Nigeria woke up on February 19, 2018 to the shocking news of a replica of the Chibok experience (which took place on April 14, 2014). It was the abduction of 110 innocent and defenceless girls from a government-owned secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State. Stories about this incident have since been in the news.

While we congratulate the schoolgirls on their reported release from the Boko Haram terrorists who abducted them, and their parents on their reunion with their children, we cannot but take a critical look at the events surrounding the abduction and release.

Coming from a government which thrives on unwarranted comparisons for the purpose of scoring cheap political goals, it is not surprising that most Nigerians are in doubt about the acclaimed achievement of the Buhari-led Federal Government regarding this matter. Recall that when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Dapchi almost a month after the incident, and was received on a red carpet by a supposedly mourning state, he was quick to say that the response of his administration was better, perhaps quicker, than that of former President Goodluck Jonathan when the Chibok girls were abducted in 2014. He also promised that the girls would be released, and true to his words, about 104 or so of the girls have so far been released. A laudable achievement we would call it, wouldn’t we?

However, there are questions begging for answers. Nigerians are looking up to the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government to provide answers to these questions.

First, reports have it that a few days before the abduction, troops were withdrawn from checkpoints and strategic positions in the community. Consequently, the insurgents allegedly had an unchallenged outing as they made for the school and seamlessly took their prey. Even though the Defence Headquarters has since denied this report, the governor of the state, who is also the Chief Security Officer of the state, has insisted that troops were withdrawn. In addition, we read of the drama that took place in the blame game between the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force regarding this matter. The question is, who ordered the withdrawal of troops days before the incident?

Second, although the Defence Headquarters in its usual manner has denied the allegation, Amnesty International has alleged and still insists that calls were put through to alert the army of a possible attack by the Boko Haram insurgents hours before the abduction took place. Apart from denying this allegation, what has the Federal Government done to investigate this allegation? Who received the call, at what time, and through what means?

Third, on the day of their release, reports have it that the insurgents drove the schoolgirls back to Dapchi unarmed and unchallenged, and they exchanged pleasantries with the community leaders and villagers who cheered them on. When did insurgents become the friends of their victims’ community? Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, told us that they acted on moral grounds; but I am still asking myself when terrorists began to practise morality. To make the issue more complicated, the girls who were allegedly abducted in the night, perhaps with no time to pack their belongings considering the state of confusion they would have been at the time of their abduction, returned with bags full of belongings. One would be forced to ask if Boko Haram insurgents now take their captives out on a shopping spree or if they have a supermarket in their hideouts and decided to show these poor girls some act of kindness.

All these point to one direction: Could it be that the Buhari-led Federal Government stage-managed this whole drama to appeal to people’s sympathy in order that they might stay in power beyond 2019? This assumption is not far-fetched as one deserted “Sergeant David” has alleged that the whole script was written, directed and produced from Aso Rock with some funds exchanging hands. Even though the defence headquarters has denied this allegation as usual, the whole scenario betrays its claims.

Nigerians want answers to these questions and many more, and the earlier the Buhari and APC-led Federal Government began to take responsibility and provide answers, the better for them in the coming months.

Sam Bolaji, Department of English, University of Lagos

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