Grace Essen: Is there still hope for parents of Chibok Girls?

Grace Essen: Is there still hope for parents of Chibok Girls?

Monday, January 18, 2016 2:15 pm


Grace Essen

Grace Essen

Grace Essen

Making headlines last week was the march of the parents of the over 200 missing girls – the Chibok Girls in Abuja. It’s been over 600 days since the girls were abducted from their school dormitory where they had stayed back to write their senior secondary school exams. As I watched the report on TV, I couldn’t hold back tears from my eyes. I wept as I watched the mothers of the girls weeping, it was difficult not to. On their faces were written sorrow, pain and anguish.

One of the mothers said her desire was not good roads, not schools, not electricity or any of those, she wants her baby back, and having her daughter back means having her joy back, it means having her happiness back, it means having her future back, and as she spoke to a correspondent, others continued to wail in the background. One of the mothers who participated in the march collapsed in the heat of the sunny day in Abuja, probably due to exhaustion. It was a pitiful sight. And I thought, it could have been me, it could have been you, it could have been any one of us who has a daughter.

The journey to Abuja couldn’t have in any way been a jolly ride. It is a two-day journey from Chibok and over 120 parents were determined to make it. They paid the bus fare from Chibok, regardless of their small income; some were reported to have sold their assets to enable them take part in the march to re-engage with the president after the first meeting with him in July 2015. As if their predicament was not bad enough, they were also subjected to the worst treatment on the way when the military intercepted them and barred them from proceeding on their journey until some intervention came.

Having made it to Abuja, the parents of the missing girls and the BBOG group were told that the President would not meet with them. And what do you expect from women who had gone through so much hardship and wanted to see the president and the president alone? They refused to leave and after about three hours of waiting, the President arrived.

During electioneering and thereafter, and even during the first meeting with the President, the present administration had made the defeat of Boko Haram and rescue of the Chibok girls a key indicator of success. Statements were made, and assurances given on how security was going to be priority and everything will be done to rescue the Chibok girls as soon as possible. That must have raised the hopes of parents of the missing girls. Six months down the line, they had their biggest shock when Mr. President during the recent media chat, said they have no idea on the whereabouts of the Chibok girls.

How were they supposed to take such destabilizing news? The rest of us may have sighed and moved on, but not the very people to whom this tragedy concerns the most. It must have given them the feeling that “they are now on their own”, or were they meant to come to such unimaginable realization?

During electioneering and thereafter, and even during the first meeting with the President, the present administration had made the defeat of Boko Haram and rescue of the Chibok girls a key indicator of success. Statements were made, and assurances given on how security was going to be priority and everything will be done to rescue the Chibok girls as soon as possible. That must have raised the hopes of parents of the missing girls. Six months down the line, they had their biggest shock when Mr. President during the recent media chat, said they have no idea on the whereabouts of the Chibok girls.

The parents of the Chibok girls had very high hopes in President Buhari, especially after the last administration literally dragged their feet over the incident, and many questioned if it were really true some girls went missing. But after the media chat, there are now doubts over the possibility of having their daughters back any time soon.
‘Chibok girls’, the name we call the girls, is not likely what their parents call them, not their siblings, not their friends and most likely not anyone from Chibok. The girls we call ‘Chibok girls’ are individuals with dreams, daughters and siblings belonging to separate families, who must have swept floors, fetched water, washed clothes, helped cook meals, laughed, played and fought with their siblings now nowhere to be found and most certainly missed. And 600 days after the only hope they had is dashed. How can these mothers sleep and wake up with the pain of not knowing the fate of their daughters and what they might be going through in the hands of men who have absolutely no regard for human life.

The President, from the statements of the co-convener of BBOG, Oby Ezekwesili, after the meeting, expected the parents as well as the group to acknowledge the efforts made by the government, and he wishes that they would agree that he was committed to the matter of the Chibok girls, as he sleeps and wakes up thinking about the rescue of the girls.
How comforting is that to women who have nowhere else to go? How reassuring is that to the woman who collapsed in the march to meet the President? Have we forgotten the mothers who passed away when they couldn’t bear the pain any longer? Now what news will these mothers take to those they left behind in Chibok? That Nigeria has won the war on Boko Haram when their daughters, our Chibok girls and other abducted victims are still not back?

You may reach Grace via email: [email protected] You can also follow her on twitter @GraceEssen, on Facebook, and also follow her blog @Mum2MumAfrica.com.


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