It is getting to two weeks since suspected Boko Haram terrorists abducted 110 girls from their school, Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, a community in Yobe State. Within that period, the parents of the girls are waiting in anguish for the return of their children. There was confusion as to what exactly happened and how many girls were caught in that nightmarish scenario.
At a point, it was thought that the students left school without obtaining the exeat card that lawfully permits them to leave the school premises. When it became obvious that something serious had taken place, a process of crass incompetence in the management of information in a crisis situation led to disinformation that turned out to be outright lie. As this ensued, and even with the retraction that followed, the public, and especially the parents of the students, were aghast as to the inability of the authority of the school and the government to account for the students left in their care.
Claims that the security agencies, the Army in particular, had rescued some of them was not only misleading but also false. Unfortunately, it was the same period that the army high command thought it wise to effect a change of guards at its Public Relations department. That created an information gap that provided room for the emergence of a cacophony of voices that left everyone, especially the distraught parents, wondering what was going on. In frustration, they vented their anger on the convoy of a visiting governor who failed to rise to the demands of the occasion. What is bothersome is that the lessons that ought to have been learnt from the abduction of 276 Chibok school girls four years ago were missed and, of course, ugly history repeated itself.
When the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists invaded a school in Chibok, a community in Borno State in 2014 and made away with 276 girls from their dormitories, initially, it seemed like a fairy tale, moonlight tale by children playing hide and seek. It was thought that those girls will eventually emerge from their hiding places and the game will continue.
As in Chibok, the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the Dapchi girls followed the same pattern. At that time in Borno State, the level of insecurity and, particularly the earlier incident at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi where 29 boys were reported to have been slaughtered in cold blood, ought to have recommended itself to stricter security arrangements around schools in the area. That did not happen.
As in Chibok, the Dapchi saga is mired in politics. The world, not just Nigerians, is benumbed by the irritating politicisation of tragedy by the ruling class, a rascality that is worsened by the inter-service blame game between the army and the police. Insensitive as these are, they have remained at the centre stage of public discourse and has not been resolved even now.
Dapchi, like Chibok before it, exposed the absence of security coordination required in an area that has remained crisis-prone for many years. As at today, no one is in a position to tell what actually went wrong in an area where there are contingents of the army, air force, police and other paramilitary establishments not to mention the undercover agencies. An issue as serious as the life of 110 daughters of Nigeria, their fate in the hands of a rampaging, murderous gang have been elevated to the level of nail-biting speculation.
President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a whole committee to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the repeat of Chibok in Dapchi which the government described as a national embarrassment but which observers insist is a national disgrace. Even as we are not expecting much from that committee, we wish it luck as it grapples with that arduous task.
Dapchi and the successful abduction of the girls brought to the fore the failure of intelligence or even for that matter, an abysmal lack of it, which the President, on assumption of office, complained about in his analysis of what led to the debacle of Chibok. That is to be expected in a situation where propaganda and over dramatisation of security plans unduly exposed military operations that are usually shrouded in secrecy.
The ill-advised propensity to claim early victory in an ongoing war created challenges that were ignored in the efforts to rectify the errors of Chibok and they manifested in the Dapchi scenario. Unfortunately, in all these, and as in Chibok, no one has as yet been held to account for this obvious negligence. Some top government officials are saying that it will not happen again. That is for the future to say. In the meantime, we are concerned about the safety and return of the Dapchi girls and their sisters from Chibok. That ought to be everyone’s preoccupation now and not what the future holds.
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