Chibok, five years after Episode 31

IDEAS Radio 12 April 2019 

Aghogho Oboh: Alright, welcome to Countdown 2019, I’m Aghogho Oboh.  It’s eight minutes past four on 99.3 Nigeria Info. And if you’re on social media, run quickly to Facebook and Twitter, we’re streaming this live on Twitter, as well as on Facebook.

We’re beginning Countdown 2019 with the IDEAS segment, Ayo Obe is here, and it’s a big day because we’re looking at Chibok, five years after.  Believe it or not, how time flies when schoolgirls, 291 of them, I remember very well that day, were taken. The anniversary falls on the weekend but we’re going to be looking the issues concerning the recap of the abduction, how citizen-led advocacy has sustained accountability.  And then the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, also a key part of the day’s discussion.

You can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, @aghoghoobo, @sezekwesili @NigeriaInfoFM, as well as @ideasradiong. @ideasradiong, you can follow.

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Good evening Ayo.

Ayo Obe: Good evening Aghogho.  And it’s – I have with me two guests in the studio who are key members of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Why is IDEAS which is, has its focus on anti-corruption poking its nose into the Bring Back Our Girls business?  Because, I is for Integrity, D is for Democracy, E is for Ethics, but A in IDEAS is for Accountability. And so what we are looking at is the accountability of a government.  The first thing that, … I mean often when we talk about Accountability we’re thinking about money, but the fact is that before money, you must have life, you must have your freedom and your liberty to have anything to say or to do about money.  And where we are now is a situation where we have 112 of the 279 girls who were originally abducted on the night of the 14th to 15th of April, 112 of them are still missing, and it will be five years since they were abducted on that night of 2014.

So I’ve got  with me in the studio to think about the Accountability aspect of this tragedy, Monday Ojon who is a staunch member of the campaign, and Mr. Yahi Bwacha who is actually a parent of a Chibok Girl.  He is one of the fortunate ones in some ways, because his daughter had been among those in the last mass group who was returned to him. But, you know, it’s one of those situations where your joy cannot really be complete while others are unaccounted for.  So I’m going to ask you first of all, Mr. Yahi, as we call you (I’m not very good with the Bwacha part of it), but before you … this matter of the abduction of the Chibok Girls: right from the beginning, it has raised this question about government’s responsibility, its obligations, and the level to which officers in the government, in any government, feel they are accountable to the citizens.  How have you have you experienced that, as the parent of an abducted girl?

Yahi Bwacha:  Well, Good afternoon everyone.  I … when the abduction took place at my place then, as I said earlier for the couple of years.  Abduction during the PDP government, … the accountability of the government proved negatively for us the parents, because I’ve been making relevant complaints and demanding for the quick release from the Day One, but they couldn’t believe, until I run back to Lagos and met up with #BBOG.  Before #BBOG I was invited by Fola and Nigeria Info, in the very month of the abduction, so I was like, hoping government to brought the girls within that period, but it was just unfortunate that today is five years. Until the successor, the successful government that is in power now, that made the move to brought 84, apart from those that escaped on their own.

AO: Yes.

YB:  So as a parent, I, as you earlier said, one headache of any Chibok man affected every Chibok son and daughter.  That is why I’m here, to ask government, to tell government the accountability, that five years is too far, it’s too long!  It’s too much for waiting! And you can say, even most of … many of us are late …

AO: Yes.  

YB: My colleagues are, some of the parents are late!  It’s unfortunate.

AO: They have died?  Waiting to see their children?

YB: Yes they have died, waiting to see their children.  It’s unfortunate. And then some of the children have lost their body parts.  Some might have died, but we want the government to show them their graves.

AO: Well, we want to see them …

YB:  If they are dead.  But we want to see 112 girls, and the Leah, and the remaining Dapchi too, Leah.  They have parents, like as we, the parents. I am jubilating but my own jubilating is just – let me say 30%, not even up to 70%.  When footballers want to play ball, we need goal, not to dribble that “They tried.” No, we need goal! We need the gold!

AO: Thankyou.  

YB: God bless you!

AO: So Monday, Mr. Yahi had actually just raised an issue that I was going to, because he said that  the previous administration, they didn’t feel much Accountability in that regard. But when President Buhari took office, four … almost four years ago now, he made it a point of honour, in fact he said that he cannot consider himself to have defeated Boko Haram, he promised to return the girls.  And yet, on his watch, not only have 112 girls remained in the hands of the terrorists, but we saw a further situation where 113 children were abducted, and one of them Leah Sharibu, we know is still in the hands of the terrorists. We are told that five of those who were abducted died, but how do you see this: has government accounted for these missing children in your view?

Monday Ojon:  Well in my own view I can say that they have partially – this present administration – has partially accounted for the missing girls, because there are some steps that President Buhari took by relocating the Nigerian Army to the scene of the incident, and also brought some girls.  But we cannot fully say that they are really Accountable because 112 girls are still missing. And we are not talking about number, we are talking about HUMAN BEINGS. So the accountability in my own dictionary is that they should go and bring those girls. Because Government exists in the first place, in order to be accountable to the citizens.  And we cannot fully boast that this administration has utilised all the weapons and resources in their disposal to secure Nigerians, especially those that are in the school. 112 human beings is not a joke. Their parents and relatives, they are expecting them to come. And that is why we are here today.

That Chibok Girls represent all the corrupt practices, abuse of power that have been going on in this country.  That it’s as if our government are no more responsible. It’s as if there’s … Nigerian Constitution is no more in existence.  Because government exists in the first place to account for the citizens.

