Nigerians must have heaved a sigh of relief with Wednesday’s confirmation by Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that 106 out of the 110 students abducted from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19 have been released by their captors. Considering that five of the students remain unaccounted for, and with speculations rife that they may have died, Nigerians, understandably could not have bargained for that kind of closure.
If only for the sake of the remaining parents, the distraught citizens forced endure the trauma, and indeed the global humanity which bandied together in solidarity while the ordeal lasted, we expect the federal government not to leave any stone unturned until the remaining missing children are accounted for.
Clearly, there are lessons to learn from the unfortunate saga. The first is that the war against the Boko Haram insurgency is far from won. True, the insurgents, as a fighting force, may have been substantially degraded; their capacity to wreak havoc remains no less lethal. Second, that the nation which swore “Never Again” after the Chibok saga was again caught hands down must be seen as revealing of the still pathetic state of intelligence after nearly a decade into the insurgency.
The third revelation must be seen in the absence of synergy between the military, the police and the civil authorities in the area. Indeed, each appears to have acted as if the other does not matter. The officials of the local government which ordinarily ought to have provided the first tier of intelligence acted as if that tier of government does not exist. It was like the military, said to have left the place for other service exigencies, could not be bothered about what happened after; they acted as if calm has fully returned to the area. As for the police, they acted more like bystanders leaving the hapless villagers to stew in their juices. Then of course is the inexcusable lapses under which 110 pupils can be taken away without any form of challenge whatsoever, and to abodes ostensibly far beyond the long reach of the nation’s security establishment.
The final lesson however must be the fact that security is too important to be left to the security agencies alone. It is something that every citizen should be involved in. For us in the Southwest and the State of Osun in particular, it flows from the civic duty of the citizens to promptly alert appropriate authorities at the imminence of signs of potential threats to public order and safety.
Now that majority of the schoolchildren have returned, we expect the federal government to spare no expense to get them assisted to get back to normal lives. As for the Yobe State government, it should urgently undertake a comprehensive review of its security architecture in the light of what happened. After the bitter experience of the Chibok girls, it would seem unimaginable that any school in the Northeast would still be allowed to present a soft target for the terrorists.
Far from being the time for our gallant military to let down their guards, what the times call for is perseverance. With a grateful nation solidly behind them, and convinced of their capacity despite the odds, it seems only a matter of time before they get the job done.