Just bring back our girls

nigeriaOn May 31, 2014, the US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released by his captors in Afghanistan. He was captured on June 30, 2009 by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network under some controversial circumstances. Sgt. Bergdahl was said to have “got really drunk” and that he “fell off his barstool before he got captured.”

As a result of the value the American leaders typically place on human (meaning American) life, the Army Sgt. was set free under a compromise, a prisoner-swap deal, brokered by Qatar. The release of the soldier was secured and five Taliban figures held in the notorious Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. These are Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah, Mohammad Nabi, Khayrullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq. The Taliban declared victory and some Americans were furious that the Government should not have gone for the deal.

But Sgt. Bergdahl is the only son of his parents. They remain eternally grateful to President Barrack Obama for going the whole hog to secure the release of their son. You can imagine their joy! No one has to be a Chibok parent to imagine how joyous it would be to be re-united with your child after a long time in the hands of abductors.

Earlier in the week, Tuesday precisely, President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have told Nigerians in France under the auspices of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) that Boko Haram want one of their leaders released in exchange for the release of the abducted Chibok girls. He noted that this particular individual whose release would guarantee the release of our girls is “a strategic person in developing and making improvised IEDs that is causing a lot of havoc in the country…”

The reason for which the President added the details was the fear of the critics, I suppose. For most public affairs commentators and other leaders of opinion who have never experienced the pains of losing their loved ones for a day, negotiation with Boko Haram is a no-go area.

So, as if we didn’t know, the President engaged in a needless analysis, I don’t want to say circumlocution, telling us the IEDs are responsible for “ a lot of havoc in the country by blowing people in Churches, Mosques, market places, motor parks and other places.” We all know that IEDs are not flowers used to decorate those places! And truly, many Nigerians have been arguing against the swap.

President Obama was heckled by the media for freeing Bergdahl but he did what was right and America has not become less secure on account of the freed Taliban officials marooned in Qatar. The parents were joyous; they still are. I think at a time like this that Boko Haram is being beaten silly, Nigeria should not be afraid to negotiate. As the former American President, John F. Kennedy said, “let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

We know better now why Boko Haram appeared to be invincible in the old Jonathanian era. Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, a former Army captain, in a recent article, “I remember the Day I Confronted Boko Haram”, confirms what is known that lack of equipment accounted for the losses the military recorded in the past. As the author recounts, “discovering on the battlefield that your ammunition is expired or faulty” is “the worst thing that can happen to a soldier.” But this is what happened to the soldiers that we all judged negatively.

Now that we have a new Sheriff who knows his onions in town, the whole scenario is positively changing and we have good reasons to be proud of our military. The new regime of engagement with the terrorists is heart-warming yet, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

As a proud father of three daughters, it is inconceivable to me that 520 days after the kidnapping of the girls, we are still telling stories. Let the President spare us these details and bring back our girls. The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing. PMB, please negotiate and get the girls released.

My take is that if the United States could release five senior Commanders because of a single American, nothing stops Nigeria from releasing anyone under special conditions as well, to secure the release of over 200 girls. Let the President think of the parents and the girls whose lives have been turned miserable. Let him not think of our city-based commentators who enjoy life with their families.

I stand with the Chibok parents. For all that I care, just #Bringbackourgirls.


Who says prayers are not answered? Four days ago, in my sister column, “EDUPEACE”, which appears in the “New Telegraph” newspaper every Tuesday, I focused on “A prayer for Idoko” and sought divine intervention.

The point of prayer was that Sheikh Adam Idoko, the Chief Imam of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and member of the Nigeri Inter-religious Council (NIREC), was kidnapped last Thursday. His abductors took him to an unknown destination and we were all apprehensive.

Fortunately, I learnt yesterday that he regained his freedom. Several Nigerians like me would have prayed for his safety and release and the prayer is answered.

Alhamdulillah. Again, who says prayers are not answered?