Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.- Groucho Marx (American – Comedian October 2, 1895 – August 19, 1977)
Last week Saturday news filtered in that Boko Haram, the militant group, which shot to global infamy with the abduction of over 219 girls from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State on the night of April 14, 2014, had released some 82 of the young girls.
As more details emerged about the cheering news, it was learnt that government had finally decided to bow to the wishes of the militant group by releasing some of the Boko Haram fighters captured in exchange for the girls.
This position had been clearly stated by leader of the group Abubakar Shekau in some of the propaganda videos he uploaded on YouTube. But up till now government had refused to budge on this demand, ostensibly believing (rightly or wrongly) in the ability of a military solution to the protracted problem, which had refused to go away especially with the continued action of the Chibok pressure group – ‘Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), which constantly let the whole world know that the girls had not been returned with their daily marches and activities in Abuja.
However, while the parents, family, friends and millions of Nigerians and others around the world, who had followed the saga as if the girls were their own daughters, expressed unbridled joy at the release, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did what I considered a faux pas by issuing a statement which was clearly not in keeping with the prevailing mood of the moment. According to the party, government’s decision to bow to the demands of the terrorist group, by releasing some their captured members will only encourage the dissidents to commit more havoc across the land.
Though it described the release of the 82 girls “as a welcome development,” the PDP under whose government about 276 Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok students were kidnapped from their hostel on April 14, 2014, said it was concerned about the “unusual price” paid to “secure the release of the girls.”
“We recognise the concern of President Buhari to ensure the earliest release of the Chibok girls for domestic and international consideration,” said Dayo Adeyeye, PDP’s National Working Committee’s spokesman.
“But we disagree that negotiating with the terrorists is the right approach to achieving the objective.” Adeyeye said “the suspected terrorists by this release have escaped justice,” adding that “all the effort made by security agencies to bring them to book has come to nothing.”
He noted that “the negotiations are in clear violation and indeed a direct assault on the generally accepted international principle never to negotiate with terrorists.”
Although as an opposition party it was expected that they should perform the function, which is to keep the governing party on its toes by constantly firing barbs at government, however, this does not mean that they should just criticise for criticising sake or just to make the news headlines!
For how does what they said assuage the feelings and emotions of the families of those who have learnt that their nightmares are finally over with the release of their daughters If the PDP had been in the shoes of the girls who have been away from home since 2014 with the families not knowing in what state their children are in? Although losing a loved one is never easy; but it is still much better than the trauma that the families of the Chibok girls have been going through – not knowing if their children were alive or dead.
At least with the former there is closure – they know the person is dead! Again being girls brings the additional anguish of them being repeatedly raped by their abductors.
Despite the promise of giving them the best medical care available in the country many of the girls will never be the same again battling to overcome the demons they faced for the years they were away from the comforts of their homes and the family and friends they have been used to.
For the Chibok families no request is too much to wrest from government as long as their children come home alive – and this will be the position of any normal parent. Adeyeye, the spokesman of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party, also argued that the release of the 82 girls was a “clear violation and indeed a direct assault on the generally accepted international principle never to negotiate with terrorists.”
Excuse me! If my daughter was captured by the terrorists I will not expect any ‘international principal’ to stand in the way of her rescue just like any sane parent would! Besides who also says nations like the US, Israel and others do not reach out to terrorists despite their public stance that they “do not negotiate with terrorists”.
They might not do so directly as a government, but often use “back channels” to reach out to which ever group is holding their citizen(s) hostage. In fact following severe criticism of the US by families of American hostages killed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State, in June 2015 former US President Barrack Obama ordered a review of government’s position on hostage taking.
Family members had complained that they were ignored by officials or even threatened with prosecution if they attempted to negotiate with the captors or raise money for ransoms. Officially, the long-standing US policy of refusing to makes “concessions” to hostagetakers remains in place, but Obama said then that it would not seek to prosecute people who engage in ransom negotiations.
“The last thing we should ever do is add to a family’s pain with threats like that,” Obama said. Of course, Republican House Speaker John Boehner (in line with Adeye’s opposition position) framed the executive order as a kind concession in itself.
“We have had a policy in the United States for over 200 years of not paying ransom and not negotiating with terrorists and the concern that I have is that by lifting that long held principle you could be endangering more Americans here and overseas,” Boehner said.
But Leslie Edwards, a leading hostage negotiation specialist, who had worked in Nigeria before, defended the new policy, saying it was a realistic approach to the agonising dilemmas faced by hostages’ families.
“People don’t understand the difference between not standing in families’ way and actively paying for kidnappees,” he said. “This is just sensible pragmatism. The families are going to pay anyway, regardless of what the administration is saying. It’s totally unrealistic to expect them not to pay or get involved.” And at the end of the day this is all that matters – getting the girls back – any which way!