Chibok girls, seven years and the trouble with Nigeria
By Richard Mammah
It is now seven years since the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State was raided and some 276 school girls abducted. In the intervening period, the number of missing girls has reportedly thinned to 112, but that indeed is still a huge number. ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’
Even more insidious perhaps is the fact that the continued spate of abductions has very severely affected the educational system in many parts of Nigeria, with of course the North East and North West clearly taking the lead in this regard. At the last count, an Amnesty International report documents that as many as 500 schools may presently have been shut down over the continuing scourge of school abductions and the marked inability of the authorities to provide security for students and staff.
In his notable treatise published in 1983, the mercurial Chinua Achebe had identified ‘the trouble with Nigeria as simply and squarely a failure of leadership.’ Achebe pushed as hard as he could to help his countrymen accept this truth until another truth crept up on him: the foundations of negotiation, peace, justice and federalism upon which the nation had been built had been quietly taken away ‘while men slept.’ And that accounted for the parting text from our griot-chronicler: There was a Country.
As one commentator recently remarked, ‘the situation now is such in which students in Nigeria are now being forced to choose between going to school and staying alive.’ And it is not just a crisis that is isolated to students: travellers, farmers, security personnel, virtually everyone is now caught up in an expanding vortex of criminality, terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.
But there are solutions. First, we have to admit that our current security infrastructure is inadequate to do the job in particularly two critical areas. One, the bad guys have more motivation and a seeming sense of operational advantage over our troops for several reasons that cannot very quickly be explored in this short piece. To address this would require the infusion of external troops that can help do the job better. That is one reality this writer believes we should address. Two, there is the need to engage the politics of the challenge and we will explain it this way. It is said that you really cannot police a people who do not want you to. Our security architecture is like many of our other national frames, too alienated to receive effective local community buy-in. We need to as a matter of form return the security of communities back to the people in the mould of proper running state and regional police systems that equally network with and integrate local vigilantes as part of their operational core. This should be the first line security frame.
Second, we need to also note that as things tand now, you really cannot bring closure and effective management to the security crisis without addressing the concomitant political and economic dislocations in the country. So, part of the necessary solution to insecurity management is political and economic reform. Here, two quick low hanging fruits would be the restructuring of the federation and the commencement of the process of putting together a new and popular constitution that would be ratified in a truly free, fair and equitable referendum of the people. A third intervention would have to do with the inception of a more responsive and goal-oriented cross-partisan economic management team that is left with ample latitude to professionally, patriotically and dispassionately craft and drive economic solutions to the expanding challenge that we are faced with on that front. Nigeria needs all the help it can find.