110 views | Olabisi Deji-Folutile | March 6, 2021
School should be a fun place – an environment filled with wonder and adventure. Ordinarily, every child should look forward to being in school. The experience should be magical. But quite unfortunately, for millions of Nigerian children, especially those in the Northern part of the country, school has become synonymous with torture. One only needs to look at the expression on the faces of the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara State after their release from their abductors on Tuesday to understand how torturous schooling has become for these kids. Their looks depict fear, shock, agony and confusion. One of them, Hafsat Anka, said their abductors threatened “to kill, fry and eat them if they misbehaved.”
Hafsat also said they trekked over a long distance from the school, had a stopover for some hours before they finally reached their destination. I still wonder how 279 students – (assuming we are accepting the state governor’s figure as police had initially said 317 girls were abducted) – were able to trek for hours with gunmen without being challenged by anybody whatsoever? To further show how useless the nation’s security apparatus is, the gunmen boasted to the children that they had defeated Nigeria’s security officials. Can anyone dispute their claim? How can bandits invade a school, whisk away hundreds of children successfully and walked them for hours without being challenged in a country worth its name? Hafsat continued her narration thus: “There was no clean water or good food, and we felt we had already spent years even though it was our first day and the bandits kept firing into the air to scare us. They were very young boys with one elder they called Kasalle or Yaya who gave them instructions, and he was the one that stopped them from touching any of us.”
This is the despicable state of today’s Nigeria. Everything has turned upside down. Our leaders have turned the absurd to the normal. In our own eyes, securing the release of students who shouldn’t have been kidnapped in the first instance, is being turned into an achievement by our leaders. Nigerian leaders hold stakeholders’ meetings with bandits; they pamper them, pay them huge ransom, and appease them like gods. They even use their agents to tell us not to call bandits criminals because doing so will further get them angry. What is more? Each time abducted students are released, our President tells us how happy he is and that ends it. No one is arrested, no one is punished. Yet, the last time I checked, the oldest and simplest justification for government is as a protector. Governments are put in place and saddled with the responsibility of providing security, basic economic infrastructure and welfare. But, our leaders have shamelessly abdicated these responsibilities. When the Jangebe students were released, all we could hear from the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, was: “Alhamdulillah! It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity. This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.” Up till now, the governor has not told us how many people have been arrested or about to be prosecuted for this criminal act. He only told us that Nigerians would be shocked if he revealed the names of the people behind the abduction. So, as far as the governor is concerned, it is better for him to spare Nigerians the pains of being shocked than name or arrest the tormentors of “our daughters!”
The criminals abducting these children are also smart. They make sure they don’t lose in any way. When they are paid, they release some and hold on to the others so that they can keep using the ones with them as baits for negotiation. In our euphoria, we thank God for the rescue of the ones that are released and simply forget the remaining children in their dens. And because, the cases are so rampant nowadays, the media soon lose count of the ones still in captivity. What happens to these remaining children? Their captives either turn them to wives or servants. Either way, they win. This is pathetic.
With the way things are, there is no point comparing the lots of Nigerian children with their counterparts in saner climes. I mean, how do you place a Nigerian child side by side with children from Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, or Norway for instance? It’s like comparing sleep with death. Most Nigerian children have probably accepted their lot. Thankfully, many of them don’t even know what they are missing. So, ignorance is bliss. This notwithstanding, my passionate appeal to government at all levels is to at least be merciful on these children and allow them to live their impoverished life in peace. After all, they know how to protect their own children. Enough of these absurd abductions!
Olabisi Deji-Folutile is the Editor-in-Chief, Frnaktalknow.com and member, Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org