This Tuesday, the world marked a whole year since the abduction of the 219 Chibok girls from their school dormitory by the terrorist Boko Haram group. It was the fateful night of April 14, 2014 that our collective psyche was assailed by the violence unleashed on the innocent school girls. Since then, till now, there have been theatrics, denials, intrigues, buck-passing, politicking and braggadocio but the clamour still remains: bring back our girls.
The agony that the parents and relations of the abducted girls have undergone over the past one year cannot be imagined. Everyone with a daughter would especially appreciate the trauma of going to bed each night with the consciousness that your beloved daughter is in the jungle with a band of lunatics who violently violate her at will. But what is unimaginable to many of us is the actual experience of the Chibok community.
The Yoruba say it is better for one’s child to be dead than to be declared missing. While in death, the mind is at rest that the child is resting in peace, in missing, the heart is stricken by unfathomable grief. For all Nigerians, it is a national shame that we are helpless, 170 million of us, as our children remain in captivity. It is a disgrace that the girls have been denied, lied against and their case callously politicised.
Though there have been a few attempts to rescue the girls but the attempts have been largely cosmetic. As the Pakistani Nobel Peace laureate, Malala Yousafzai, puts it in her open letter to the Chibok girls, Nigerian leaders in particular and the world leaders at large have failed in doing the needful, despite the resources at their disposal to rescue the girls.
“In my opinion, Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you”, she said, adding that “they must do much more to help secure your release. I am among many people pressuring them to make sure you are freed.” She reminded the world, though she was addressing her “brave sisters” in captivity, that it took her intervention for the President to meet their parents.
Someone promised the other day that the girls will be rescued before the handover of President Goodluck Jonathan to the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, and I guffawed. They are so many broken promises from this Government to the extent that each promise sounds as a precursor to a new mischief. But as hope is the only thing that is left to us in a bad time, as E. B. White wrote several years ago, I can only hope that the girls will be brought back today, or tomorrow.
SHARED BILLIONS AND THE JNI REBUTTAL
When I first came across a news story on “Jonathan’s multi billion naira gift: JNI, CAN, MASSOB, OPC, Ohaneze, Afenifere, should return the money” on an online news site, my first reaction was that the story has a “k-leg”. A critical and informed observer would further wonder what justified the arrangement of the purported beneficiaries since placing the JNI first defied alphabetical or alleged amounts-of-money orders.
JNI is Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the umbrella body for the Muslims of Northern Nigeria under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and it would be rankling to imagine such a scenario. The Secretary-General of the JNI, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, has strongly averred that his organisation did not collect any money from anybody.
According to Dr. Aliyu, “Without mincing words, JNI is proud to make it known to all and sundry that the outgoing President requested for an audience with its leadership and it was turned down outrightly by the leadership of the Muslim Ummah. Because it was ill-timed, and the JNI had serious reservations about the motives behind the meeting and its impending implications. We therefore challenge the author of that obnoxious article, to name the particular person who was contracted to collect and share the said money in the name of JNI.”
The rebuttal is welcome and the evidence of proof lies with the author of the imaginative story. Let him provide his evidence or retract his story.
AMAHORO IWANYU, AMAHORO IWACU
Between this Monday and Wednesday, peace scholars and practitioners under the aegis of the African Peace Research and Education Association (AFPREA) converged on the ECOWAS Parliament, Abuja, for deliberations on the theme, “The Quest for Peace and Security in Africa: Socio-cultural, Economic, Political and Legal Considerations” with many sub-themes.
The conference was the most diverse I have ever attended in Nigeria as it drew participants from 40 countries, including 18 from Africa. The countries include Nigeria (of course), Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Uganda, Zambia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Egypt, South Sudan, Ghana, Senegal, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Namibia and Ethiopia in Africa. Other scholars attended from Germany, USA, The Phillipines, Bosnia, Canada, Uzbekistan, Thailand, New Zealand, UK, Japan, Indonesia, Palestine/ Israel, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, South Korea, Mexico, Belgium, Nepal, Liechtenstein, Hungary and Argentina.
It provided an opportunity to network on peace work especially with the interactions with the Secretaries General of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), Associate Professor Nesrin Kenar of Sakarya University, Turkey, and Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw of Northumbria University, United Kingdom. It was also nice to meet fantastic scholars like Prof. Matt Mogekwu of Ithaca College, New York and Matt Meyer, IPRA-UNESCO Representative in New York and of course the Chairman and Secretary of AFPREA, Dr Olufemi Oluniyi and Dr Jacinta Mwende Maweu respectively as well as the Conference Chair, Margaret Ifeoma Abazie-Humphrey.
It was in the presentation of Prof. Elavie Ndura of George Mason University, Virginia, USA, and Pan-African Non-Violence and Peace-building Network that the phrase, “Amahoro Iwanyu, Amahoro Iwacu” (meaning “peace for you, peace for me”) came up. It was striking to me because I had suggested that Nigerian government should institutionalize the National Peace Committee by establishing a Ministry of Peace to make peace enduring, not just during elections.
The General Abubakar Abdulsalami-led Peace Committee contributed in no small measure to the peace in Nigeria not only by committing both President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari to Peace Accords but also by facilitating the unprecedented sportsmanship of the loser congratulating the winner at the national level. This singular act of President Jonathan is a landmark victory for democracy in Nigeria as the example laid by him is being followed by many political actors in the country. Let there be peace for you; let there be peace for me.