AO:  Thank you.  So in terms of the situation where we find ourselves now.  We have a situation, we have … the Government have been re-elected, because you will remember I think, that in 2014-2015, when Bring Back Our Girls first came up two weeks after the abduction in 2014, the demand then was that the government should Bring Back Our Girls.  And when government failed to Bring Back Our Girls, then it became an issue that citizens looked at in the election. They said to themselves: Is our government keeping us safe? And in fact, you will find that many people who still pretend that girls were not abducted, or who supported the previous administration, they blame the campaign to bring back Nigerian citizens from the hands of terrorists for the defeat of that government.  Now we have another election where a government was still being asked to Bring Back Our Girls, but they won the election. Do you think that they would now feel any need to account for the lives of these missing citizens Mr. Yahi?

YB: If they can’t account for the citizens, it shows Nigerians that they are irresponsible, to me, to put it that way.  Because they have to be responsible for all Nigerians.

AO: Whether or not they’ve won an election?

YB:  Yeah!  Even if they have not won an election, talk less of now that they have won elections, because the … one of the campaign language in those days is: When I enter power, if you elect me I’ll bring the Chibok Girls.  I will feed Chibok, secure primary children … meal of … all those things, so … And this is five years. Five years is gone! 112 Chibok Girls are still there. We never see them! As I earlier said, that it’s not to go and dribble, or to go and, maybe you are a striker … you don’t score goal!

AO: So you don’t feel that the mere fact of being re-elected is a way of telling the government that Nigerians are no longer bothered about the Chibok Girls and therefore, you too no longer need to be bothered about them?

YB: If I don’t need to be bothered about them … since morning, you remember I left my house, you know, we were  marching under the sun to let the government know, that I am still with … sleepless night, because I reason with the parents, my co-parents like me, how they feel.  So I can’t relax. Until … we keep on demanding. I have to recommend the voice of #BBOG Lagos, Bring Back Our Girls group. So that’s why I joined them, to voice out for my people.  To bring out those girls. They are accountable for all Nigerians. Thank you very much.

AO: Thank you.  Monday, when a government is re-elected in the face of a searing national tragedy like this one, don’t you feel that they will believe that the Nigerian people have quote and unquote ‘moved on’ from the tragedy, and that they therefore don’t … no longer need to …  that basically the best thing for them would be for Bring Back Our Girls to fade away, and us to stop talking about it and then we can all pretend that nothing has happened, because it’s obviously not the thing that prevented them from getting elected?

MO: Well, whether elected or re-elected, in whosoever, the responsibility of government remains constant.  Whosoever that is there, that responsibility that has been given him by Constitution, he must do it. So, Mr. Jonathan lost and Mr. Buhari came in, and he was re-elected again, so his responsibility remains the same.  You know, his inaugural speech was that he will use all the resources at his disposal, with his military experience to bring those girls. That is what he told us before he was re-elected now. And that statement remains fresh in the hearts of Chibok communities, and BBOG, and Nigerians at large.  So he must, it is a duty that he must perform to Nigerians. To go and bring those girls. It is when these girls are brought to Nigeria, then every Nigerian will have confidence that we have responsible government. So it does not mean, even though Nigerians, they easily forget some issues, but Bring Back Our Girls is a movement that is  focussed on result-oriented people. So we want our President to go and bring those girls. The National Assembly, everyone that have responsibility must be accountable to Nigerians, and that is what I know, that we must continue to demand for the release of the girls, till every one of them are released.

AO: I want to thank you very much.  Well, we still have about 48 hours before the dreadful night of April 14, and you know, even now, we are hoping that all the plans that #BringBackOurGirls has made to mark the fifth anniversary will come to nothing, because the government will bring back not only our Chibok Girls but also Leah Sharibu.  And of course this morning we all took part in a march to the UNICEF headquarters, because one of their workers, Alice Ngaddah, still remains in the hands of the terrorists, having seen two of her co-workers brutally murdered by the insurgents. So I want to thank you very much … 

MO: Thank you Ms Ayo for bringing us to this place.

YB: Thank you ma for bringing us here to speak to the rest of the world.

AO: And I hope that the rest of your programme tomorrow at midday at Falomo, and  on Sunday an Interfaith service at 5 o’clock at Falomo, to mark the actual anniversary, and as I said, we are still hoping that it will turn to  a service of celebration

MO: Excuse me ma, can we use this opportunity to invite Nigerians?  Because some people are still doubting that this is a political gimmickry and propaganda, but you know in reality this is the parents, they are here.  So we are inviting Nigerians to come tomorrow by 11 o’clock at Falomo roundabout and on Sunday 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock pm. We will be there, and you will see the Chibok peoples … people and their parents there.  Interview them by yourselves, because many people are still doubting that there was no abduction, it is just a political whatever you term it.

AO: Well, if there were no Chibok Girls abducted at least nobody is questioning that Dapchi girls were abducted and that one of them remains in the hands of the terrorists.

YB: And I believe there is no parent on earth that can agree his or her daughter to be amputated or killed or terrorised in the name of politics.  That is true. Because some of them are dead. Some of the Chibok Girls, when they were released, I was invited, and I saw that some of them lost their body parts,  So no parent will adopt to that, or will agree to that, we know. Thank you.

AO: Thank you so much.  Please, continue to follow us, and check out our website, interact with us on Twitter @ideasradiong.  So with that, I want to thank you very much Aghogho for giving us this slightly more than fifteen minutes slot to talk about a cause that is – I must confess – dear to my own heart.

AgO: Dear to all our hearts, and we’re going to continue coverage of the Chibok incident all the way on Monday, wall-to-wall, let’s see what we can make of it in terms of accountability as well as response of the government to the pertinent issues raised by all the stakeholders.  Alright, so Countdown 2019 is still on, this is just one half of it.

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