Releasing the Chibok Girls: If I Were Jonathan

How would you respond to a command, not a request, from a band of armed men who invaded your house at the dead of night and, with the nozzle of gun menacingly pointing at you, order you to lie with your daughter or else, they would rape her and kill her in your presence? But they did not only end there, they took the joke a notch further by threatening to kill your wife if you did not play along with them. How would you just respond to such insane and bizarre command from these sin-sick souls drunk with the blood of the innocent?

To be honest, it is a hard thing, something batty and loony which no sane person would ever contemplate. But such is indeed the situation our President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has fallen into.

The request last week by the Boko Haram insurgents for the Federal Government to release their members detained in various security posts as a precondition for releasing the 276 Chibok students is like forcing a man to have an affair with his daughter! It is like standing between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is a disturbing thing for anybody to do, and yet, Mr. President wants the girls to come home without a scratch. How would he handle this pain in the neck?

No doubt, Mr. President is in the eye of the storm. From Jerusalem to Johannesburg, from Santiago to San Francisco and unto the remotest part of the earth, the refrain everywhere and every time is: “BRING BACK OUR GIRLS!” No one wants to know if the girls are real or imagined; whether it is a script choreographed by the Northern elites to bring the President into disrepute or something that actually happened. All they want is that the girls must be brought back; and alive!

I have weighed the two options and found it very difficult to decide. To release Boko Haram insurgents in exchange for our girls is not the best thing for any government to do, more so when we are fighting to exterminate this scourge. And to allow the militants hold our girls smacks of callousness which no government founded on the objective of safeguarding life and property of the citizenry can hardly condone. So what do we expect Mr. President to do?

First, I expect Mr. President to negotiate with Boko Haram so that our girls can be released unharmed. Although I am aware that such negotiation, especially coming at this time government is battling to save its image, may not be the best because it will negotiate from a position of weakness, I am fully convinced something good will come out of it. Besides, such negotiation, I further believe, may be a prelude to a lasting solution to the insurgency once contact is established with the Boko Haram leadership.

Secondly, if the above option does not bear fruit, I am of the opinion, even if that would mean losing face, that Jonathan heeds the demand of Boko Haram leader, Ibrahim Shekau, for government to release the insurgents in its custody in exchange for the girls. I must say this again, this is not the best thing to do, but going by the situation the nation finds itself, the best thing is to pay whatever price and lick whatever wound so long as we extricate ourselves from this quagmire. Boko Haram is holding the nation by the jugular, it is like a tsetse fly perching precariously on the scrotum, and it cannot give way without making sure it has sucked enough quantity of blood.

Dialoguing with Boko Haram is like dialoguing with the deaf, this is a terror group that is not only demanding for a pound of flesh but is determined to inflict collateral damage on the nation, that is why it cannot give way without something big in return.

The government has said severally that it cannot enter into prisoner swap deal with Boko Haram. Of course no one expects government to say anything otherwise, but if all diplomatic efforts fail, I advise Jonathan to accept the prisoner swap option. This is because the life of one of the students is more precious to us as a nation than the lives of all the sect members put together.

This, perhaps, explains the reason behind the several prisoner swaps the Israeli government has undertaken in all its efforts to starve off its enemies and secure its territorial integrity. For instance, Israel had to release all of the Palestinian prisoners of war after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war in exchange for all Israeli soldiers and civilians captured during the war. In 1956, Israel Defence Force released 40 Syrian soldiers held captive in exchange for four of its soldiers, including the body of one of them, Uri Ilan who committed suicide in prison. And even after the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel released over 6,000 prisoners of war including civilians from Egypt, Syria, Jordan etc. in exchange for just 15 Israeli soldiers. Indeed, Israel can go to any length to appease their enemies just to retrieve the body of a dead Israeli soldier because they place high premium on the life of its citizens. At a time like this when all pressure are on the government to bring back the girls, Jonathan should swallow his phlegm and do the needful.

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