By Eddy Odivwri,
At a time when the nation was almost being enveloped with gloom and near nothingness, the news, last Wednesday morning, of the return of 105 abducted Dapchi girls by the Boko Haram insurgents themselves, was such a warm and exciting news break.
It rejuvenated the Nigerian hope, and a bubbling blink for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government.
For the people of Dapchi, Yobe State, February 19 and March 21, 2018, will remain cardinal dates for a long time to come. While 110 school children were successfully abducted from their school on February 19, 105 girls were driven back home by their captors on March 21. Surely, it is good news!
But there is the other side of the story: while five of the girls died as a result of stress and trauma and given mass burial, according to the reports.
One of the girls, Liya Sharibu, was held back by the captors simply because she refused to denounce her Christian faith. The story was told of how the captors had given her the option of denouncing Christ and converting to Islam, but that she refused to denounce her faith. And perhaps to teach her a lesson or to break her resolve/faith in her belief, the captors refused to let her go. She was the only Christian among all the abducted girls.
While some would argue that she could have just pretended to have accepted the Islamic faith, just so she would regain her freedom, and thereafter re-embrace her religion, other Christian faithful have commended her resolve to stand by her faith even in the face of obvious adversity and peril. Will her loneness now break her? Will she insist on Christ or nothing? Surely, she deserves the prayers of the faithful!
Interestingly, her father had gone on radio (Ray Power FM) to commend the decision of his daughter, even though he is understandably sad that her daughter has not made it back like the other 105 girls.
But as an aside, there are few tricks to the arithmetic of the number released. If 110 girls were abducted, and five died, and one other was withheld, how come 105 still returned? Should it not be 104?
Whatâ€™s more, the narrative from the presidency says the returnees also included a boy. Was a boy among the abducted schoolgirls on February 19? Or was he previously or subsequently abducted on his own and later returned along with the girls?
Indeed, the initial statement from the Minister of Information had said the number of girls released is 76.
Whatever it is, there is joy in the land over the return of the girls.
Many had also asked how the insurgents were able to drive into Dapchi to drop off the girls, without a glitch. The official explanation was that there was an agreement during the negotiation for the release, that the insurgents will be the ones to bring the girls themselves. And that there should/would be no confrontation with the security forces on the ground. Hmmmmm. Some have argued that the same laxity and careless dereliction of duty that made it possible for the insurgents to successfully abduct the girls, in the first place, may have also made it possible for the return of the girls without any confrontation. You can believe any of the sides.
But it is remarkable that long before now, there had been enough signs that the Dapchi case was going to be a softer nut to crack. The first signal came from Mrs Aisha Wakil, aka Mama Boko Haram, a rights activist, who seems to have carved a niche for herself by being an authentic link to the Boko Haram insurgents.
She it was, who first announced that the leader of the the Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, which abducted the Dapchi girls is a â€œnice guyâ€.
She had narrated that it was the Boko Haram insurgents who themselves called her to confirm that the abducted girls were with them and that they are safe and will be treated nicely.
She further said she had pleaded with the abductors to ensure that this does not go like the Chibok girlsâ€™ saga.
â€œI pleaded with them that this should not be another 1,000-plus days of Chibok girls, and they laughed and said no.
â€œI asked them where I can come and stay with them (girls) for two days, but they did not say anything.
â€œI can assure Nigerians that so far they are with my son Habib and his friends; Habib is a nice guy, he is very nice boy. He will not harm them, he will not touch them, and he will not kill them.
â€œHe is going to listen to us, and so far he indicated interest that he loves peace. And I love them for that and believe what they said on this.
â€œThey will definitely give us the girls. All I am begging Nigerians is to calm down, be prayerful, everything will be over in God graceâ€.
That assurance was given verve last Wednesday as some of the released girls also confirmed that they were very nicely treated, with no harassment or molestation.
Well, some have asked the cost of this release. Did the insurgents suddenly become so gospelled to return the abducted girls, just like that? That is what the government would want us believe. But those close to the negotiation process indicate that â€œsomething had to giveâ€. So what was it that gave?
The Minister of Defence, about a week before the return of the Dapchi girls, had spoken on national television with good assurance that the abducted girls would soon be released. What was the basis of that confidence? Was it for free that the girls were released? Not likely!
In times past, such negotiations are characterised by the release of some arrested and detained insurgents, just as some hard currency cash is paid . Sadly, with such cash, usually huge, the insurgents are able to procure more arms, attract more and deadlier terrorists and with which they kindle their terrorist acts.
