The title of a Shakespeare play, “All’s well that ends well,” aptly captures the sigh of relief that trails the December 17, 2020, safe return of 340 students of the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara, Katsina State, North-West of Nigeria.
Yes, “sigh of relief,” and not “excitement” that would normally pervade the families of the “lucky” schoolboys and official circles, because gaining freedom for the boys is government’s responsibility in its duty to “protect life and property” of the citizens.
Had the government failed in that regard, it would’ve become “one abduction too many” and official dereliction of duty, for allowing the harrowing incident to happen in the first place.
So, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his government, deserves a pat on the back for not allowing “body language” to define his presidency, but demonstrating commitment to his sacred oath.
Recall that a week earlier, armed bandits, which Boko Haram claimed were its foot-soldiers, seized the schoolboys from their boarding facilities at 11:30 p.m., and ferried them into the wild.
It’s the second widely-publicised seizure of schoolchildren in two years on Buhari’s watch that rode to power in 2015, on the promise to rescue the 276 students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School (GGSS) in Chibok, Borno State, abducted in April 2014.
That abduction gave birth to #BringBackOurGirls movement, and partly aborted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of President Goodluck Jonathan that, in denial, took it weeks to acknowledge the tragedy, and failed to rescue the schoolgirls.
Then retired Gen. Buhari-led opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) took advantage of that failure, and campaigned to free the schoolgirls if voted into power in the 2015 general election.
Indeed, the new government formed by Buhari regained over 100 of the schoolgirls, leaving scores still in captivity. But the government had its litmus test in 2018 when Boko Haram abducted 110 students of the GGSS in Dapchi, Yobe State, with 104 returned, five died in transit, and one student, Leah Sharibu, still being held.
The worry in the Kankara schoolboys’ abduction is the ease of the armed bandits’ operation, and escape on motorbikes barely hours after Buhari’s arrival in his hometown of Daura in the state.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on the heels of the Zabarmari farmers’ massacre in Borno State in November 2020, summed up the bandits’ audacious adventure in Kankara as “a slap on President Buhari’s face.”
That categorisation is euphemistic, as the schoolboys’ abduction strikes at the ability and capability of the Buhari government to perform the most basic of its duties: To protect life and property.
If the schoolboys – whose dishevelled appearances, while being conveyed from the captors’ den, brought tears to the eye – could be snatched at will, and “under President Buhari’s nose,” who’s free from the bandits and criminal elements roaming the country?
Sa’ad Abubakar, head of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), is the one asking the questions most Nigerians have sought answers to, as religious, tribal and commercial armed bandits occupy Nigeria.
The posers, in a statement by the JNI Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, which noted lapses in Nigeria’s security system that need urgent and serious attention, include the following:
* How can one explain the movement of the bandits in their hundreds on motor cycles without being detected? * What happens to intelligence gathering that this heinous plan was not uncovered before it was hatched?
* How comes the bandits took their time, gathered the schoolboys, heaped them on bikes and whisked them away without being rounded up by the security agencies?
* Are the bandits this bold as to further test the resolve of the Government or smite the face of the Commander-in-Chief by bringing it up to his door step in his presence?
* How long shall the masses continue to live in fear? * For how long shall the Federal and State Governments continue to issue empty condemnations whenever tragedies stroke?
* Is the government and the security agencies so overwhelmed and thus cannot secure the citizens? * Are there insurmountable challenges or acts of sabotage that the Government is hiding from the public?
* Is it that the political will isn’t there to locate the enemy’s actual enclave, the focal point of their strength and to devote all available means to rout them out or incapacitate them? * What really is the challenge or Nigerians don’t deserve to know from the government they elected?
Sa’ad Abubakar’s “treatise” also touched on the implications of the abduction of schoolchildren, which’s to disrupt and/or stop Western education – the focal preachment of Boko Haram’s insurgency – that the abductors repeated on the fateful day.
The Sultan’s words: “If there is any worse outcome than the abduction itself, it is the fact that this is the most potent action to frustrate school enrolment in Northern Nigeria.
“As no parent will forthwith be comfortable to send their children or wards to boarding school despite the many enrolment campaign efforts by the Government.
“And it will even be callous for anyone to call on the traumatised parents to expose their beloved children to these unprotected environments to be used as fodder by bandits and insurgents at will.”
Another worry: The abductors reportedly asked the schoolboys, “Where are the girls?” Believing it’s an all-female school or a co-educational institution, their mission was to snatch the females for sex slaves, forced marriage or be deployed as suicide bombers.
The Sultan referenced swirling “insinuations that for pecuniary benefits, some top echelon among the security operatives don’t want the insecurity to end.”
He urged President Buhari to “listen to the calls from Nigerians to revamp the security architecture and address the nation,” and thus rest speculations of security involvement in crime and criminality.
Referring to the abductions of schoolgirls in Chibok and Dapchi in Borno and Yobe, the Sultan said the Kankara schoolboys saga “is an indicator that the powers that be don’t read the present through the spectacle of the past.”
Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III has said it all: These times don’t call for circumlocution, equivocation or dancing about the subject of insecurity nationwide. It’s time to call a spade by its name.
The Buhari government hasn’t significantly improved beyond its initial routing of the Boko Haram terrorists from their occupied local government areas in the North-East in 2015/2016.
Despite official pontificating of “degrading” the insurgents, Boko Haram has merely splintered, but remains deadly, and penetrates the North-West under the cover of armed banditry.
It’s time the Buhari administration did the right things: Rijig the security system. Devolve policing to States. Take security breaches serious, as it did in the Kankara abduction. Accept criticisms. Timely explain security happenings, to avoid speculations and spread of “fake news,” as hallmarked by #EndSARS protests. Strengthen the “Safe School Initiatives” with intelligence gathering.
The government shouldn’t forget how it came to power: To protect life and property, which the Jonathan government failed to uphold in the seizure of 276 students of the GGSS in Chibok in April 2014.
Thus, the PDP lacks the locus to incessantly call for Buhari’s resignation on grounds of “cluelessness and incompetence” of his administration – the exact charge, which the PDP exhibited in its 16-year reign that caused it the governance of the country it had boasted it would control for at least unbroken 60 years.
▪︎Mr Ehichioya Ezomon writes from Lagos (+2348033078357)