When Israel was in a state of catharsis, when it was surrounded by enemies and it appeared as if the nation would cave in, Jeremiah asked a question which was to be answered centuries later. “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”
Jeremiah was in a state of agitation, he could not understand why a nation betrothed to God should live such riotous life! Invariably, he was speaking to us.
As our nation is passing through a state of ferment as a result of a concatenation of events, it will therefore not be apposite to ask, like Jeremiah, if there is no physician here to heal us. Who will save us from Boko Haram? Who will save us from the troubles and pains and sorrows of these children of Satan? Who will save us from these evil reincarnates who derive psychedelic joy from spilling the blood of their brothers and sisters? For how long shall we continue to groan and moan under the crutches of these incubuses feasting on the corpse and carcass of the nation? In fact, how long shall a nation under God continue to bear this, burying its citizens week after week in shallow mass graves?
The abduction of 276 students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, a remote village in Borno State, has unsettled me, if it does not drive shivers down your spines. I watched our First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan on Channels Television as she cried openly and I broke down crying too. As a parent, I feel for the girls, I feel for their parents too. I feel their pain and sorrow and imagine what could be the fate of their children. Of course we must unite against terror; we must speak up and demand for greater and quicker government response to this national tragedy. Today it is Chibok; tomorrow it could be anybody and everybody. We must demand for a complete and serious overhaul of our security system to make it responsive to the challenges of the century.
As it was widely reported, the girls had come on the 14th of April to sit for their exams with high hopes of a rosy future, but Boko Haram insurgents cut that ambition short as they emerged from nowhere like commandos and carted them away in truck loads in a Rambo-like manner.
However, I do not know the location of Chibok in the map of Borno state so as to know if it is a border town or not, but what happened and the manner it happened is suspicious and makes me ask questions. How can a terror group breeze into the country and abduct over 200 persons and run away without a shot from our military and other agencies? By the way, were there no police checkpoints along the roads where the insurgents travelled? Are the insurgents spirits?, and how come that none of the trucks carrying the students was intercepted on the way? If Chibok is a border town in Borno state, where were the Immigration and Customs departments? With the recent vituperations of Governor Nyako of Adamawa State against the President, one is inclined to believe that this may be a ruse after all, that the plot is a Northern agenda crafted by the governors in the zone to heat up the polity and create confusion in the country to make Jonathan odious to the nation so that he does not contest the 2015 election.
The recent revelation by the West African Examinations Council that it formally wrote to Borno State Government to relocate the students registered for the exam to Maiduguri for security reasons but it refused and went ahead to conduct it upon the glaring insecurity is enough for us to smell a rat. Mr. Charles Ewerido who is in charge of WAEC National Office in Nigeria revealed at the Presidential Villa that the Borno State Government promised to provide adequate security, but all it did was to put one hapless and harmless warden there.
Besides, there are many conflicting information about the episode, which makes one ask if the whole thing was not stage-managed by the Borno State Government. For instance, the information from Borno says that Chibok Secondary School is an all-female college, but WAEC from its record is insisting that the school is not an all-female school as Borno state Government is making us believe. Moreover, there are conflicting figures of the number of students abducted. While the government says the number is 223, the police are saying that 276 students were actually involved.
But whatever it is, the way and manner the abduction took place is suspicious, one is inclined to say that the Borno State Government has not told us the entire story. The governor, Alhaji Shettima who was previously on the watch-list of sponsors of Boko Haram certainly has many questions to answer. In fact the Chibok adventure has laid bare the porosity of our security system and amplified the view across the country that no one is safe anymore.
But what is disturbing in all these is that it is almost one month since that worrisome incident took place but the army and those charged with our national security have not come up with clues as to their whereabouts, let alone effecting their release. The Nigerian military through Mr. Olukolade made a promise to rescue the abducted students unharmed as early as possible, but days have ran into weeks, and yet there is no hope even after series of high level security meetings. The belief of many including the parents of the abducted students is that they may have been taken outside the borders of Nigeria.
However, I wonder why there is increased level of terrorism in the north despite all the efforts by the government to bring this under control. The federal government under President Jonathan has invested heavily on security especially in the North East but the result has not been commensurate with the money spent there. We should be careful how money is pumped to the zone by making sure it is not used to fuel Boko Haram.
President Jonathan last week set up a presidential committee on the Chibok affair. This is a commendable initiative, but my little understanding of security matters tells me that terrorism is such a complex and delicate thing that needs a very high level of secrecy which a committee cannot guarantee to keep. Intelligence and information are crucial in the war against terror. Jonathan should immediately set up a Counter Terrorism Unit with a director that will be directly reporting to him. Terrorism is not like a conventional warfare which needs sophisticated weaponry, it is like guerilla war without an identifiable enemy, what it calls for is a different approach which often involves a high level of intelligence gathering. What the government needs to do therefore is to invest in high-tech security equipment and information gathering if it hopes to win the war.
With this heightened tension in the country the Federal Government should act fast to restore confidence in all of us. We are passing through a transitional period, our national image is at stake and many are confused as to which direction the country is headed. President Jonathan should douse this tension by acting decisively to bring back the girls unharmed.
One of the cardinal reasons for setting up government is to establish justice and secure the lives and property of the governed. Governments everywhere are established to make life less beastly by securing the comfort, happiness, liberty, safety and welfare of citizens. That is why, under the democratic oath, they derive their power from the consent of the governed. But when such duties are under threat as it is at Chibok and many parts of North East, then we need to ask, like Jeremiah, if there is no healing for our people, if there is no balm to soothe our troubled souls and heal our broken legs and skulls and disemboweled frames.
However, we should not lose hope on the rescue of these girls; Jonathan has vowed to bring them back unharmed. We must understand also that Nigeria is not the only country on the throes of terrorism; many nations have passed through such challenges and came out stronger and better. For instance, on July 4, 1976, the government of Israel went on a daring counter terrorist mission to rescue 106 of its citizens held hostage in Uganda. The operation which restored confidence in the government of Yitzhak Rabin was planned for just one week and successfully executed within 90 minutes at Entebe.
In a 35 minutes night operation code-named Operation Thunderbolt, all the seven hijackers and 20 Ugandan soldiers were shot dead with eleven of Uganda’s Air Force planes destroyed. The Israeli Defence Forces acting by the information provided by its Intelligence unit Mossad, successfully rescued the Israeli hostages with only one casualty, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the elder brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And upon its technological inventions and security apparatus all over the world, it took America over ten years to locate and kill Osama bin Laden, the head and mastermind of the terror group Al-Quaeda.
All in all, we should be patient with the government; it does not take some element of magic to root out terrorism. But our security forces must do all in its power, even if that will involve magic, to bring home the girls without a shred of harm. What we demand from them now is a stealth operation that will strike like the Entebe’s Operation Thunderbolt, and be as precise as the American Navy Seal Operation in Abottab, Pakistan that nailed Osama bin Laden.
That is what will give us pride and scare our foes and establish us beyond figures as truly the Giant of Africa.