Michael NnebeThursday, June 5, 2014
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his time last year I posted an article titled "A developing culture of appeasement in Nigeria" in which I cautioned the Nigerian government over their overtures towards Boko Haram. But for every general rule there is always an exception, and for me the plight of these more than two hundred Chibok school girls represent the most compelling reason to compromise on our stand. It is true that many countries, especially the western countries often make public proclamations that they do not negotiate with terrorists. The truth, however, is that virtually all countries negotiate with terrorist groups when necessity occurs. The UK negotiated with the IRA on several occasions when it was necessary, even under the iron lady's leadership. The UK negotiated with the PLO, Hezbollah and others in order to free Terry Wait. Ronald Reagan negotiated with Iran and even supplied them with weapons while it was categorically illegal in America to do so. And, of course, the Spanish government negotiated with ETA on several occasions to free hostages and for other reasons.

Recently, we have seen how the almighty US had to give up five high profile Guantanamo Bay prisoners just for the release of one US soldier who had been a hostage of Pakistan's Haqqani terrorist group. It is true that the Nigerian government had spoken publicly about their non-negotiating stance on Boko Haram, and I think it is the right thing to say publicly. The problem, however, is that it appears to me that for these girls to come home and come home safely, Nigeria must now negotiate directly with Boko Haram, if indeed they are not doing that already. Credible intelligence sources reveal that these girls have now been split into several groups, and placed at various locations, possibly in several bothering countries. How then can we rescue them if indeed they are not all in one place? The only alternative, it seems, is to negotiate for their release. Now, according to snippets out there in the public forum, Boko Haram had demanded the release of a hundred of their members now in the custody of Nigerian government. It is quite a lot of potentially harmful people to release from custody, but the ratio is still in our advantage. If the US can settle for 5:1, we surely can settle for 100:237+.

As our government continues to delay on this, there is something we must keep in mind. It is unlikely that these girls are somewhere in the Sahara desert sitting around. Chances are that they are being continually abused sexually, and the longer they are held the more indoctrinated into false Islamic ideologies they become. Not only do we have to negotiate for the release of these girls, we need to act very fast before their physical and psychic damages become irreversible. As a father of two girls I just cannot imagine the horror that is now brought upon the parents of these Chibok school girls. It has been very difficult for me to imagine their ordeal, and we should collectively see these girls as our own daughters or sisters. Perhaps it might be easier for us to urge our government to act swiftly on this if we perceive this girls as members of our families. I continue to give kudos to Oby Ezekwesili and the hundreds of women who are now demonstrating in Abuja on a daily basis. Some have written them off as political opportunists, others see them as attention seekers and those who hate President Jonathan. The truth is that these women and a handful of men are doing us all a great service by keeping these girls on our daily newscasts.

As for our government, it is sad that they have never really taken the Chibok kidnappings as serious as they should, especially in the first two weeks when their actions were rather nonchalant. If not for these domestic and international outcries our government would have likely continued to remain passive in their dealings with the abductions of the Chibok girls. Even now, they continue to see these demonstrations as a distraction, and only last week attempted to ban all such demonstrations in Abuja. This was followed by wide condemnations from all sectors, and a legal challenge that collectively seemed to have forced the Inspector General of Police to reverse the edict Mr. Mbu, Abuja's commissioner of police. Isn't it ironic that the presidency is now using the same Mr. Mbu to carry out their dirty works in Abuja, just as he was used against Governor Amaechi and the rest of the opposition in Rivers state. The bottom line is that Nigerians, especially our women, are now rising up and demanding action from our government to #bringbackourgirls. I sincerely pray and hope that in the end all these outcries will be sufficient enough to sway our leaders in Aso Rock to do everything necessary to bring these girls back home safely.

As I alluded earlier, Boko Haram is demanding the release of a hundred of their members currently in Nigeria prisons as a ransom to exchange these girls. It is true that the number is awfully too much, among them potential suicide bombers that may well come back to do us harm. In spite of the risk, I believe that we risk losing a great deal more if we fail to negotiate and bring back these girls. In January I posted an article titled "Nigeria Educational Imbalance…the North South divide" in which I narrated the gross imbalance that exist between the North and Southern parts of Nigeria, especially in the girl child education with already alarming numbers in the North. Today, in spite of that huge disadvantage we now see many Northern parents who are no longer willing to send their daughters to school because of the Chibok incidence. It is true that Boko Haram is an equal opportunity terrorist group; they have killed hundreds of young school boys in their dormitory in the past and slaughtered both boys and girls at several institutions in the North. But the Chibok effect has been largely noted on the unprecedented withdrawal of school girls from many Northern schools. It will be a very costly mistake to allow Boko Haram to win on this particular front.

Now that we have American unmanned drones and a few other western intelligence assisting us in the pursuit of these vagabonds, Nigeria should go ahead and release those Boko Haram prisoners in exchange for our girls. We can always go after them, and even wipe out most of those we will release in exchange for the girls. I've heard that one Dr. Stephen Davis, a cleric from Australia has been engaged to negotiate on behalf of Nigeria, I can only hope that this is true. For the sake of these innocent school girls, we should put aside all our preconceived notions about whether or not to deal with terrorists. We must do everything and anything to bring them back, for when necessity occurs unnecessary becomes necessary. May God help us.