News of the rescue of a Chibok schoolgirl kidnapped in April 2014 by the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram hit the world early Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
This is what we know about this story, which appears to still be unravelling.
Two Versions of A Tragic Story
The news first came as an update from the #BringBackOurGirls campaign organisers, later in the day, the story snowballed into a full-blown government public relations story for the Muhammadu Buhari administration as the Nigerian Army began taking credit for the rescue of the girl.
We know because the army press release which was delivered to The Trent through military communication channels was also sent to us by Lai Mohammed’s office. Mohammed is the minister for information and it looks like the federal government wants to milk some PR mileage from this tragic story.
3 Names – How Many Girls? Amina Ali, Falmata Mbalala, Aisha Ali?
As we watched the news unfold, conflicting stories began to roll in. What is the Chibok girl’s name? Activists gave one (Amina Ali) the army gave another (Falmata Mbalala), the school principal gave another (Aisha Ali), Chibok residents say they know her as (Amina Ali). So, three names for the girl began to circulate.
When these conflicting accounts were spotlighted by the Nigerian media, the Army issued a new press statement saying her name is Amina Ali and not Falmata Mbalala. But the question remains, how did they get that name Falmata Mbalala? Who is Falmata Mbalala? How is that person related to this story?
Where Was This Girl Found? Or Rescued? Or Spotted?
Then, there is the issue of how she was found. Bukky Shonibare, one of the leaders of the #BBOG movement in Nigeria says she “escaped from Boko Haram” and was found by local vigilante in a village on the edge of Sambisa forest.
A Chibok youth leader, Manaseh Allan told activists that “the girl was found by local vigilantes in Kilakesa village on the edge of Sambisa Forest near Damboa. She was brought first to Chibok by the vigilantes who took her to the vice-principal of her school, who immediately identified her as Aisha Ali, which is her name in the school register.”
The Nigerian Military say they rescued her along with her 4-month old baby and a Boko Haram “husband” in a different location. They say she was among some hostages freed from Boko Haram in a rescue operation carried out by troops.
“This is to confirm that one of the abducted chibok school girls was among the rescued persons by our troops at Baale near Damboa,” an army press release signed by Colonel Sani Usman, acting director of the Nigerian Army public relations unit said on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.Damboa is 90 kilometres (56 miles) South West of the Borno State capital, Maiduguri.
Another statement by the army appears to say she was somehow spotted at a military roadblock. “In continuation of Operation CRACKDOWN, troops of 25 Brigade Damboa in conjunction with Civilian JTF deployed in one of the blocking positions at Baale, near Damboa rescued one Miss Amina Ali and a suspected Boko Haram terrorist, Mohammed Hayatu, who claimed to be her husband,” Usman revealed in a more detailed press release.
Did Locals Reunite Her With Her Family? Or Did The Army Take Her To Maiduguri?
The activists say she was reunited with her family in Chibok. The Nigerian military say she was flown to Maiduguri to meet with Borno Governor, Ibrahim Shettima, enroute Abuja to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari – along with her terrorist husband whom they are engaging under the terms of Buhari’s amnesty programme for Boko Haram terrorists called Operation Safe Corridor.
Presidential Amnesty for The Boko Haram Terrorist Husband?
For the Nigerian military recognising this man whom they say claimed to be the Chibok girl’s husband as some kind of legitimate party in this affair is terribly disturbing.
“The rescued Chibok school girl, Amina Ali, was airlifted by Nigeria Air Force Super Puma aircraft from Damboa to Maiduguri alongside her baby and supposed husband, Mohammed Hayatu,” the army press statement on Wednesday night said. “Prior to that they were examined at Air Force medical facility and were found to be stable and normal blood pressure was observed. Thereafter, she was released to the Operation LAFIYA DOLE headquarters for further investigation and handing over.”
“In continuation of Operation CRACKDOWN, troops of 25 Brigade Damboa in conjunction with Civilian JTF deployed in one of the blocking positions at Baale, near Damboa rescued one Miss Amina Ali and a suspected Boko Haram terrorist, Mohammed Hayatu, who claimed to be her husband,” another army statement by Usman said as photos of the Hayatu and the Chibok girl, Amina Ali and her baby were shared to the press. See the photos HERE.
“In addition, she is a nursing mother with a 4 month old baby girl who was named Safiya. Both the suspected Boko Haram terrorist and the nursing mother have been taken to Maiduguri for further medical attention and screening,” Usman revealed earlier Wednesday.
Then, it appears the Nigerian government is very eager to demonstrate to the world that the Boko Haram ‘husband’ of Chibok girl is being given a presidential treatment perhaps for being caught with her or for kidnapping her and raping her till she got pregnant. Nobody knows for sure, but read the third army press statement on this matter.
“Meanwhile, the supposed husband is undergoing further investigation at Joint Intelligence Centre,” the statement said. “It should be noted that Mohammed Hayatu is well treated in line with Operation LAFIYA DOLE Rules of Engagement regarding insurgents who voluntarily surrender to the military.”
Are There Two Different Girls? Too Many Questions
At some point, it was convenient to believe that the activists and the army are talking about two different girls. It may be the right move to question narrative of the “rescue of the Chibok schoolgirl girl” as projected by the Nigerian government.
There are several missing links to this story and one begins to question – was this girl a student of Girl’s Secondary School in Chibok? Was she one of those taken from her school dormitory? Or was she one of the victims of another Boko Haram raid? And, again, are there two different girls in this story?
The pictures shared by the Nigerian Army – Are they those of the same girl the activists said was “reunited with her family in Chibok”? The one said to have escaped from Boko Haram? If she escaped from Boko Haram, how come the Boko Haram husband is now flying to Maiduguri by her side – obviously recognised by the government as a legitimate party in her story?
Where is her Chibok family? The one she was “reunited” with? Why is no Chibok parent in the picture of this girl’s rescue or re-emergence?
Why is the Nigerian government so eager in taking credit for this sad turn of event?
Then the other matter… Buhari’s Emotional Well-being
And something to note, President Muhammadu Buhari said that he avoids meeting Chibok parents to preserve his health. Suddenly, he is eager to meet with this girl and her Boko Haram “husband” who participated in her kidnapping, her serial rape with the evidence of her assault – a 4-month old baby daughter.
Anything Chibok, appears to affect Buhari’s emotions health and the president needs to keep his emotions in a healthy mode to govern Nigeria well.
Speaking to CNN’s Christine Amanpour as he attends the global anti-corruption summit hosted by British Prime Minister, David Cameron on Thursday, May 12, 2016, Buhari said,“I saw the families as a group twice. The first time, they came to visit my wife. The second, they came as a group to see me, and the less I see them the better for my own emotional balance.”
Going further, Buhari said, “I try to imagine my 14-year-old year old daughter missing for more than two years. I try to imagine what condition they are in. A lot of the fathers would rather see their graves, than imagine them under such condition.”
Amanpour had asked why his government was suddenly hostile to the Bring Back Our Girls group who were locked out of Aso Rock on the 2nd anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls in April 2016.
In case you missed here, check the story HERE and view the weeping mothers below.