Nigeria’s State of Borno women rose yesterday against last week’s abduction of 234 girls at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.
They demanded unconditional release of the girls, whose abduction Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka described as the “fatwa” of our time. He criticised President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the security situation in the country.
Information Minister Labaran Maku said troops were still combing the forest for the girls —almost two weeks after they were snatched away from their hostels.
Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi promised to give the rescued school girls free education in his state.
The concerned women in Borno – BAOBAB for Women Rights – demanded that the insurgents should unconditionally release the students if they (insurgents) truly believe in God.
Prof. Hauwa Biu, the spokesperson for the group, told a news conference in Maiduguri that the abduction was a violation of the girls’ human rights and crime against humanity.
“Women in Borno are calling on the insurgents to please release all the girls in their custody without harming them,” she said.
Mrs. Biu also appealed to the insurgents to lay down their arms and hold dialogue with the government.
“We assure them of our motherly support toward rehabilitating them when the need arises,” she said.
After the abduction of the girls on April 15, many of their parents stormed the road for a fruitless journey to the Sambisa forest near border with Cameroon where they are believed to have been taken to by their Boko Haram captors.
“We are ready to embark on another search in the forest with the parents of the abducted girls if we can have enough security backing,” Mrs. Biu said, adding:
“Our target is not to fight the abductors but we want to beg them to release the girls in the name of the God that we all worship.”
Mrs. Biu urged security agents to use sophisticated weapons in detecting the location of the abductors.
She condemned other violent campaigns by the insurgents especially in recent times.
“Women in Borno also condemn violent attacks on schools which deny children their rights to learn in safe environment, thereby jeopardising their future.
“We commend the efforts of Borno and Federal Governments as well as youths/ vigilantes in addressing the current insurgency in the country.
“However, bearing in mind the continuous attacks on schools, we appeal for the provision of adequate security to all schools so as to have a safe learning environment for our children.’’
Prof. Soyinka at the handing-over of the UNESCO World Book Capital status to Port Harcourt described the growing insurgency as a “philistinic Fatwa” and enemies of enlightenment, adding that the continuous attack by Boko Haram sect should be collectively rejected by Nigerians, home and abroad.
He described the insurgency as a deliberate criminal assault on Nigerian personalities as the world mourns.
Former Minister of Education Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, led a protest that drew all participants at the ceremony to their feet for some minutes condemning the abduction of the school girls.
Former Head of State Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, the chairman of the occasion urged Nigerians to allow peace to reign. He said if there was no peace, there would be no progress.
Soyinka said: “This Philistinic Fatwa inhibits learning; we must take the battle to the enemy. We are engaged in the battle for the minds; this is where it began and where it will end. We should make them understand that their fatwa should not appear here. Nigeria is undergoing an affliction that many would not imagine in the whole world years ago. Boko Haram has destroyed books because they are enemies of enlightenment.
“We must go beyond the book cover to learn what lies within and an army that sits in the barracks in the face of an enemy is no army at all, but a sitting lame duck. There was also the dilemma of school children who were abducted under violent condition. One would have hoped that instead of a dance floor, the President would mobilise his entire security apparatus…” he said.
Soyinka added: “It is a deliberate criminal assault on our humanity; this is a frontal, in-your-face assault. The rest of the world looked at us with tears in their eyes; but we looked at the mirror and broke into a dance. It’s only a dirge…”
Soyinka, who regretted the role he played in Jonathan’s Bring Back the Book project in December 2010, said as a matter of urgency, the government should bring back the abducted pupils.
He said the Algerian writer, Professor Karima Bennoune’s book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here should have been made compulsory for every Nigerian in leadership position from the presidency to councillor.
“Today, we will not be so demanding as to ask for the resurrection of the book, but the urgent commitment of bringing back the schoolgirls,” he said.
River State Governor Rotimi Amaechi said his administration embarked on the campaign for virile education since 2007 to sweep away the menace of the Niger Delta militants, which he claimed he had successfully achieved.
Amaechi said: “As Rivers State Governor, I am willing to assist to take as many of those rescued children, as many as we can negotiate, to our model schools, free of charge.
“The solution to Boko Haram does not rest on the military; it rests in education and agriculture. I would have said poverty eradication, but you cannot eradicate poverty. Why did I say agriculture? This is because if we start farming on those vast land in the North, all those recruits in the Boko Haram will find alternatives to Boko Haram.
“What that means is that economic activities will motivate people to go away from this religious ideology to economic ideology that will feed them. If anybody tells you that Boko Haram people are not being paid salaries, that person is lying, they are shooting the way they are shooting, because somebody is paying them.
“When I came in here as a governor, I discovered that those people who were claiming to be militants were not militants. They were actually criminals who were looking for how to fund their parents and themselves, and I thought that the best thing to do was create an alternative economy to replace the illegal economy called militancy and we started and today people can breathe easily in Port Harcourt.”
( Courtesy The Nation, Agencies & State of Borno …… Source …… Our Freelance Contributor in Lagos)