President Goodluck Jonathan may have been politically on point when he said his administration would not be involved in any deal with insurgents that could lead to the freedom of some of the sect’s most wicked members being held at various detention facilities across the country to secure the release of the 200+ girls abducted from their school, Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.
The truth is that, going into such a deal with a group that has been drumming it loud and clear into the ears of everyone that it is at war with the federal government, sounds bizzare on the surface of it. Some may also argue that it will not be to the strategic interest of the generality of Nigerians and the corporate entity called Nigeria for such to be muted, let alone executed.
Remember that we are at the moment sadly faced with a very precarious development that involves our young girls, real mothers of tomorrow! Should they be left, for only God knows when, in the captivity of a group of people that is desperate every time of the day to do the most cruel acts any sane thinking human being can ever figure out?
Otherwise, where on earth would a government allow such to dominate its activities, except for some curious reasons that have facing us. We must bring back our girl, and alive. Now, how would you ensure this without going into some funny deals like the prisoner-swap stuff?
The issue really is a double-edged sword. One, it could ensure that the girls are brought back home safe and healthy, as we saw recently in the case of a US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who regained freedom after doing five years in captivity. He had been held there by the Pakistani Taliban militants and until five of the group most deadly snipers were let off the hook, the poor sergeant remained in solicitude.
We have seen the bashing the US President Obama got from foisting such a development on the Americans. But the fact is that Obama, by that singular action had demonstrated that the life of that single American is worth more than the lives of the five Taliban detainees.
Lawmakers such as Senators Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee, and Republican John McCain, who was held prisoner during the Vietnam War, have raised questions about the security risks posed by the release of the Taliban fighters from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Some of Bergdahl’s former fellow soldiers say he deserted his post in Afghanistan. The deal calls for the five men to remain in Qatar for at least a year.
But in the case of a deal with Boko Haram, which I am advocating, Jonathan will not be spanked by most Nigerians, not even the military! There is no doubt that such a deal has the potentials of spurring the insurgents into more daring actions, but it still remains the better option for us at this time. Granted, the lives of our troops, other security operatives and their dependents are most likely going to be under serious risk. Outside the security circle, a number of top politicians may also be at a grave danger of being trailed on daily by the insurgents for possible abduction. I believe all can still be better managed. Head or tail, the issue at hand is clearly one that will at the end of the day see the insurgents in a win-win position, at least for as long as they keep the girls.
The federal government is not alone in its efforts to bring back the girls home, strong and healthy. Super powers like the United States, the Great Britain, France, China as well as Israel, among others are already in Nigeria with offers of spy planes and intelligence assets to boost the search operation with the hope that they would one day, soon, locate the girls and bring them back home. It is a difficult venture because, it is not unlikely that these young ladies may have been kept at different locations by their captors.
One of the fears by The Telegraph newspaper in a piece recently in such an operation is that: “Diplomats believe that at the first sign of an armed rescue attempt, the group will slaughter its captives straightaway – just as they did in the joint British-Nigerian effort to free Chris McManus, the British hostage shot dead during a rescue attempt in March 2012.
“Likewise, if the girls are split up into separate groups – possibly eight or more – a successful operation to recapture one could lead immediately to reprisals against the others.
“Somali pirates have already pioneered this technique, and it has been successful in keeping special forces attacks on their hostages to a minimum. No foreign government, of course, is anxious to spell out these difficulties too publicly. But only last week, US officials privately conceded that a rescue operation was not an option.”
In the foregoing scenarios, Nigeria naturally has two options to explore in order to get the young girls out of the dungeon. One of them is the late Bola Ige’s widely publicised mantra: “sit don look”. We have seen a large dose of this on the part of the federal government. It has not worked and it may not work. So this leaves the government dancing to the desires of the insurgents, which is the ‘trade off’ option.
Although not a a very palatable option to take, especially as it has to do with an organization that has been ranked as one of the most dangerous and most deadly in the world today, I feel it still offers a window for us to get the girls out. The fears in some quarters that the young ladies could be sold out as slaves or killed do not hold water as the militants still have some image to flaunt; so would not want to be seen, even by their sympathisers as people that are unconscionable; whether we like or not, they still rely on donors around the world to fund their operations.