If the president wants to have video evidence of all Boko Haram captives he can receive it today, that’s if he hasn’t already. If the president wants the captors of innocent Nigerian citizens and school girls to put them on the phone with their parents, he can have it done, except if he doesn’t want to. He has the might as the president, so why is he saying he has no clue about the state of the girls?
Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), popularly called Boko Haram, didn’t fall from the sky; they are mostly Nigerians. The abductions were done in Nigeria and the girls are still widely reported to be in Nigeria. Is the president saying no one in Nigeria has access to the sect, a country of over 170 million or, if those with access have not come forward, what has he done as the president to find them?
What does the president mean when he says no credible leader of ISWAP has come forward with evidence of the 219 girls abducted in their dormitories in April 2014 before he will consider negotiation? Does the president want a Boko Haram leader to approach the fortified gates of Aso Rock and announce himself and wait to be ushered in? And who are these Boko Haram leaders that were attempting to approach the federal government over the last months that were not credible enough?
All over the globe, there are people with access to those who operate outside established norms, and such people are used to reach out as third parties to mediate between two opposing sides. What any serious government like the one run by President Buhari (as we are made to believe) should do is to use his intelligence agencies to vet those sources. However, the question we should all be asking is: what happened to the video evidence former President Jonathan received less than two months into the abduction of the girls that almost saw the release of the abducted girls in a swap deal - or is everything Jonathan too dirty for this government to try its hands on?
My understanding of the Buhari administration as it relates to the negotiations of the abducted school girls is that they are living in a bubble. They want everything to work for them like ABCD: no hitches, no obstacles. It should be like sending a child to a shop to buy sweets. If the child loses the money on his way or buys something contrary, he is spanked and accused of carelessness or stealing the money. Negotiations of this nature are usually tough, rough and irritating, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon it each time it occurs. Even failed military raids are repeated again and again until they succeed.
Even the Western countries that bask under the statements that they do not negotiate with terrorists have done so several times, like the exchange of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that led to the release of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay. Also noteworthy is the case of four children between the ages of 5 and 12 among seven members of a French family kidnapped in Cameroon and were later swapped with Boko Haram militants in April 2013. The examples are many, so are the options before President Buhari on Chibok girls and dozens of other captives that now despair at the likelihood that they will be free from captivity.
Most of the Chibok girls, whether they are split into groups or not, are alive, multiple credible sources have told me, and if a deal to release them will weaken national security and endanger the entire country, then the federal government shouldn’t make a deal. But was there a deal that can undermine national security that has been pursued vigorously to its conclusion? To make the terror group give more and more concessions, the perspectives of many top security officials in Nigeria run in opposite directions with the statements of President Buhari during his media chat yesterday.
I am confident that Chibok girls and other captives can return to their families if the government is half as strong-willed as some of the girls in captivity that have refused to be married out or give up their faith. The girls would have never backed out of any process, no matter how irritating it is. They would stay on and negotiate hard until they get a deal that will earn them their freedom and stop such abductions so that no one else can ever witness their woeful plight.