawmakers are principally to make laws. If they want to attract projects to their constituencies, they can do so by influencing the executive members to accommodate their interests, not that they will wait for the budget prepared by the executive and begin to yank off some projects and engraft their own in the name of appropriation. We must do things rightly. Go and tell them.
Let me tell you, the longer the budget is delayed for whatever reason, the greater the chances of the failure of the budget. The rains are almost here. Not much of road construction can take place during the rain, for instance. With the year gone into the second quarter already, the year’s budget seems disabled ab initio.
Look, we must insist on propriety. It is because lawmakers always hijack the past budgets that the nation has been experiencing budget failures. That is why so much will be expended every year and we don’t get to see the impact on the ordinary man on the street. This is a regime of Change. And it must be reflected on all aspects including budget.
It is consoling that the Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara has accepted to meet President Buhari to review the grey areas, and I hope the senate will hear the murmur in the polity and do the needful expeditiously by addressing the issues so the budget is signed without further delay.