As I sat to watch the news with my mum and siblings, it could be yet another time of jabbering, arguments, laughter and jesting. Oh yes, news time is conference time in my house, we discuss and analyze every headline except Stock Market because no one understands it.
"Nigeria marks 5 years of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls"
The voice of the presenter booms. This one could stir no chatter out of me. I sat silent listening to the ones I love discuss and thinking on the families who would only remember this event as painful memories of a time that once was.
The Chibok school girls, kidnapped on the 14th of April 2014 from their dormitory is an incidence which represents many things to different people. Victory for Boko Haram, news to the average Nigerian, opportunity to the rights activist, propaganda to politicians, relief for the 57 that escaped but to the parents and siblings of these girls it is a representation of dreams stolen, innocence lost and lives forever marred.
April 15th 2019 marks 5 years of waiting, of hopes raised and dashed, torturous thoughts of all that could be going wrong with once innocent girls.
Families of kidnapped girls
Parents of these girls who took sticks and torch lights to run after their girls on the agonising day of kidnap following the trail of discarded clothes left by their girls, would care less about political parties or rhetorics. "Give me my daughter, marred or tainted, stigmatised or ruined, just give me my child".
Five years after the government has not brought respite to all their hearts and they have turned to spiritual houses with hopes for a solution. A total of 184 Chibok girls have been released leaving 112 still missing. At least 17 parents have so far lost their lives to stress related illnesses as revealed by the president of the Chibok girls associations. Siblings have been born who would only hear stories of them and even those alive have only a fading memory of their kidnapped sisters.
Freed but in confinement
According to the Federal Government, 82 girls were released in May 2017 into yet another form of confinement to join 21 released earlier, leaving 112 in captivity. Though Boko Haram claims not to have raped or sexually abused these girls, the pregnant ones beg to question this statement. Even the ones forced into marriage or to accept foreign religions give pointers to how they were treated.
After their release, they have been separated from their families, the rest of the world and even children born to them in their captivity. Would normalcy ever return to their lives? Would these girls ever be properly reintegrated back into society without stigmatization?
From rural school girls to leaving as wards of the government under controlled and monitored regimens. What a strange feeling it must be.
Parents of freed girls
After an emotional and teary reunion, two weeks after their release, these parents could still not go home with their daughters. As politically correct as that is, it raises questions. I can not imagine mothers living far apart from their bruised seed and even when in close contact are not even allowed to ask questions or discuss their captivity. Psychologists, please tell us, is not there a better way? No one is cutting onions, a dam has been opened on my eyes. Their pain is too much to conceive.
The 900 km commute through dangerous routes to the capital city of Abuja for those whose daughters are still in Nigeria would be nothing compared to the joy they would feel, but for how long?
The Girls still in captivity and their families
What would be the fate of Reverend Enoch Mark whose two daughters are still in Boko Haram's custody five years and two releases after? Not to make light of their situation, but one feeling that in a very light manner describes how they must feel comes to mind: when there is a problem with power supply in your house but your neighbor has light. It would have been less painful if we were all on the same page.
The parents of Leah Sharibu, the only remaining Dapchi school girl have been in tears on every available news platform wailing for their young one.
I am not about stating the problem, it stares right at us and has been said in more than a thousand different ways. Just maybe if we taught our boys that women were not supposed to be objects lashed at during seasons when anger needs to be shown, then these men will not feel the need to capture vulnerable women to show the government how strong they are. Not paid at work, hit your wife so she knows you are still a man? A culture shift is where it starts.
It is not just about the Chibok or Dapchi girls, it is about the various women, children and men abducted by men driven by POVERTY with religion for an excuse. Only poverty has given them the army they have worked with. For as low as twenty thousand Naira, a suicide bomber would take his or her life.
It is about a failed security system that had the men of the Force withdrawn from the environs of Dapchi giving Boko Haram free access to kidnap not only the girls but whatever future they had dreamed of having. The blame game that ensued between the police, soldiers and the state governor would in no way erased the sad memories forever etched on their minds.
It is about a failed system called Nigeria! The Chibok and Dapchi girls are not the only ones who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram or armed bandits or whatever name the government choses to call them. Many men, women and children have been kidnapped, their number not significant enough to cause a stir. Let’s not attack the branches alone but the root causes.