by Amanze Obi
The Jonathan Presidency is having its final romance with Chibok. Nigeria is marking the first anniversary of the abduction of the schoolgirls. As the government of President Goodluck Jonathan bids Nigeria farewell in a few weeks time, it must acknowledge the fact that Chibok was its ultimate Achilles heel.
It was one incident that substantially weakened the hold the government had on power. It remains one huge stigma that the government could not kick off. That is why Chibok remains an issue even in the twilight of the administration.
The Chibok saga, for all intents and purposes, was invented by elements in the opposition in Nigeria as an instrument of blackmail against President Jonathan. It was a deliberate act of mischief directed at a government that was programmed for a fall. But government, the target of the blackmail, did not, at first, understand what all that was all about. It thought Chibok was mere happenstance. It did not realise that it was enemy action.
And because complacency was the defining characteristic of the government, it treated the matter with levity. It wanted to sweep it under the carpet. But it did not realise that there was a design, which Chibok was meant to accomplish. As the government dilly dallied, its enemies began to shout from the roof top. Before government could come to terms with the situation, the prying eyes of the international community was focused on Nigeria. Their attention had been drawn to the oddity. The blackmail had worked. Government was then faced with the huge task of explaining the situation. But explanations would not do. What made sense at that point in time, and even now, was the rescue of the girls.
Then, to deepen the woes of government, a group was put in place to agitate for the rescue of the schoolgirls. Bring Back our Girls agitators seized the stage. They put government on its toes. The government cried foul. It accused the agitators of working for the opposition. Government was probably right on that score. But it still had the responsibility of rescuing the girls. That was the only thing that could make sense. The inability of government to achieve that breakthrough was a huge setback to it. But its loss was the opposition’s gain. The situation emboldened its detractors. Soon, government was reduced to an object of ridicule. That was the unfortunate route that the government of the day went through.
Thus, as it prepares its handover note, it cannot but remember that there was Chibok. That is why it has joined Nigerians in remembering the incident. The National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, has been speaking on the matter. He was reported to have said that Sambisa Forest, where the Chibok girls are believed to be holed up, will be liberated before the handover date of May 29. He was also reported to have assured that the girls would be rescued before the government he is serving bows out.
But no matter what we try to say or do now, Chibok, whatever it means or connotes in Nigeria of today, has been consigned to the ash heaps of modern history. We may choose to remember the issue, surrounding the schoolgirls one year after the frenzy seized us as we are doing now. But that is how far it can go. Chibok merely spells frenzy. And that is what is going on now.
For want of what to say or do next about Chibok, Nigerians are busy theorising and pontificating over the issue. As always, they are trading blames over the delay in the rescue of the schoolgirls. The legendary failure of the government in this matter is being played up, perhaps, for the last time. That is why Col. Dasuki had to rise to the occasion. Because the government that was drowned by Chibok has not left the stage, Col. Dasuki has decided to remind us that there is still a government in place. The NSA did not go off the mark. He was only drawing attention to the efforts of the government that has been buffeted to no end over its inability to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.
But even before Dasuki gave his assurances, the owners of the Chibok project had already stepped forward to claim their heritage. Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the chief priest of the Chibok grove, has said, as he has always done, that he would rescue the schoolgirls. Even though the schoolgirls were reported to have been missing some one year ago, hope over their rescue has not dimmed for worshippers at the Chibok grove.
But then, the optimism of the Chibok pontifices beats the imagination. They seem to possess a magic wand, which is clearly distant from the rest of us. They usually approach the issue with effortless ease. They seem to be experts in counter-insurgency. That may explain why the terrorist scourge took an immediate nosedive the moment the presidential election went the way of the magical ‘chibokers’. Now, they appear set to demonstrate their magical prowess, a feat the government of the day was far from accomplishing.
Even though the worshippers at the Chibok grove are yet to demonstrate to the world the sweeping powers of their possession, the people are already full of expectation. And this brings us to the doubt that has been existing in the minds of some Nigerians over Chibok. There are those who held and still hold that Chibok is not real. They will tell you that the story is sheer contrivance. They insist that no schoolgirls were abducted. When they do not go to such extremes, they will advance certain conspiracy theories, notably, that the abduction was the handiwork of enemies of government, who would be too eager to present another set of girls and pass them off as Chibok schoolgirls the moment they are sure that such an action will suit their purpose. This, they say, will be easy to achieve since the real identity of the so-called schoolgirls is hardly known.
This is part of the confusion that surrounds Chibok. But the expectation is that all of that have to change since the real owners of the Chibok project are about to take over. One day, the incoming government will announce that it has rescued the girls. Nigerians will believe them, even if the claim is false. After all, Nigerians believed all the lies of the opposition during the electioneering campaigns. Such compulsive belief has to continue.
The tendency of Nigerians to believe whatever the incoming government will be telling them will be reinforced by the fact that, so far, the insurgents seem to have withdrawn into their shell without prompting. The mere pronouncement of Buhari as winner of the presidential polls has weakened their resolve to fight. They appear to be at one with the development. Thus, even before the ascension of Buhari, the terrorist elements, who are behaving like his lieutenants are already giving the impression that all is well. So, if the mere mention of Buhari is enough to douse the fire power of the terrorists, then many Nigerians will have no problem ascribing a certain magic wand to the government and believing whatever it dishes out to the people.
And if it is taken for granted that the incoming government has some magical powers, then there should be no problem in locating and rescuing the girls. Those holding them will simply reach out to their principal in the incoming dispensation and the deal will be wrapped up.
If we stretch this a bit further, we will be saying that we will not have cause to remember and worry about the Chibok girls beyond this time. There will be no second anniversary of the abduction. We will soon be saying that all is well that ends well. When that happens, we will no longer worry so much about what the situation used to be. We will rather be concerned about how the people found the tree for the woods.
That is the mood of optimism that pervades the political space. The concerned people of Borno State, headquarters of Chibok and, indeed, of terrorism in Nigeria, took the mood of the moment to the heights when they returned their governor, Kashim Shetima, with about 95 per cent of their votes. By that action, the people of the state have passed a vote of confidence in the governor. They have simply said that he was excellent in his fight against terror. This is in spite of the fact that the man did nothing to stem the tide of insurgency in his territory. He was only adept in the blame game, passing the buck to the government at the centre. Yet, all of that earned him a resounding success at the polls. The secret of this is the new culture of belief we are talking about. Such uncritical belief promises to be the mainstay of the new order. Reason and scrutiny may have ended with the present order.
Dr. Amanze Obi runs a column in Daily Sun, BROKEN TONGUES where this article first appeared. He served as a commissioner under former governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State Obi can be reached via email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.