- Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s pessimism raises questions over whether the missing Chibok girls will ever return to the warm embrace of their parents. This is because Chief Obasanjo had last week dropped the bomb when he declared pointedly that over 200 Chibok secondary school girls, abducted in April 2014 in Borno State could not be rescued. Obasanjo portrayed ex-President Goodluck Jonathan as nonchalant towards rescuing the abducted girls, even as he noted that promises to recover the girls could not be fulfilled by this administration considering the length of time they have been away with Boko Haram terrorists. But President Muhammadu Buhari has recently assured European Union, EU that he is determined to rescue the girls alive. Defence Correspondent IORAKPEN ISHU-JOSEF looks at the possibility of finding the Chibok girls alive
Over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014 in their schools dormitories at Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, and since then; there have been pressures from all over the world on the where about of the girls.
Recently, Buhari met with parents of the missing girls and assured them of government’s determination to rescue their daughters alive, but for former president Obasanjo, “Seventy-two hours after the Chibok girls were adopted was too late for their rescue, talk less of getting to two years by April this year. So if any leader is promising to bring back Chibok girls now, he is lying,” Obasanjo said.
Obasanjo made the declaration when he featured on a programme tagged: “7th Roundtable with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,” with the theme: “Reflections of an Elder Statesman: An Evening with OBJ,” organised by the Staff Club of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Answering questions from staffers and students at the event, Obasanjo declared that whoever was promising to bring back the missing Chibok girls almost two years after their abduction, was not sincere, attributing the difficulty in bringing back the girls to what he described as nonchalant attitude of former President Goodluck Jonathan, when the girls were abducted.
He further explained that majority of the girls would have died, while those alive would have been married off, and that sexual violence and human trafficking would have affected others.
But president Buhari rekindled the assurance in far away Strasbourg, France recently when he addressed European Union EU, parliament that, “It may interest you to know that in a recent meeting I had with parents of the Chibok Girls, I assured them that government would not rest until all the Chibok girls are rescued alive. I remain committed to this pledge.
“For our part, we have updated our rules of engagement in fighting terrorism and pay very close attention during operations to the treatment of captured terrorists, civilians caught up in the conflict and in general, safeguarding property. Our aim is to use minimum force necessary in our fight against terrorists.”
However, a poll conducted last week by a national newspaper indicated that it is practically impossible to rescue the girls and there was even doubt if the girls are still alive.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents in the said poll held that the girls can no longer be rescued. Only 26.9 percent believe the girls can still be rescued, while 17.9 percent say they are not sure of what to think.
Many of the 55.2 percent held that time has covered the tracks of the perpetrators of the crime, so the girls can no longer be found.
“If we put into consideration how long this war has been prosecuted with no particular leader of the group, the girls must be married off and separated from each other by now,” one respondent said.
“Deadly Boko Haram cannot keep them all in one place all this long,” said another.
“They must have been dispersed individually to a large geographical area, rescue is thereby impossible. The government can only negotiate. Even at that, they won’t be able to get all of them back,” yet another said.
The trend among those who believe the girls can no longer be rescued is that, too much time has been wasted and the trail is long cold. Yet, there are respondents who held that the kidnap story was a scam in the first place. Respondents with this belief are of the opinion that since the whole story was made up in the first place, one cannot find what was not lost.
“Because I think there weren’t any missing girls from the outset. This was all a high level conspiracy to make the government of ex-president Jonathan incompetent,” a respondent said
Another is also of the view that “Because the so-called missing ‘Chibok girls’ is a scam, it was conceived to rubbish Jonathan’s government and win votes, now the present government is at a loss on how to bring back girls that never existed in the first place,” another said.
One of those who believe that the girls can still be found said, “Neither the government nor the terrorists have said they are dead. Various sources including the military have in the past claimed to know where the girls are, a renowned journalist Ahmed Salkida recently confirmed they are still alive. As a strong advocate of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, I never lose hope on the rescue of the girls” he assured
Different versions about the were about of the Chibok girls has come up at various times with some saying the girls were married off, and some are being used as female suicide bombers which has become frequent in the last one year, while some believe that the girls are still been held in dreaded Sambisa forest, believed to be the last stronghold of the terrorists.
Meanwhile the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, which said Boko Haram has been knocked down in Borno and other parts of the Northeast, admitted that the only battle ground left is in the Sambisa Forest.
The military high command noted that once the battle of Sambisa is over, Boko Haram will become a thing of the past, but the DHQ has pleaded for support from every citizen because it is a Nigerian war against terrorists.
Speaking to the Nigerian Pilot Sunday, the Director Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar who spoke, against the backdrop of the allegation by Senator Baba Kaka Garbai that half of Borno State is still being occupied by Boko Haram, noted that the current situation was clear on how much the military have decimated Boko Haram. “Technically, we have knocked down these insurgents. The insurgents have been beaten and I stand by what I said. I can beat my chest that the insurgents have been decimated.
“All these attacks on soft targets do not mean that Boko Haram insurgents are occupying any territory. They are carrying out these attacks in order to remain relevant. The insurgents are pretending to be alive when in reality they have lost out. The attacks on soft targets by the insurgents do not translate to occupation of territories or some parts of Borno State or the North-East. The insurgents’ attacks on soft targets are not peculiar to Nigeria. These terrorists do so in the US, France, Britain, and many countries. We are doing our best to protect these soft targets.” He added
According to Gen. Abubakar, “What is left is Sambisa Forest. That is the last battle ground with the insurgents. This Forest is about 80kilometres but I believe very soon, we will overrun the Forest and rout out the insurgents. We will certainly send them packing from the Sambisa Forest.
For anyone to make a claim that half of Borno State is under the insurgents is not helping the military. It is just to get media attention. We have decimated Boko Haram.
This is the reality. We want to appeal to Nigerians to appreciate and support our gallant troops to maintain the high rate of success we have achieved in the war against the insurgents. This is a Nigerian war versus the insurgents. Boko Haram is a national catastrophe, which requires the support of all to address. Every Nigerian must be seen to be contributing morally to the war against these insurgents”.
He could not confirm whether the Chibok girls are still in Sambisa, or they are alive wherever they may be.