President Muhammadu Buhari was in Dapchi where he commiserated with the parents of the abducted secondary school girls. He gave them assurances that his government would do all in its power to bring back the girls alive. That was reassuring to parents and the generality of citizens not only because of Dapchi but for the fact that he is now visiting trouble spots around the country.
The issue of whether the president responded because of the national outcry over his ‘refusal’ to visit the areas earlier is immaterial and should not clog up space in national discourse. The most important thing is that he visited the places.
There are many Nigerians who want to believe that the visits by the president mark a turnaround in how receptive he would be to public opinion. Previously, the president was seen as one who turns deaf ear to cries from the people. Hopefully, the masses will begin to have his ear.
Some may read politics and the campaign for 2019 in his decision but certain things that are not so open are better left out of factors that shape national direction.
This is the time for patriotic Nigerians to join hands together and see how Nigeria can come out of the mess it finds itself in. This government, like the one before it, has found itself between the devil and the deep sea regarding terrorists and their tactics.
Agreed, when the Chibok schoolgirls were abducted, the government took its time before it even accepted that it happened. But after that, it was faced with the dilemma of paying ransom to the terrorists for the girls’ freedom.
This government is facing the same predicament. Parents of the girls’ will not care about the implications of paying ransom to terrorists. They want their children back. And who would blame them? It is like saying relations of a kidnapped person should not pay ransom because it will encourage the crime.
The government, on the one hand, knows too well the implications of paying ransom to terrorists. Basically they get the necessary funds to recruit, train and retrain as well as buy more weapons. And the terrorists will swell in number as a result of greedy splinter groups which would join the kidnap-for-ransom party. And the cycle goes on.
On the other hand, especially parents, expect, nay, demand, to see their wards freed. And they are right.
For now, it is too late to take the moral high road. Negotiate we must. Our girls must be freed. While at it, we must also remember that there are many other abducted girls, women, boys and men that also need to be rescued. Nobody is beating the drums about their cases because they are not students, university staff, policewomen, soldiers or aid workers.
However, this must be the last time. Government must know that abductions of soft targets, like students, etc, that would attract national and international attention and put pressure on it would be the strategy of terrorists.
Again, the government must not only improve our intelligence gathering capability but make our response rate first rate. This is because terrorist organisations with similar ideology as Boko Haram (ISIS and their likes) would begin to see Nigeria as a new haven where they can make money easily. Terrorists have no boundaries. That is why they are international criminals.
Government should also track the trajectory of the money for ransom, from when it is released till it reaches the terrorists. Along the line, you have many beneficiaries. Those who negotiate have their cut, ditto those who convey. From the side of the government, too, you have beneficiaries. All these people and organisations get their cut.
These beneficiaries, from point A down to the terrorists and those who sell whatever wares to the terrorists, may not want an end to high profile soft-target abductions. It has become an international business, and a lucrative one at that.
Again, the federal government must urgently review the activities of non-governmental organisations. As I had pointed out in an earlier write-up (The coincidence of CHI in CHIbok and DapCHI and the ills of NGOs), “This brings me to the issue of NGOs and the dangers they pose to the North East and ultimately Nigeria. NGOs have swooped on Maiduguri and are fast spreading their purported ‘assistance to a beleaguered people’ to the other north eastern states.
“What the NGOs actually do is to make the people more dependent on their dole outs and because they throw money left, right and center, a lot of beneficiaries – and they are plenty and increasing – would not want them to go. And as long as there are crises, they will not go. Their number will just keep increasing.
“The NGOs themselves will not want the crises to abate as that would mean they will no longer access the funds that are readily available to them through donor agencies just as the donor agencies themselves will no longer get the monies made available for such by international bodies and countries in Europe and North America.
“NGOs have offered employments to a lot of natives and paying them dream salaries. A house that in terms of rentage ordinarily goes, for instance, for N100,000, is being rented by NGOs for millions per annum and paying for years upfront.
“In some instances, the moral bearing of our youth is being compromised where some vices alien to our culture, tradition and upbringing are being inculcated in them.
“What the Federal Government should look at is the Greek gift that NGOs’ interventions are and the implications on our collective security, morals and morale of our future leaders and overall future of our country.
“The federal government has intervention agencies like the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) which should do all that the NGOs are claiming to be doing. The federal government should empower it more and any donor agency or NGO should route their assistance through them.”
At least half of those wailing against the president and the way he is governing hailed him in the build-up to the 2015 elections. We saw how clueless and unresponsive to such crises the former government was. The refrain was that the then president was too weak, that he was caged by a cabal and that he was not really in charge.
The generality of Nigerians opted for then Candidate Buhari because he was seen as a strong personality who would not be caged by any cabal. Yet, surprisingly, he himself is being seen as caught in the fetters of yet another cabal.
This is the time for the president to show his strong and visionary self. This is the time to break free from any local or international cabals out to make fortunes out of our misery. This is the time for Buhari to be the Buhari Nigerians voted for.