Bring Back Our Boys (BBOB)
Today makes the 42nd day that six students of the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe have been in captivity. The school was invaded on Thursday, May 25th by armed gunmen and the students were carted away. Since then, they have not been seen. Their abductors have asked for various sums of money as ransom and the parents are reported to have paid N10 million; yet, the children have not been released by their captors. Government and the security agencies have blown hot and cold over the issue; yet, no solution. We have been told that the security agencies were on the trail of the kidnappers; that the kidnappers’ den had been located; that the hapless children would soon regain their freedom and that their ordeal and that of their parents, and, indeed, of every conscionable Nigerian would soon come to an end. Forty-two days after, no dice.
There are so many worrisome aspects of this event. One is that it was not the first of such kidnapping in Lagos schools and may not be the last. Security in all schools is porous and nothing drastic has been done to arrest or even ameliorate the situation. Another is that kidnappers write to schools that they are coming and make good their threat. They have written again to another Model college in the state and panic has enveloped everyone. After a panic measure of beefing up security for a few days, status quo ante returned and alarmed parents had to begin to withdraw their wards. The police authorities have said they don’t have enough manpower to police all schools but they have more than enough to police the VIPs with thousands of security men made up the regular police, mobile police, DSS, Civil Defence corps, to mention but a few.
Kidnapping has become so rampant these days that it is now treated as part of the social vices we have to live with. Everyone is left to his or her elements as government has given up the fight. It is the family members of the kidnapped that are left to sort themselves out, after the usual few days’ noise in the media and the cold comfort by the security agencies. Families arrange and take ransom to the kidnappers in their den; the ransom is collected by the kidnappers yet the authorities cannot track and get them arrested. This must be a Stone Age society indeed! If the family of the kidnapped is lucky, their member is released after the payment of ransom, but in many of the instances, ransom is collected and the victims still get wasted. This is wanton double jeopardy! While we appreciate the dilemma of the families of victims of kidnapping, it must be stated that payment of ransom can only encourage more acts of kidnapping. Kidnappers, like Evans, who live like kings on ransom payments, are not only encouraged to continue in the crime, they are also empowered to recruit others into their fold as well as buy themselves out of trouble.
An instance is that of the Igbonla Six, whose parents are said to have paid a ransom of N10 million; yet, the boys have not been released. According to reports, the kidnappers are holding out for more payment. This case is fast becoming like that of the Chibok girls, which is still with us till today many years after. The lackadaisical attitude of the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who doubted that any such abduction took place when he should have acted swiftly in hot pursuit of the abductors, complicated matters as well as allowed the abductors to escape unchallenged. I hope we are not repeating the errors of Jonathan in this instance. What are the authorities doing to free the boys? If there are any ongoing efforts, the public should be made aware of them without compromising security. There has been such a lull in activities in that regard that the parents of the hapless boys were forced to go on peaceful demonstration recently to protest the perceived lack of interest by government in the predicament of the boys and their parents. Implied here is the accusation that the authorities are doing nothing or much because involved are the children of nobody’s. We all are witnesses to the automatic alacrity with which the authorities swing into action when the families of VIPs are kidnapped and, pronto, the kidnappers are arrested and the victims snatched from their jaws. Why are the authorities not acting so swiftly in this instance?
William Shakespeare must be right: “When beggars die, there are no comets seen. Heaven themselves blaze forth the death of princes”. Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State must move quickly to dispel the spreading view that this is the case with the Igbonla Six. The authorities must regularly brief us concerning progress made on this issue. The public, too, has been too docile on this issue. Our ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude rankles. What if our children were the ones involved and where are the civil society groups of yore? A “Bring Back Our Boys” movement, cast in the mould of the Chibok girls’ “Bring Back Our Girls” movement, must immediately swing into action. But for the BBOG, the Chibok girls issue would have died a natural death and nothing would have been achieved in that respect. The BBOG movement, with its activism, ensured that the matter remained in the public space and government was not allowed to sweep it under the carpet. The movement irritated the authorities to no end and despite that it was pilloried and called all sorts of names, BBOG held the government’s feet to the fire and forced it to do something.
Tell Governor Ambode that a Bring Back Our Boys movement cast in the mould of the BBOG is coming to hold his feet to the fire and seize his sleep on the issue of the Igbonla Six. If he does not want this to happen, he has to do something meaningful fast. A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine!