THE RELEASE OF 82 CHIBOK GIRLS

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Cheering as it is, there is much more to do to restore order to the nation

Following the release of a new set of 82 abducted Chibok schoolgirls last weekend, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar spoke for many Nigerians when he said the development indicated what we could achieve as a nation when the people unite around a common cause. “Nigerians stood together as a people with a purpose to free these girls,” he said. “Despite the many setbacks, the government, civil society and the citizens all stood together, and today, we are enjoying this victory as a people”.

While we rejoice with the families of the freed girls and indeed all Nigerians, we must commend President Muhammadu Buhari whose efforts are yielding results. We also join in congratulating the leadership of the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) and the military, the Swiss government and the International Red Cross for the synergy of efforts that led to the release of these girls. We thank the various civil society groups, especially the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, for their persistence and pressure on the federal government and the international community.

Since the violent abduction of more than 200 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok by Boko Haram terrorists in April 2014, their plight has remained a major global concern. And in the last three years, options in the effort to rescue them had ranged from outright military action to futile negotiations and fraudulent prisoner swap deals. Not until October last year when there was a breakthrough with the release of the first batch of 21 girls.

The latest outcome clearly indicated that with the right mix of force, there is hope for the remaining abducted girls. With significant effort by major international partners, the negotiations that have seen to the return of more than a hundred of the girls in the last six months were indicative of a resolve by the Buhari administration to end the Boko Haram insurgency. The challenge of this pleasant outcome is to deepen the engagement process in order to secure freedom for the rest of the girls and all the other hostages of Boko Haram.

However, the peace and victory which Nigerians seek today is a comprehensive one and on all fronts. That is why the Buhari administration must leverage on the success of the ongoing process regarding the release of the abducted Chibok girls to pursue a comprehensive peace and resolution of all other pressures and conflicts around the country.

As things stand, there are by far too many divisive forces at play in the nation today. In the Niger Delta, in the South-east, and the urban and semi-urban areas of the nation, militant forces and separatist pressures have continued to multiply. When all these are combined with the scourge of the Boko Haram sectarian upheaval in the North-east, we are confronted with a picture of a nation at war with itself.

It is therefore our hope that the federal government will exploit this opening to pursue a comprehensive peace process that will give comfort to all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity or religion. The message is clear: In order to advance national goals and begin to resolve the myriad economic and social issues that currently besiege the country, we need peace in Nigeria. Dialogue with critical stakeholders will help to blunt the swords of war and heal the various wounds that afflict the nation.

More than at any period in history, we need an inclusive solution to the divisive violence that has plagued our land in order that all Nigerians can join hands to harness their potential for the development of our country.