It’s now a thousand days since close to 300 school girls were kidnapped in Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari, who has failed to rescue them, called on his countrymen not to despair. God, he said, would make it possible to see them again alive.
In the night of 14 April 2014, as they prepared for their final secondary school exams, close to 300 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were loaded into trucks by Boko Haram terrorists and taken inside their refuge in the Sambisa forest.
Some girls were able to escape while about 276 of them were not so lucky.
The mass kidnap triggered outrage and condemnation around the world and created the impression that the then President Goodluck Jonathan was incompetent, especially after he first dismissed the girls’ abduction as a hoax.
Mr. Jonathan was defeated the next year in 2015 by Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner who vowed to rescue the northern girls. But, 20 months since he assumed office, about 24 girls out of 276 have been rescued or found.
And even with the upbeat announcement on December 24 that the Army had defeated Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest, there has not been a trace of the remaining Chibok girls.
In a statement on Sunday, President Buhari expressed gratitude to God, security agencies and all those who have been standing for the girls, adding that there was no reason to despair.
“We are grateful to God that on this landmark day, we are not completely in the depths of despair, but buoyed with hope that our daughters will yet rejoin their families and loved ones,” Mr. Buhari said in a statement released by his spokesman Femi Adesina.
“Three of them have been recovered by our diligent military, while the freedom of 21 others was secured through engagement with their captors,” he added.
“We are hopeful that many more will still return as soon as practicable”.
He said the government would not spare any effort to reunite the girls with their families and saluted the parents of the missing girls for their tenacity in the face of dolour.
“I salute the fortitude of the distraught parents. As a parent also, I identify with their plight. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, months turned to years, and today, it is 1,000 days. The tears never dry, the ache is in our hearts. But hope remains constant, eternal, and we believe our pains will be assuaged. Our hopes will not be shattered, and our hearts will leap for joy, as more and more of our daughters return. It is a goal we remain steadfastly committed to”.
President Buhari commended all who have been in the vanguard for the recovery of the girls, both nationally and internationally.
“Someday soon, we will all rejoice together. Our intelligence and security forces are unrelenting, and whatever it takes, we remain resolute. Chibok community, Nigeria, and, indeed, the world, will yet rise in brotherhood, to welcome our remaining girls back home. We trust God for that eventuality.”
Mr. Buhari’s words were likely to assuage the pains of many who have said he was not doing or seen to be doing enough to rescue the girls. But unless they are rescued, criticisms he heaped on President Jonathan may likely return to him.