By Primus Igboaka,
I am not always surprised when Boko Haram taps into media vulnerability to use the global outreach of the international media to spread their propaganda and fool all of us. That the world is believing the latest video parading only 15 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, and the world is immediately buying hook and sink that it is the ‘truth” that the 276 school girls are still alive and “doing well” is the greatest hoax that I could imagine in the 21st century.
Whether you believe that the school girls are all alive as Boko Haram just deceived us with their video just released. But the story remains that two years is gone since more than 276 school girls were kidnapped in a remote village of Chibok in Maiduguri, Northern state of Nigeria, and there are no traces of the girls’ where about; in essence, practically and technically, kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls are still MISSING as in capital M.
If it may be recalled, on April 14, 2014, a group of armed men stormed the hostels where these students have assembled to take their final examination, a preparing exam that will see some of them gain admission to colleges and achieve their life’s goals. In three truck loads, with armed convoy of motorcycles, the girls, some of them Christians were taken to Simbisa forest.
Since the girls were abducted, Nigeria’s Joint Military Task Force efforts, first set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan and endorsed by his successor President Mohammadu Buhari; their efforts to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls have not been successful. While efforts to find and rescue the girls were intensified, news began to filter in, that Boko Haram was using female suicide bombers and some of the girls as young as 13 and 14 years old were suspected to be Chibok schoolgirls. However, reports confirmed that 89 suicide bombing attacks have taken place since the school girls were abducted, and more than 50 of the suicide bombers were young girls. In fact, faces of some of the female suicide bombers, some of them as young as 13 and 15 years matched exactly pictures and images of Chibok kidnapped girls.
The Nigerian government, with collaborations from armed villagers, West African States of Niger, Chad and Cameron with the United States providing technical and intelligence support continued to surge forward until late last year when they succeeded in reaching the Simbisa forest where the Chibok school girls were alleged to be kept. However, to surprise of everybody including parents of the abducted girls, Boko Haram has fled the scene. Decomposed bodies some of them young girls were found along the routes as terrorists fled or struggled to escape from the heavy attacks by the Joint Military Force.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria’s Joint Military Task Force has recovered all the 17 local governments occupied by Boko Haram in Maiduguri. More than 2 million villagers were displaced, some of them with no homes again to return because Boko Haram burned their homes as they fled. Most of the displaced persons – majority of them women and children (since husbands and fathers were hacked to death by Boko Haram terrorists) are currently camped in tents since their homes were razed as Boko Haram terrorists fled these towns.
However, as Boko Haram is on the run, the terrorists continued to engage in sporadic attacks from unknown locations. Military intelligence disclosed that the terrorists have moved into neighboring villages in Niger, Chad and Cameroon. In Cameroon, a young girl – a suicide bomber who was strapped with explosives walked into the arms of soldiers located at the Cameroon border village. She exclaimed as her bomb refused to explode. She said, “I am one of the Chibok girls.”
Uncertain whether the suspected suicide bomber was playing tricks, the soldiers were able to approach the suspect, undid her undetonated suicide vest and confirmed what the world have suspected all along, that the Chibok school girls were being forced to become suicide bombers against their will. It was also gathered that all the suicide bombers had their device remotely operated from a standby accomplice. Regrettably, the authorities have yet to find the terrorists that accompany these young women suicide bombers on suicide missions.
The recent incident of a young girl, a suicide –bomber, who rushed to standby military post in a village in Cameroon and asking to be rescued, confirmed the fears many have had long ago, that the young female suicide bombers some of them as young as 13 and 14 years of age were the kidnapped Chibok girls. The girl, about 13 asked for help. According to eye witnessed, she exclaim: Help I am one of the kidnapped Chibok girls, help.” The witnessed confirmed that she had unexploded bomb strapped on her body.
She claimed that she was coerced against her will (as it is expected) to carry out the futile suicide mission. Her accomplice attempted to detonate the bomb but was unsuccessful. He fled, and could not be traced. As usual, he eluded the authorities. The reason according to eye witnesses why the young girl’s life was spared was because her remotely-controlled vest malfunctioned and was unable to explode.
The same Nigeria newspapers and international media sources that are claiming that all the abducted Chibok schoolgirls are still alive had revealed that in 2015, the number of female suicide bombers between the ages of 13 and 17 was on the rise. Further, it was confirmed that the rate Boko Haram used young females in suicide bombing missions were unprecedented, thus, giving credence to the suspicion that kidnapped Chibok schools girls were some, if not all the suicide bombers. In fact, of 100 suicide attacks, it was gathered that 85 were conducted by young females 13 to 15 years of age. Since Boko Haram was founded in 2009, the number of female suicide bombers was unprecedented.
Two years has passed. Chibok schoolgirls are yet to be found. The harsh tag – #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS has since evaporated from the traditional media and the social media into the thin air. The question in our minds, and still waiting answer is – what has become of the Chibok girls? Forget about the media propaganda video by Boko Haram claiming that the girls are alive. It is a question that the answer, I have tried to dodge. I wondered what pains and bleeding hearts of parents, relatives and friends have become. They are hurt and the fact that we have kept quiet 2 year later hunt them and us.
