Like Chibok in Borno State, Dapchi a relatively unknown town, in Yobe State, has been thrown into international limelight by the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist sect with the kidnap of some innocent secondary school girls.
The mostly agrarian rural town located about 100km from Damaturu the state capital was invaded by the sect members, who headed to the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, where they reportedly herded some of the students into their vehicles, and drove off into the night.
Deja-vu speeches and (in)actions of the Chibok attack where some innocent schoolgirls were equally ferried off immediately began to fill the media space as soon as the news hit town. The only difference, was that government officials, both state and local, visited the town, as soon as they could.
But just like the Chibok scenario, government, especially at the federal level, went into denial. In the case of Chibok, government’s initial response was to deny that no such thing happened, and that the news was merely a ploy by detractors of government to spread false news and embarrass the government.
In the case of Dapchi, government does not want to believe that the kids were kidnapped by Boko Haram. They preferred to initially go with the belief that the girls ran into the bush, and will soon, one after the other find their way back home; a narrative that has fallen flat on its face.
However, maybe in efforts to appear like a departure from the Chibok case, government began pushing narratives into the public space to convey a sense of responsibility, and action. These efforts however began to appear for what they actually were; incompetencies, lies, and conspiracies.
Two days after the kidnap report, the state government still unable to determine the actual number of girls that had gone missing, told the world through Abdullahi Bego, Director-General Press Affairs to Governor Ibrahim Gaidam that some of the girls had been rescued by gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Army from the terrorists who abducted them, and that the rescued girls are in the custody of the Nigerian Army.
The very next day however, Governor Gaidam apologized for what he tagged a “mistake”, even as he admitted that government still did not have a handle on the situation. After the third day, there was still no reliable figure of the number of students missing, talk less of efforts being made to go after the terrorists, and rescue the girls.
Three days after the incidence, the state government said “Governor Gaidam has also directed Education Ministry officials and the school administration to work closely with the security agencies to establish the actual number of the girls that are still unaccounted for and to contact parents and the community for possible information that could be useful in the investigation”.
Also, the Police, represented by the state’s commissioner, Sunmonu Abdulmaliki, said “I am not able to say categorically that anyone was abducted or not”, even as he explained that their findings reveal that after a roll call at the school on Thursday (three days later) only 815 of the 926 students enrolled could be accounted for, leaving a balance of 111.
The military on its part has kept a guarded silence over the matter, which some analyst attribute to remorse, and a sense of carefulness not to get lambasted by Nigerians, since they have claimed severally that the BokoHaram sect has been decimated.
Then enter the federal government’s delegation to the town, four days later, led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who in his characteristic propagandist form said the attack was a ploy by enemies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to embarrass the government.
According to him, “We must understand that these are they dying days of the Boko Haram and what they intend to do is to embarrass the government because they have been degraded, they have been pushed out of Sambisa forest.
“They have been starved out of oxygen and the oxygen they feed on is publicity so that they can grab the world’s attention. But I can assure you that with the determination of our gallant military, the days of Boko Haram are numbered”, Mohammed said.
However, many political analysts foresee another Chibok girls scenario playing out. They contend that if government, and the security agencies are still unable to get their acts together days after the terrorists struck, there is little confidence that the situation would be resolved in a short time frame.
In the case of the Chibok girls, 274 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014, and till date, the whereabouts of many of them are still unknown.
While government is still struggling to ascertain the actual number of missing girls, the affected parents have formed themselves into a group, to collectively address their plight. Bashire Manzo, the chairman of the newly created group, who’s 16-year-old daughter is among those missing said, so far, they have a list of 105 missing girls.
Many Nigerians are confused with reconciling government and the military claims that it has defeated the terrorist sect, and all the hype that has accompanied such claims, with the latest attack, which has again exposed the insecurity situation in many parts of the country.
The Dapchi abduction, also has a similar conspiratorial narrative attached to it, raising questions that beg for answers. There are allegations that security personnel were pulled out of the town shortly before the attack took place.
The state governor, Gaidam said this much when his Kano counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje paid him a visit in Damaturu.
Reports also suggest that the terrorists entered the town in about eight Hilux vans and a truck, a scenario which have prompted watchers to ask how feasible it was for such a convoy to escape the attention of the different security agencies in and around the area.
While the parents and relatives of the victims grieve, government and the military are yet to offer any concrete information on steps being taken to rescue the girls, even as many people contend that the incident may be a ploy by the sect to further negotiations with the Nigerian government.
Though government has denied paying ransom for the Chibok girls so far returned, there are indications that the Boko Haram sect did not release them for nothing, and that a deal was struck.
This has given rise to speculations, especially in the wake of reports that the terrorists did not harm residents of Dapchi but seemed to have specifically targeted the school, that they may be after ransom payment.
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