That perhaps explains why despite the swan song of having degraded Boko Haram, it is yet kicking with fatal consequences.
And so the question is, why has the federal government – using the same methods with which Dapchi was achieved, not been able to completely effect the release of the Chibok girls?
The 276 Chibok girls were abducted from their school on April 14, 2014. It is almost four years now. While some have been released, courtesy of this governmentâ€™s negotiation, a total of 113 girls are yet to be released.
It is now clear that the Boko Haram faction that abducted the Chibok girls is the harder and less nice faction. They have simply held back the remaining girls as bargaining chips, just as many of the girls have been married off to the insurgents themselves, with some having children already.
Many have asked that the federal government should apply the same magic wand with which Dapchi girls were released, to the Chibok case. And more importantly, ensure that henceforth, no such ugly incident occurs again anywhere in the country. The security of lives and properties is the raison dâ€™etre of any government, primarily and this cannot be overemphasised.
Already, some parents and even the girls have sworn never to get back to any classroom again, if that would imperil their lives and freedom. For a region that is famously backward in education, such a vow will push them further down the ladder of ignorance and underdevelopment.
Pix: Lai Mohammed.jpg
Help, Lagos is Still Very Dirty
or a city that prides itself not only as a mega city and aspiring to be one of the leading cities in the world, embroidered with the appellation of Centre of Excellence, the mounds and mounds of filth and garbage lining up the streets is perhaps the best description of irony. How can a Centre of Excellence be this dirty?
I hear and see that Gov Akinwunmi Ambode is working very hard to raise the bar of governance in Nigeria. He, and not the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, I thought, should be tagged as Mr Project. But that is a matter for another day.
What I do not know is whether or not Gov Ambode drives round the city as most of his predecessors did, especially at the dead of the night to have a good encounter with the undressed Lagos city.
If he does, he would be anything but proud of the mass and mass of garbage that litter the streets from Ijesha to Ijedodo, or from Ajah to Ajamgbadi, Ikoyi to Ikotun, or even from Lawanson to Lekki etc. Just everywhere bears the sad tales of a filthy city. As I drive from one part of the city to another, nearly everyday, the confrontation with the array of dirt is nerve-racking. It is almost as if the garbage collectors are either on holidays or on strike.
With the scrapping of PSP garbage collection method and the subsequent introduction of the Visionscope company to handle our garbage, there is obvious gap in capacity to deliver.
I have seen the new and seemingly beautiful green-orange garbage bins, along with some overall-wearing women serving as street managers (cleaners). The seeming glitter of these facilities has not translated to Cleaner Lagos. The bins, I think are rather fragile. Whatâ€™s more, hardly have I seen any such bin not ever over-filled with garbage spilling over several metres within the circumference of the waste disposal bin. They probably appear not deep enough, which makes it unable to hold as many trash. They are also too few. For a city hosting as many as over 20 million persons, and generating 13,000 metric tons of waste per day, the number of garbage bins introduced seem obviously too small. Worse still, clearing the bins seem too slow and rather seldom. The consequence is that the streets are dutifully dressed in filth and fecal. Many of the places simply ooze with degenerate miasma. How could a bin filled with such soft wastes like belly of fishes, entrails of chickens, and all such smelly content remain uncleared for days, and still expect the environment to remain sanitized and safe? It is even worse when such wastes are not properly bagged.
And because there are wastes everywhere, the natural habitat for rodents such as rats and roaches is boosted. The rats in turn come at night to ravage whatever that may have been properly bagged. And the resultant spread of rubbish is wide. This is one of the strongest reasons for the patronage of the kole-kole garbage boys. People have to arrange for their own refuse clearing mechanisms. But how many things do we have to do for ourselves: provide our own water, our own electricity, our own security, sometimes our own roads, and now our own refuse collectors. Haba!
It is the failing of the organized refuse collection by LAWMA that led to the introduction of the Visionscope. Thus far, it is clear that neither LAWMA nor Visionscope has got the capacity to manage the waste of this mega city. Something has to be done to save us from the shame and hazard inherent in the present status quo.
For a city so desirous of attracting foreign investment and which also touts an inclination to promoting tourism, the dominating presence of garbage all over town is antithetical and reprehensible. Does Ambode see the garbage in town?
Unless it is sufficiently and effectively managed, it holds the potential of triggering a city-wide epidemy. Deus avertat.