When over 200 secondary school girls, whose parents had been assured of their safety, were brazenly abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, the federal government was quick to condemn the act. As usual, it promised to defeat Boko Haram and rescue the girls.
A day later, the military declared that it had freed most of the girls, only to retract the claim two days later. Most of the girls remain missing, forcing understandably desperate parents to join the search.
It didn’t take long for a totally different version of the events leading to the large abduction to emerge. According to one report, the Chairman of Chibok local government area received a message two hours earlier, that a convoy of about 20 vehicles driven by suspected Boko Haram members had been sighted heading to the town. Even with limited communications, he managed to reach contact the state police command which mobilized for the challenge.
Unfortunately, faced with well-armed and well-drilled fighters, it didn’t take long for the police to run out of ammunition and withdraw. But that is not the real story. What is instructive is that the military post right opposite the school was reportedly withdrawn just before the attack.
Not a single member of the Nigerian military remained behind to confront the invaders and protect the students, ostensibly on whose behalf the military post had been located in that position.
Similarly, a few weeks earlier when suspected Boko Haram fighters launched a large scale attack on an army barracks near Maiduguri, the initial reports claimed that the attackers had come in under the cover of the night to wreck the large scale havoc they inflicted, in addition to the high number of causalities. But like the Chibok attack to come, it didn’t take long for contrary reports to emerge.
Eye witness accounts insist that the attacks did not take place at night, but that the terrorists came in the middle of the day and were actually observed prior to the attacks. Again, there are claims that many of the military personnel on posting at the barracks had been ordered to evacuate before the attacks occurred, and that only the uninformed were left behind, fatally exposed to be slaughtered by the hordes of invaders.
Not long afterwards, a brave British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reporter did one of the most informative pieces on the insurgency to date. He traveled to the scenes of the conflict and was able to conduct first hand interviews with some of the victims.
A particularly telling interview was with a lady named Comfort who had managed to escape from the den of the terrorists. Comfort claimed that Boko Haram usually had information about any planned military raid and had time to escape to forests and caves before they occurred.
The claim insinuates that not only are the locations of Boko Haram camps known to the military, but the unspoken implication is that either the terrorists had moles within the military, there was some sort of illegal alliance, or both. These are very matters.
The military should not only speedily repudiate such allegations and provide evidence to back their position, but also take additional steps to build public trust and confidence. That failing, few Nigerians now believe what the military says about the war on terror; the rumor mills are in overdrive.
As if it were not bad enough that most Nigerians do not believe the military, even the civil Department of State Security, (SSS) is losing the credibility campaign, not the least because of the approach of its spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar. Just last week, the SSS was accused by a group of not being fair to Muslims. There is grave danger to the state when a section of the population believes that public institutions are biased against one group.
The DSS only has itself to blame to exposing itself to such ridicule, especially in the aftermath of the recent ‘invasion’ of its headquarters. Anyone who has been to the SSS headquarters before, as I have, cannot but chuckle at the claim. Whatever the truth may be, a number of people were killed and their bodies dumped at various morgues across Abuja.
Not even the usually meaningless government probe of the event has been announced. No one knows the identity of the dead, who killed them, and under what circumstances, and evidently, no one cares.
But then, we should not be surprised. These institutions are only following the trend set by President Goodluck Jonathan. How credible are the words of a president who says he feels the pain of terrors victims one day, but immediately proceeds to a political rally to backslide on the yet to dry blood of the dead, and dance on their yet to be dug graves?