At the twilight of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, when his power was declining or rapidly approaching its end, he was desperately trying to surprise Nigerians by accomplishing a task he had woefully failed to pull through in the last four years.
He was really determined to bequeath to his successor a terrorist-free Nigeria as he had intensified an eleventh-hour offensive against the Boko Haram militants and was progressively succeeding at closing in on their strongholds in the dreaded Sambisa forest.
Although series of successes have been recorded by the gallant soldiers that have bravely been ransacking the evil forest, freeing hundreds of young girls and women from the clutches of Boko Haram warlords, Nigerians are still clamoring for the safe return of nearly three hundred High Schoolgirls abducted in Chibok over a year ago.
Now the big question lingering on everyone’s mind is: will the Chibok girls ever return home? That question became more pertinent last Monday when A’isha Abbas, one of the over two hundred women rescued from Sambisa forest by the military, disclosed at the Displaced Persons Camp at Yola, Adamawa State, that finding them would be difficult. She revealed that the school girls must have been sold to senior leaders of the Boko Haram sect who had subsequently married them.
What was more puzzling about the missing schoolgirls was that none of the women rescued, when interviewed, admitted ever seeing any of the Chibok girls. However, it was hinted that fighters travelling from Sambisa forest where the girls have been incarcerated would be able to describe the situation under which they are being held.
While the Nigeria Army is resolute in its determination to find the abducted girls before the expiration of the tenure of Jonathan’s administration, its efforts are being hampered greatly by landmines laid, deep in the forest.
From the look of things only God knows how many women, girls and children are still caged in Sambisa Forest by the heartless insurgents. The number of such hopeless captives recently rescued by Nigerian troops suggested that those taken away may have been extremely underestimated.
Recently, news spread that the military had rescued two-hundred-and ninety-three captives, comprising two-hundred girls and ninety-three women. Again, not long after that other sixty women and one-hundred children were reportedly liberated. And only last Friday yet another rescue operation yielded a new set of women and children delivered from the hardship at Sambisa Forest.
The Army spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, disclosed that another set of women and children were rescued through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the Sambisa Forest and have since been evacuated to join their folks where they are being screened. The true identity of some of the rescued women and girls are yet to be ascertained. At the moment what is uppermost and of utmost priority is their movement to a safer place where their health status is being thoroughly examined to establish the circumstances under which they had come to the forest.
An additional number of persons are still being recovered from the evil forest and until such comprehensive profiling is done, nobody could confirm whether or not they were among the missing schoolgirls. Again, the Army spokesman did not mention anything about the Chibok schoolgirls because they were not among those set free during the three operations. There was also no guarantee from any quarters that the schoolgirls would be found or rescued in the immediate future.
Meanwhile, the assault on the evil forest was continuing from various fronts and efforts are concentrated at liberating hostages as well as tearing down terrorists’ camps and facilities in the forest.
What is now more important is to reflect on the timing of the activities that resulted in the three-stage liberation of the almost six-hundred-and-eighty-seven children, girls and women.
With the May twenty-nine transition date fast approaching, and the outgoing Jonathan’s administration haunted by the strident calls for the return of the schoolgirls it is logical and reasonable to expect that the military may be desperate to be on top of the situation and would certainly ensure that the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, are located and liberated with minimum delay.
Nevertheless, the big question is: why did the presidency and the military delay the intensification of the rescue operations till when it was almost late?
The sudden change of attitude and resolve to demonstrate enormous capacity to dislodge the insurgency at the eleventh-hour was indeed perplexing as it was lamentable.
However, one thing remains clear about that unexpected development: If the presidency and the military expect the public to rise in their praise, cheering and applauding them for that rushed and belated campaign against Boko Haram, then they need a rethink. The problem with hasty attempt to liberate those that had been in captivity for long was that the offensive may just be too late, apart from being suggestive of unforgivable and condemnable emotional emptiness.