The release of 21 out of the more than 200 girls abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State 30 months ago by the terrorist gang, Boko Haram, may appear insignificant. But it is immensely soul – lifting for their parents who had waited in anguish for their return. These girls have known horror in its most cruel manifestation and it is important that they are assisted to get over the experience early enough and fast. For the government, the military and other efforts, local and international, that had set the stage for this obviously happy moment, we can only say that there is no rest until the other girls come home to their parents and other relations.
There have been talk about prisoner swap or ransom paid to set the girls free. All that is of no consequence to the girls or their mates still out there hoping that soon they will come home. This development has proved cynics, who had given up on the girls, wrong. It reaffirms the expectation that the remaining girls may one day breathe an air of freedom even if they are coming home with babies in their wombs.
We are pleased that almost everyone is agreed on the fact that what these girls need now is urgent rehabilitation and we are enamoured by the reassurance of the government that everything will be done to help them pick up the pieces of their lives. We appreciate the fact that the security agencies may want to debrief these girls for information on how to approach the issue of the remaining girls. But they must understand that tactful approach is required as they go about this task so as not make the girls replay, so early, the images of their encounter with those animals and hurt them more, psychologically, in the process.
Already, the report that the government has set up a team of doctors, religious leaders, social workers and other professionals in that area to commence the rehabilitation process is a positive way to tell the girls that the nation feels for them as they strive to get over the bitter experiences of captivity. But we must warn that this is not just another job for the bureaucrats who will begin to see it as an opportunity to line their pockets while these hapless girls suffer. The delicate nature of reintegrating them back into decent society demands that only the committed must be allowed to be involved in the assignment. Commercial Non-governmental agencies must be kept at an arm’s length to avoid a repeat of the sad experience of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Furthermore, this is no time for anyone to attempt to make a political capital of what is essentially a humanitarian situation involving not just the girls but also their families who will surely need help too to reconcile themselves to the fact that the nightmare is over. It is pertinent to stress that they (families of the girls) must be involved in all the plans to restore the humanity and dignity of the girls who may have been abused by those animals.
It is in this context that we urge that the ongoing celebratory mood be restrained so as not to worsen the already hurt psyche of the relations of the girls still being held by the terrorists. Instead, it should serve as a period of stock-taking designed to re-strategise and mount the final onslaught that will bring the remaining ones home. The return of the 21, certainly, is a measured success story, a commendable job which also reminds everybody concerned that there is still much more to be done to close this sad episode of the life of not just the girls but also the nation that had to suffer the butt of international jokes on how not to manage a crisis.