#Dapchi: Can’t believe another episode of #ChiokGirls unfolding

Welcome To Dapchi
By Blogger

I have not been able publish posts on my blog in the past seven days or thereabout. It wasn't because I have run out of ideas on issues that I could ventilate my views. Neither was it because I was starved of resources to pull together a compelling write-up for my readers' sustained pleasure. 


Nope! 

Certain recent events actually made me incapable of hitting the keyboard of my blog page for nearly a whole week. 

The Dapchi attack and subsequent abduction of over 100 Schoolgirls by Boko Haram fighters on Monday, 19th February, was one issue that temporarily robbed me of my creative ingenuity to keep a date with my blog. 

In fact I am still gasping for breath, choking under the avalanche of the unimaginable flaws being displayed by both the governments and security agencies in making sure another episode of 14th April 2014 doesn't repeat itself again. The #ChibokGirls saga. 

Nearly four years after their abduction, only about half of the girls have been rescued.

While keeping tab on the events unfolding in Dapchi and reporting them as they turn out for my mother media house, PREMIUM TIMES, I had to wear a thick chain around my wrists to restrain me from making my personal views and expressing my fears about how the Dapchi issue is being handled - lest I should be dubbed a prophet of doom. 

But that's not even the only reason that made me embark on his brief sabbatical from my blog.

The ease with which the Boko Haram gunmen had reportedly wandered into Dapchi, a sleepy agrarian community, 101km away from Damaturu, and carried out one of the simplest human heist, that could have been easily thwarted even by the most lousy infantry troops, left my eyes bulging and mouth agape for days. 

How on earth, could one believe it, not even in the wildest stretch of imagination, that a so-called degraded Boko Haram could stage such a mass abduction of girls and disappear into thin air, unchallenged, at a time we are so proud to say that now our military is better equipped both on ground and in the air.

At a time we are celebrating the induction of drones into our military warfare tactics.

At a time, when our officers and men are more grounded in the execution of asymmetric war of the Boko Haram.

At a time, we have our soldiers more spread in the hinterlands of the northeast than ever.

At a time when hundreds of Boko Haram camps and hideouts have been destroyed and mass cache of arms recovered or destroyed.

At a time when remnant Boko Haram fighters are on the run having been smoked out of Sambisa, Alagarno, Bitta, Lake Chad, Sassawa, Chikungudu, Chikide and Gwoza axis. 

How could these weather-beaten, ragtag, hungry, surrendering, disguising, and ill-looking Boko Haram still manage to stage a commando-like invasion and capture of a town that is located on a major highway and spent hours searching for the exact location of the girls school without anyone coming to give them a challenge for their guns. 
How? How? How? How!!??

This drives me crazy. 

I was still mad at this annoying development when I hit the road on Thursday to visit Dapchi and see things for myself. 

My anger and disappointment soared the moment I arrived Dapchi, a village I knew since I was a child. My parents lived in Geidam town which is about 80km ahead, for nearly 40 years. So every time I had to travel to school or go visit them, I had to pass through Dapchi. Sometimes we even stop by in Dapchi to pray.

The people are quite friendly, receptive and peace loving. The biggest government presence in Dapchi has been the Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) which is now rechristened Government Girls Science and Technical School (GGSTC). For convenience sake, the locals easily refer to the school as GG Dapchi. That name sticks till date. 

In the village, the residents informed me that the invaders that attacked their community and took away their girls out rightly  asked for where GG is located. Their mission was to the school, and their target was to abduct a large number of girls.

The shootout at the police post was just to create a detour and possibly dislodge the police while they were fetching the Schoolgirls. 

The attacked villagers said the gunmen arrived at about 6.30 and did not start leaving until about 7.30pm. 

One resident of Dapchi informed me that the gunmen were even asking people not to panic, not to flee as they were not in the town to harm anyone. 

It took hours before a deployment of soldiers arrived Dapchi. Even when they came no one mounted any serious pursuit on the abductors who left with about nine vehicles filled with Schoolgirls. 

As we drove to Dapchi I noticed that there was no any military checkpoints from Damaturu to the village. That too is questionable – a story for another day.

On the second day after the abduction, we learnt that many of the girls who ran into the bush found their ways back to the school where they were head-counted and then asked to home. Some parents were there at the school to pick their wards.

Sadly, it took both the management of the school and the state ministry of education more than 72 hours to tell the world the actual number of girls in the GGSTC Dapchi. 

How can one beat such a situation where a school principal who feeds students daily, cannot say from his or her fingertips the number of students he feeds in school; at least in that aspect government do keep records.

Or how could a ministry of education that prepares the budget and picks all the bills for the students, cant say exactly the number of students in Dapchi. It was so sad and irritating, to say the least.

Just like the case of #Chibok schoolgirls, the military was credited with yet another false information that the abducted girls were rescued on Wednesday at a location near Geidam town. Many residents of Geidam told newsmen about how soldiers were celebrating the rescue of Dapchi girl all night.

On Thursday, the people of Dapchi and parents of the missing girls gathered in the village waiting for the state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, to arrive before they could be reunited with their daughters.

