Buhari wants Nigerians to forget dead Dapchi girls
Most of the Dapchi girls have returned but the president keeps neglecting to talk about a crucial detail.
He's been accused of being autocratic, incompetent, negligent and blind to his own failures, or just plain old heartless.
With the disconcertingly 'cheerful' mood of the Federal Government this past week, the president might have affirmed some of those accusations.
It is no longer news that the 110 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, from Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Bursari local government area of Yobe State on February 19, 2018, have been released.
Well, almost all of them.
I'll not descend into the cesspool of the conspiracy theories that have been swirling around the whole Dapchi situation, neither will I get caught up in the government's failure to prevent a 'national disaster' it had promised would never happen during its time from happening in a laughable manner.
However, I'll deal with the facts of what proof is lying around; and despite the government's sense of achievement over the return of the girls, the president and his entire government have questionably glossed over the most tragic part of the Dapchi story.
Since the girls returned on Wednesday, March 21, the Federal Government has made several press releases that bothered on how no ransom was paid to Boko Haram, how they negotiated the deal to get the girls back by appealing to the good graces of the group, how the terrorists made the Army stand down to deliver the girls, how the government had fulfilled its promise to get the girls back, and how naysayers should desist from 'politicising' the abduction.
Late on Thursday, March 22, when the story of Leah Sharibu gained traction as she remains the only girl still held by the terrorists because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam, the president addressed her situation.
"His heart goes out to the isolated parents who must watch others rejoice while their own daughter is still away. The Dapchi girl, Leah, will not be abandoned," a presidency statement read.
A casual observer would be tricked into believing that the Federal Government has covered its bases and handled communication in the most effective way possible; but you'd be terribly mistaken.
One of the schoolgirls, Khadija Grema, had reported on Wednesday that five of her schoolmates died of heart attack and stress as a result of the long trip.
If Buhari's reaction to Sharibu signified anything, it is his acknowledgement of the fact that the 110 girls that were abducted were not the same 110 that returned.
The final official count for the girls that returned is 105, excluding the two unconnected hostages that were also released.
The official count might signify that there's some inaccuracy in Grema's report as only four girls remain unaccounted for currently if you add Sharibu to the 105 that have returned.
However, despite the deficiency in the number and the account from the released girls who said five of them died, the Federal Government has not said a single thing about it.
No press statement acknowledging that some girls died or did not return, no statement expressing condolence to their parents, no press statements that even suggested that they all existed just a little over a month ago.
Bereaved father of one of the girls, Inuwa Garba, told Associated Press on Thursday, March 22 that some of the released girls told him that his 16-year-old daughter was the first to die and was buried in the bush alongside the other four.
"They told me five of the girls died and my daughter, who was among them, was the first to die," he said.
Another father, Adamu Jumbam, revealed how troubled he's been by his daughter's death and the events that led to it.
He said, "I was troubled when other girls were seen on arrival but my daughter, Aisha, was said to have died alongside four others. All the same, I thank Almighty Allah for this and pray for the repose of their souls.
"The surprising thing is that Boko Haram abducted these girls and still returned them in broad daylight and went back freely. All these things trouble our imagination."
While this oversight could have been chucked down to the government's usual lapse in duty, like we've sadly come to expect in Nigeria, President Buhari tried to erase the existence of those girls from history on Friday, March 23.
During a meeting with the released girls at the Presidential Villa on Friday, the president explained how his government had engaged in careful negotiations with Boko Haram to secure their release.
Most crucially, the president said something that should have got stuck in his throat and never seen the light of day, but unfortunately did.
He said, "We entered into negotiations solely to make sure that no single girl was hurt. This strategy paid off as the girls have been released "
While it's forgivable enough, considering what we've come to expect, that this government will try to neglect the decent duty of at least acknowledging the existence of the dead girls, trying to erase them from memory is the most heartless thing the president of a country could do, no matter how low the bar is set for him.
One girl dying IS AN INCIDENT; five (or four) is a national disaster that should mean the president has to wipe dozens of eggs it leaves on his face.
For President Buhari to attempt to pull a wool over the eyes of Nigerians and act as if the death of those girls is unimportant, in the grand scheme of things, is a disgrace.
That the president had the time in his speech to caution 'political profiteers' is even more worrying because it sounds so much like he is more invested in making sure people don't point out his failures than he is with dealing with his actual failures.
Those dead Dapchi girls that remain unacknowledged by Buhari and his government have parents and siblings and friends; people who'll miss them and remember them and mourn their passing.
To downplay their unfortunate deaths, Mr President, in an attempt to magnify your own sense of achievement, is a violation of your vow to cater to ALL Nigerians.
Embrace your failures as much as your successes and be the leader Nigerians half-expect you to be.
Dapchi girls died, and they deserve a mention.
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