Some of the girls who were rescued or escaped when Boko Haram truck got stucked in the mud on its way to Sambisa forest are in College in the United States as refugees. One of them disguised to avoid endangering her family and others related to her told CNN in an interview (commemorating the two years anniversary of the kidnapped Chibok girls) that she would be going to medical school to study medicine, and return to Nigeria to help improve the lives of young woman in her country. Majority of her friends and class mates who were kidnapped and still missing are not sure of their lives not to talk about any other thing.
Boko Haram has been put on the run, but not with the 276 women, none of the kidnapped schools girls from Chibok Government Secondary school has been found. Students that by now should be in their junior year in colleges studying to be professionals in their different fields. As Christian girls which majority of them were, there is no doubt that those dreams were possible because of their rural roots where traditional values and morality still looms as rules or norms?
In our silence, it seems we are becoming very complacent, that complacency raises the question, are we free from terrorists? The answer God forbids is No. However, I hope that the manner we have become silent does not indicate that we are negligent on the dangerous time we live in. Kenya, and France was yesterday, currently it was Belgium that just came out of the dangers of terror in our times. These incidents inform us how our vigilance and monitoring of our environment have weakened post 9/11. We must make it a duty to know that there is real danger of terrorists and they are likely amidst us. We must make it a national duty to report to authorities any suspicious activities. It could help. It could assist us avoid terror before it happens.
In Nigeria, two years after the kidnapping of 276 Chibok School girls, Boko Haram suicide bombers continue to sporadically attack weaker targets unlike previously when they attack military posts and police barracks. The new administration of President Mohammad Buhari, has built upon the foundation laid by his processor, President Good Luck Jonathan through the Joint Military Task force Jonathan created that put Boko Haram on the run. With the United States Central Command located at Chad, Nigeria’s neighboring state (including location of Drone Center); Nigeria has been able to mobilize other neighboring countries, including South African Mercenaries to curb the terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, there were outstanding reduction in number of attacks and heavy casualties from civilian and military casualties that Boko Haram used to sustain in the military –style attacks.
Villagers have also been drafted into the fight – some of them using bows and arrows; others home-made guns, with vigilantes riding on horse backs to drive in through the rough terrains of Sambisa forest. It is important to highlight that with the election of President Buhari – who is a Muslim and has more Muslim top military officers, some of them who were accused of insubordination have since gained the confidence of the commander in chief – who is also the president to further increase their fight against Boko Haram. Motivated psychologically and also armed well enough to fight the terrorists, Boko Haram now operate from rural villages – far from military posts in neighboring countries of Chad and Cameroon.
It was from one of the rural villages in Cameroon that a young suicide bomber, whose vest was unable to explode when it was detonated by an invisible standby terrorist – with a remotely controlled switch or cellular phone (as maybe the case) rushed to the military on a post in Cameroun village, crying and asking for help. According to eyewitnesses, the young girl was crying loud, explaining that she was one of the Chibok school girls kidnapped 2 years ago in Chibok. It was yet to be confirmed about the credibility or claims by the young girl, but for the fact that more than 100 suicide bombings have been conducted in less than a year since the Chibok girls were kidnapped, 85 of them by young girls 13 – 15 years of age; this inform us that something was going wrong.
When it is compared to previous years before the Chibok kidnapping took place, hardly were girls – not to mention girls as young as 13 years of age were used as suicide bombers in Boko Haram terrorist attacks. Finally, the confirmation that faces of suicide bombers whose face were not destroyed when they detonate their suicide vests did match some of the pictures of Chibok girls, there is no question or doubt that Chibok girls were turned into suicide bombers against their wishes. But the fact that this is the reality of the fate of Chibok girls, the world must not give up on Chibok girls.
Like former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo pointed out on the first anniversary of the kidnapping of the 276 Chibok girls, the world must deal with the reality that the Chibok school girls will not be completely back. Speaking on Friday, February 8, 2016 at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun state in southwest Nigeria Obasanjo, always known for his bluntness had remarked, “Today, if anybody tells you he will bring back the Chibok schoolgirls, it is a lie.” Obasanjo—who served as Nigerian president between 1999 and 2007 warned that some of the girls may have died, while others may have been married off to their captors or trafficked.
Terrorism is the reality that the world has to contend with. After 2 years that Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped on the wee hours of April 14, 2014 and the world is still not sure where their daughters are and it seems we are relaxed or complacent about this; it is not the right lesson to send to terrorists. They are alive and active as French and Belgium incidents have shown. It is a matter of rolling our sleeves and confronting the problem just as we did post 9/11 and just as the world did with the harsh tag #BRINGBACK OUR GIRLS campaign that went viral across the globe immediately after the Chibok school girls were kidnapped. We need no rocket scientist to tell between good and bad. When we compare the situation or the moods of our daughters still under captive by Boko Haram and some of the Chibok schoolgirls and classmates to those still under captive, now immigrants in the United States studying at various colleges and universities to be doctors, engineers and educators; there is no need to guess between good and evil. Evil is what Boko Haram represents. It must be fought till the last man and woman standing.
Primus Igboaka ( Ph.D., MBA) is an adjunct professor of Communications at Lorain County Community College (LCCC). He is also the author of “Not With our Daughters- Boko Haram & the Kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls: A New Pattern of Terror the World Must Unite & Stop” (Independent Publisher, Cleveland 2015). He also writes under the pen name – Richard Simons. He resides in Cleveland.