By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN –
Jessy Jonah was a classmate in my early years at high school. He was not only older than the rest of us, he was much bigger and, ironically, the most playful too. He was always ready to kick around black board dusters with us in classroom ‘soccer matches’ and play the chalk stoning game too. Everyone got a kick out of teasing Jessy because, unlike the other big lads, he laughed it off and struggled to hit back with a joke of his own.
But then one fateful Friday I will never forget, he got angry. He got into a brawl with a fellow big boy and I remember how terrified everyone was at how hard he went at him. It was the first time I heard what a real punch sounded like and, when it was over, the other guy was lucky to escape with just a bloodied mouth.
He was back to being himself on Monday but a lot of things changed. He wielded more power than anyone else. If he came wanting to play, everyone did so out of duress. If he teased you, you retorted by teasing yourself even harder. No matter what we did, we just had to keep him happy. We had been subdued.
The Buhari government is us and Boko Haram is the ‘new’ Jessy. They not only make demands government must meet, they must do so by their laid-out terms.
As has been confirmed by senators Ahmed Lawan and Joshua Lidani, the government pays out millions of euros to the terrorist group as ransom. It clears out military personnel for them to return kidnapped school girls and move back to their base. A ceasefire was, according to the DSS, the only condition given for a return of the Dapchi girls. Boko Haram even dictates when we fight. It is the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that has been technically defeated by Boko Haram and not the other way round.
Shortly after the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, claimed no money was given to the terrorist group for the return of the Dapchi girls, reports surfaced to confirm the fear of Nigerians that there actually was. And not only that, five Boko Haram prisoners were also released, three of them bomb makers.
It is not uncommon for governments to make secret deals with terrorists but the peculiarity of our circumstance borders on the fact that we are turning into the main sponsors of our No. 1 security threat. We are starting to hear about a liberal Al Barnawi faction which isn’t as pre-disposed to violence as Abubakar Shekau’s. But spurred on by the millions Shekau got for the 2017 release of 82 Chibok girls, it has started to launch its own kidnappings. So, technically, we are sponsoring two Boko Haram factions, and my fear is that with the huge financial war chest at their disposal, they could resurrect their cells in states outside the north-east to join the kidnap craze. The implications stretch that far.
Inasmuch as I believe the life of one school girl may be worth all the money in our treasury, I am particularly saddened by the role government’s incompetence has had to play in this. The moment Boko Haram kidnapped persons on more than two occasions within a short period of time, even the most passive of observers could tell it was only a matter of time before they targeted schools. The Chibok girls’ saga was supposed to have taught us an invaluable lesson. But no, the Buhari government chose to keep lying about defeating Boko Haram ‘technically’ instead of protecting schools and other soft targets the terrorists were likely to strike, going by their antecedents.
Week after week, while boko haram was bombing innocent Nigerians, there was always one or more members of Buhari’s government waiting to tell us just how toothless they had become. They wallowed in self-deceit and neglected to do what was expected of them.
Now we are paying the price for that. Not only with our money but with the lives of innocent school girls. It’s sad.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.