#BringBackOurGirls! By Kennedy Emetulu

When have had our presidential election and President Goodluck Jonathan
hated deeply by Boko Haram has lost. That means he would not be there as from
the end of next month when he hands over to the winner, General Muhammadu
Buhari. We as a nation are celebrating several things at the moment. We are
celebrating the election of a man whose perseverance and insistence on getting
to the top is inspiring; we are celebrating a president who considers the
wellbeing of his nation and its people far and above his own personal ambition;
we are celebrating the peace that we are still enjoying despite all the hues
and cries about Armageddon, whichever way the presidential election goes. But
there is still one celebration we are not doing.
The darkest day of our history since the annulment of the June 12 election
was 15 April 2014, the day we were told over 200 young girls of school age were
kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from Government Secondary School, Chibok in
Borno State at a time they were preparing to sit for their West African School
Certificate Examination. It wasn’t that the Boko Haram insurgents hadn’t killed
more people in their campaign at the time. In fact, before then on February 25
2014, the insurgents had gone to the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in
Yobe State where they slaughtered 59 male students. The nation choked in horror
at all these atrocities. But it was the kidnap of the Chibok young girls that
emblematized all that is wrong with our country. It was what announced us
internationally as real barbarians.
The significance of the Chibok kidnap is at several levels. The victims
were young girls from a part of the country where female education is not
particularly encouraged socially or through deliberate government policy. We
are talking of a part of the country that needs human and material investment
in education like the body needs blood. Yet, here is an insurgent group that as
a policy is against Western education going about killing and kidnapping
students and destroying schools. Parents who thought they had foresight to send
their female children to school were railroaded on a guilt trip as they dropped
dead one after the other in lonely agony over the loss of their children.
Today, no one knows what state these girls are in, but it cannot be good.
When they were kidnapped, Nigerians and the world rose as one to ask they be
returned. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag became the most popular in the world
and their group of campaigners became a permanent sight in Abuja. It’s been
almost a year now and we still don’t have the girls back. Boko Haram has sworn
to hold on to the girls until Jonathan leaves or converts to Islam and until
their own militants held in Nigerian jails are released.
I would have thought Jonathan’s loss in the election and the celebration of
Nigerians welcoming a new epoch should be the best signal to Boko Haram to
release these girls who have been to hell and back. Why are they still holding
the girls when Jonathan is on his way out in a matter of few weeks? Shouldn’t
they be joining the nation in celebration of the election of Muhammadu Buhari
by using this opportunity to give us the gift of the girls’ release as a sign
of their goodwill and readiness to join the rest of us to build a new nation?
Why are the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners and the rest of us silent about the
girls now in the midst of our celebration? Why are we not out there in full
campaigning that these girls be released before the inauguration of a new
government, so that dark part of our history is closed? Yes, the trauma
counselors and medical team would take the girls away to be looked after, but
this would mark a true beginning for our nation.
I think the Buhari team needs to be proactive now. They need to begin now
to reach out to the Boko Haram people to signal that they would be ready to
talk with them once they come to government at the centre. The point must be
made to the insurgents that the incoming government is not ready to inherit or
carryover the liabilities of the Yar’Adua and Jonathan governments where Boko
Haram is concerned. They must tell the militants they are prepared to start on
a clean slate, but that the militants must show goodwill and willingness to
negotiate by releasing the girls before inauguration. Buhari must not just sit
there and say he’s waiting to take over government first before he can do
anything and he must know that a military solution will never bring the girls
back. He needs to begin work on this now.
As for the rest of us, there’s no way to hide the fact that the longer the
girls remain in captivity, the more diminished we are as a people. The national
and international silence over these girls now is a scandal! We need to up the
ante now! We need to reenergize the campaign to get them back! Boko Haram should
release those girls now as a sign that they are ready to negotiate with the new
Buhari government once President Jonathan leaves. Jonathan won’t be taking the
credit for such a release as the Buhari era has started from the moment he was
declared winner of this historic election, so everyone would know that it’s his
election that opened the opportunity for the release of the girls.

So, people, let’s all get back actively on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign
now! It must be our duty to ensure the girls are released before inauguration
on May 29, 2015.
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