A Yoke Around Nigeria’s Neck

A Yoke Around Nigeria’s Neck

Yauri. Remember the name. The town located in Kebbi State remains sleepy in spite of the presence of a Federal Government College. But since June 17, 2021, the town has lost all sleep with the date going down as the day the whistle blew to begin a nightmare.

Different dates represent different dreams for different Nigerians with some of those dreams being nightmares. For the girls who became known the world over as Chibok girls, it was April 14, 2014.

For the 59 students brutally roused in the dead of night and rustled to their death at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, Yobe State, the date is February 24, 2014.

For Fr. Isaac Achi who slept inside his rectory but awoke inside a furnace fired up seven times, the date is January 15,2023.

For Yauri, June 17, 2021 remains etched into its memory. On that day which had started like any other day, bandits invaded and abducted 80 students from the Federal Government College.

In spite of piecemeal rescues and releases of the victims, as the invisible clock which ominously ticks towards Nigeria’s doom inevitably closes on the second of the pair of 365 days,11 of the girls remain captive. Many of them are said to have become teenage mothers with others newly pregnant to confirm the horrific theories of sexual slavery that are so popular with the terrorists tormenting Nigeria.

The anguished parents of the girls who have heard only mostly silence from the Nigerian authorities recently cried out to Nigerians to help them raise N100 million so that the demands of the terrorists could be met and the girls released to them.

It is no rocket science to tell that these anguished parents would be receiving back if ever not the daughters they knew and loved but shadows, unrecognizably stretched by the specters that stalk Northern Nigeria. Were familial bonds not so strong, the parents would have as well given up the girls many of whom have now become inseparably joined to their captors by the new life they carry within them or have brought forward already.

What more ignominy can a country suffer at the hands of vicious criminals? What more humiliation, what more indignity does the ‘Giant of Africa’ need to suffer before it rouses itself to confront and confound its mortal enemies? What more does Nigeria need to see before it challenges and changes the pattern which is undeniably clear?

Nigeria is a signatory to the Safe School Declaration, but in the last four years, where in Nigeria has been more unsafe than schools?

The kids ripped off Bethel Baptist Secondary School Chikun in Kaduna State spent months in captivity. To secure their freedom, the Baptist Convention spent about N250 million. The children from Tegina in Niger State who spent 89 days in captivity were snatched from their school.

Nigeria is a country where public officers send their children to the safety and tranquility of foreign schools with public funds while the children of the great unwashed are left to languish in dilapidated Nigerian schools where they are easy pickings for dysfunction and predators. Nigeria is a country where criminals who thumb their noses at the redoubtable power of education and have never known the intoxicating freedom that wells between the four walls of a classroom stampede their way into schools, slaughter students and abduct others for ransom and sexual slavery.

Nigeria is a country where mad men hold citizens in alternate spaces carved within the country and dare the government to open its toothless mouth.

For a country so far gone down this route, what way to redemption? What way to restoration? What way to recovery?

For the long-suffering parents of the girls abducted from Yauri, it has been many long days and nights without the warmth of their children’s words and weight. For all of them, it has been an unimaginable fate that fascinates only their tormentors and collaborators.

It speaks to the stark unseriousness of a country that should be doing everything to uphold the rights of its children, especially its girls, that close to two years have now passed and the girls remain with their captors some of whom have now become their husbands.

The forced unions in many ways project the horrifying picture that paints a thousand words about Nigeria at the moment: of disgruntled sections of the country forcibly joined together in a failed marriage of convenience, and of a country horribly wed to a mountain of varied but vicious challenges, with  the weed of discontent sprouting all over it.

The 2023 general election is at the doorstep of Nigerians, but will Nigerians pounce like wounded wolves to seize the day and sculpt the next four years into the shape that best suits them?

Given how staggeringly leadership has failed in Nigeria in the last eight years, have Nigerians learnt enough brutal lessons to leave their oppressors and tormentors with a few lesions of their own this time around?  It is hoped that Nigerians are ready.

The same hope springs eternal for the Yauri girls, the Chibok girls and all those who have tasted captivity and remain in captivity even now, within their own country. No matter how long the night lasts, dawn will break.

Kene Obiezu, @kenobiezu

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