A federal government delegation, led by the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Muhammed, was also being expected in Dapchi on that day.

But when the governor arrived the town, the excitement of the people was aborted by his too cold package of truth. 

“There are no rescued girls”. He simply urged the people to pray and believe in God for their wards’ return.

His message was not received or taken even with a pinch of salt. It angered the people who almost took the laws into their hands in reacting to the cold plate of disappointment served to them.

But the governor was right. The military lied to him; made him to issue a false statement the previous Wednesday night that unknown number of schoolgirls had been rescued by the “gallant military”.

When the minister of information arrived Dapchi via a police helicopter, he too did not help matters. He said the federal government was still not sure of what exactly happened to the missing girls. The military command in Yobe state had no clear information to give to the minister on the where about of the abducted after days of search and pursuit.

The government had insisted that the girls may not have been abducted. But some of the parents and many of the villagers were very emphatic in their testimonies of how they saw many girls packed in many trucks were being carted away.

A lucky schoolgirl who escaped said she saw her mates being taken away after they were deceived  by Boko Haram gunmen dressed in military uniform, to enter the trucks thinking it belonged to the soldiers.

The government did not deem it right to immediately meet with the parents, who had not seen their daughters, to determine the number of girls that had gone missing.

The governor of Yobe state had to issue another statement to apologize to the people of the state that he was misled to issue an earlier statement that the girls had been rescued.

Mr.Gaidam later said on Friday that about 84 girls are missing out of the over 900 schoolgirls in GGSTC, Dapchi.

But his figure did not tally with what the parents of the girls had. The parents had since opened a register under their newly formed forum. 

In their register, which seemed to be the most credible, the parents had 105 girls missing. This was confirmed by the actual parents who went to Dapchi to personally make the complaints.

Yobe state governor Ibrahim Gaidam, brought another twist to the entire conundrum of the Dapchi attack when he accused the military of deliberately exposing his people to Boko Haram by removing troop from Dapchi few days before the attack.

Gaidam insisted that Dapchi has never experienced any form of attack since the beginning of the insurgency until when the military command suddenly moved out soldiers stationed in the town.

He also recalled a similar incident way back in 2013 when the military had to pull out soldiers from Buni-Yadi and a week later, Boko Haram gunmen attacked the town and killed 29 students in a college there.

Borno state governor had during a sympathy visit to Damaturu described the Dapchi schoolgirls as a act that reminds one of the conspiracy theory that surrounded the #ChibokGirls abduction.

"This incident however, reminds all of us not only in Borno and Yobe but perhaps across the northern Nigeria to be on guard", he said.

 "I think the difference between the Chibok incident and this one, is that the Federal Government didn't react in denial, doubt or formed a conspiracy theory. The Federal Government assumed responsibility which we hope will lead to rescue of the schoolgirls. When schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok, some people said there was no abduction because Borno was in the opposition. Those who admitted there was abduction, came up with a conspiracy theory that the APC leaders perpetuated it in order to win the 2015 elections. 

"Now, this abduction took place in an APC controlled State under an APC led federal government. What this reminds us, in very painful way, I should add, is that as political actors, we should learn to separate politics from issues of security. Human lives are very precious in the sight of Allah".

For now, the military is very silent about the Dapchi girls. Perhaps they are carrying out some tactical operations to round up the abductors.

The Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, spoke about the missing Dapchi girls, which he described as a national disaster.

To Kareem’s Pick Blog, the abduction of the girls was not only a disaster, but a national embarrassment which could have been avoided.

In some of my interviews with the residents of Dapchi, one of them clearly informed me that the attack was foreseen. That some persons in the village, actually had a prior knowledge of the attack, but were scared to mention it until it became too late.

That people are scared of letting out such information, underscores the fact that there are gaps in the existing civil-military relations. After all this nearly nine years of counterinsurgency, there should have been, by now, a robust sense of trust between the military and the civil populace. If there is anything close to that, perhaps the people would have developed a high sense of confidence to approach the security agencies and inform them of what they know.

Who knows if the people still have more information that they are hoarding; information that could help in the ongoing war against terror or even the one that could help find the missing girls.

Popular Nigerian journalist, and expert in the reportage of Boko Haram insurgency, Ahmed Salkida, caps it all in his recent tweet.

“Nigeria is paying the price for allowing officials condemn those that painstakingly provided accurate and timely info to the public over the years. Who is that journo that will independently report the abduction in #Dapchi and risk being declared wanted and a life of stigma?”, Salkida’s tweeted on 2rd February, 2018.

I do hope my esteem readers will understand why I had been away from the blog page all this while. 

I am not sure if this treatise of mine has even helped to assuage my confusion and anger over what is actually going on in the northeast.

I am even more confused that unlike other cases of abduction, Boko Haram or any of its divided group has come up to claim credit for the abduction of the girls.

And no one has come out to tell he world what exactly was the soldiers in Geidam town celebrating after they had returned from the bush on Wednesday evening….

The anger in me is as weighty as the confusion that has befallen our dear country...

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