From #Bring Back Our Girls to #Bring Back Our Boys

FOR almost one week of gruelling search for a solution amidst trauma and torment, the country literally changed the hitherto regnant slogan, #Bring Back Our Girls, to #Bring Back Our Boys after news of the abduction by bandits of some 333 schoolboys in Kankara, Katsina State, was officially confirmed. The new slogan emerged not because the old one has ceased to be relevant but because of the sheer magnitude and the currency of the new challenge that birthed the new slogan. Nonetheless, it is in a sense heartening now that the country has to revert to the old slogan, #Bring back Our Girls, after the official confirmation that the release of the kidnapped boys have been secured. The boys reportedly regained their freedom after intensive negotiations with bandits involving the security agencies, the governors of Katsina and Zamfara states as well as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

While the negotiations that went down, the costs, implicit and explicit incurred, and the involvement of certain dramatis personae, especially members of MACBAN, in the negotiations could be a subject of interrogation in the near future, that should not take anything away from the commendable job done by those who facilitated the relatively speedy release of the boys. With the release of the boys, their parents have been spared the torment of having their children and wards in the custody of outlaws while the country and its leadership can also savour the temporary respite from local and international opprobrium over the sloppy security arrangement in the country.

While everyone basks in the euphoria of the liberty secured for the schoolboys from the custody of bandits, it is imperative to reflect on the sordid state of security in the land which provided a fillip for the Kankara conundrum from which the country is lucky to have extricated itself. Indeed, we are saddened that the Kankara incident happened again after the Chibok and Dapchi sad experiences. The implication is that the security forces have not learnt anything from the previous kidnaps; if they had, there ought to have been proactive responses from the security apparatus, especially against the backdrop of the alleged information at their disposal of impending kidnaps. Another glaring evidence that little or nothing has been learnt from precedents in the official circles was the absence of coordinated responses between the state and the federal governments.

For instance, why would the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, in the heat of the incident, say that only 10 boys were kidnapped? This was just like he stated that the 43 farmers massacred recently by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State did not get a pass from the military before going to their farms to harvest their crops! Even if only 10 boys were abducted, was the time  apposite to make such a  clarification, which is even erroneous? How does that improve or burnish the image of  President Muhammadu Buhari, his principal, whose strategy for combating insecurity in the country has been widely criticised because it is truly suboptimal?

The fact that the country keeps having palpable evidences of heightening insecurity on all fronts is unsettling and calls for a robust conversation around but not limited to a change of official strategy. From all indications, President Buhari is stuck with a method that is patently not working and he is somewhat impervious to suggestions from ‘outside’ on how to improve on the security situation, including a change of the frontline military officers superintending over the prosecution of the war against insecurity. Not a few believe that the Kankara incident was a logical progression from the flawed security architecture of many years and the situation does not promise to change in a while. For instance, hours after the release of the Kankara boys, gunmen reportedly attacked the Emir of Kaura Namoda in Zamfara State, Sanusi Muhammad, killing at least nine people; so the fact that the School boys were rescued in record time does not mean that solution to the deteriorating security situation in the country has been found.

A lot still has to change in terms of official strategy and attitude towards insecurity. For instance, after the Kankara attack, President Buhari who was in his home town of Daura in Katsina State did not deem it fit to visit Kankara to commiserate with the parents of the abducted students. Yes, like other Nigerians, we are delighted that the Kankara school boys were rescued  relatively speedily but the president needs to change his attitude and approach to tackling insecurity in the country  as there is nothing on the ground or on the horizon to suggest that grave and embarrassing breaches of security will not happen again.

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