A misguided tour and the plight of Boko Haram victims – By Musa Hassan-Tom

As the battle against the book haram terrorists draws close to an end, the Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government should not allow itself to be cornered into a situation of winning the battle and losing the war by pandering to vested interests.

While the battle to defeat the insurgents has largely been successful, the task of attending to the needs of both internally displaced persons and refugees in neighbouring countries with a view to ameliorating their plight in the short term and creating conducive environment for their return to their ransacked communities have largely remain un-addressed by the Federal Government.

Even as UN donor agencies and activists like Oluwakayode Ogundamisi who take various degrees of risks to visit the IDPs camps continue to sound the alarm bell in respect of the unfolding human tragedy, the Federal Government would rather dismiss the call for urgent action and indulge in celebrating victory of winning the war.

The recent “guided tour” of Sambisa forest, the erstwhile stronghold of Boko Haram with conveners of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement is one of such political showmanship which only helps in shifting the focus from the unfolding tragedy that the government is denying.

In an uncanny turn of events, the present APC government which used the Chibok Girls saga when campaigning against the erstwhile government of President Goodluck Jonathan by leveraging on the activities of the #BBOG movement and its celebrity activists, now has to kowtow to the movement for fear of political backlash from the celebrity activists that have loud voice in the social media circles.

The conditions of IDPs in the various camps in Maiduguri, Borno State and other locations remain squalid with children dying of malnutrition and associated diseases. The exploitation and shortchanging of IDPs by government agencies and certain ‘big men’ in high places have been documented and yet no one has been held to account despite President Buhari’s vow to punish the culprits.

The Presidential Initiative on the Northeast which is under the direct supervision of the Presidency has become a conduit pipe for slush funds as it engages in self-serving expenditures without catering for immediate needs of the IDPs while planning for the long term need of rebuilding and resettling the IDPs back to their communities. The indictment of the SGF and Presidential Initiative on the Northeast by the Senate ad hoc Committee on the Northeast cannot be waved away.

The guided tour delegation of the Federal Government and the #BBOG movement conveners should have visited the IDP camps in the Northeast to evaluate the plight of all victims of the Boko Haram insurgency and the efforts of the Federal Government in addressing same.

One is at loss at what the tour sought to achieve and what it has actually achieved. The Federal Government figuratively and literally took the #BBOG conveners for a ride and after hovering over Sambisa forest, they came back to tell us that they discovered that Sambisa has a land mass of 60,000M2..

That is not exactly true but even if it is true what value has the revelation added to either the search for the Chibok girls or the plight of the other victims of Boko Haram? The tour was a misguided adventure!

The Chibok girls’ abduction is a fraction of the tragedy that has occurred and is still unfolding. The #BBOG movement ought to have organized a tour of the IDP camps even without government’s prompting to see first-hand, and verify the unfolding humanitarian crisis if its objective is altruistic and beyond grandstanding.

The bait of the guided tour of Sambisa forest which the #BBOG conveners fail for, further exposes the motives of the movement as they went all the way from Abuja and flew our Sambisa but did not bother to stop by and have a tour of the IDPs and their host communities to get direct assessment of humanitarian issues on the ground. Like all tragedies Nigeriana, Boko Haram terrorism became a launching pad into power, politics, governance and activism for many with the sole motive of self-aggrandizement.

The bitter public spat between the #BBOG movement and one of the daughters of President Buhari on the alleged use of the #BBOG hashtag in raising funds for a charity affiliated with her working with the Boko Haram victims sometime last year, leaves one wondering whether #BBOG has become a trademark of a franchise.

The Cable online news recently went undercover to investigate the plight of IDPs and the unfolding humanitarian disaster and its reports largely corroborated what the UN donor agencies have been sounding. Earlier on, an activist, Oluwakayode Ogundamisi, also took a tour of the IDP camps at Maiduguri all the way from the UK where he resides to see firsthand the plight of the victims of book haram. He gave a vivid and detailed report of his findings which he shared on twitter and also forwarded a report to the Presidency in that regard.

Instead of the President to reappraise his strategy, if any, for catering for the IDPs in the short-term and rebuilding of destroyed communities and settlements, the Presidency seems more interested in scoring political points and placating celebrity activists than walking the talk.

While acknowledging the fact that the kidnap of the Chibok School girls by Boko Haram was no doubt a tragedy of no small proportion and no efforts should be spared in ensuring the return of the remaining schoolgirls back to their families and community, the Federal Government must equally pay attention to the plight of all victims of the Boko Haram insurgency and not just pander to the celebrity activists like the #BBOG and their likes who zero their activities on the return of the Chibok girls without blinking an eye to the light of other victims of the tragedy.

The conveners of #BBOG movement have largely succeeded in creating “celebrity victimhood’ of their ilk out of the Chibok schoolgirls than taking a holistic approach to the plight and cause of all victims of Boko Haram. The celebrity status of the conveners of the #BBOG movement with its social media clout has distorted the reality and proportion of those directly affected by the crisis.

Many young girls and married ladies were abducted and taken as spoil of war in all the communities ransacked by Boko Haram during the height of the insurgency. So also, many young men and boys of school age were killed just as the Bunyadi boys whose martyrdom has not attracted the required media attention and sympathy.

The accidental bombing of an IDP camp at Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area by the Nigerian Air Force yesterday which occasioned casualties yet to be ascertained, has once again reminded us that the plight of Boko Haram victims remains an unfolding tragedy that all stakeholders have to cooperate and coordinate to address.

The war against Boko Haram cannot be declared won until the last abductee in the custody these terrorists is freed, all communities rebuilt with IDPs and refugees resettled, and not just when all the Chibok girls are freed from Boko Haram.

In the interim, the death of infants at the IDP camps due to malnutrition and associated diseases must be given the desired attention. The sexual harassment and molestation at IDP camps must also be eliminated and efforts towards rebuilding, resettling and rehabilitating the affected communities must begin in earnest even as the gallant troops of the army supported by the Nigerian Air Force and the Navy continue to pursue the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists.

Hassan-Tom, an indigene of Borno state, is a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner

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