Parents of the 219 female students abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok, Borno state, say both the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governments have left them to their fate.
Speaking in Lagos at the weekend during a session with Graca Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela, the parents said most of them have been displaced from their homes as a result of the sect’s activities.
One after the other, they relayed to the audience, their painful experiences, commending the Murtala Muhammed Foundation for providing the platform to redirect the attention of the world to their plight.
“We are appealing to you to help us tell the world how we can have our children back,” said Yakubu Nkaki, chairman of the Chibok adopted girls movement.
“We are surprised that despite the recent rescue operations carried out by the military, none of our daughters has been found. 219 of them are still missing.
“Eighteen parents have been buried since the abduction and we don’t want to bury anyone again. Some of us now live in internally displaced camps. Boko Haram has destroyed Chibok. No school has opened since that attack and our remaining children in the community have been at home doing nothing for nearly two years.
“We are afraid to go to the farm; some of us now live in the bush; life has almost lost meaning.”
Ali Askira, whose two daughters are among the captive, is fed up with the promises that have not yielded results.
He wants the government to give a clearer picture of the situation.
“They should tell us if we will not see them again so that we can rest,” he said in a tone laced with anger.
“We have been hearing time and time again that they will be released but up till now nothing. No official of the local, state or federal government has visited us since. They don’t even care about how we have been surviving.
“Recently, when one man [possibly referring to Olu Falae] was kidnapped, the president ordered the inspector-general of police to wade in and he regained freedom but our children, 217 of them are nowhere to be found. Is it because we don’t matter? We are the ones who struggled to raise these children. What have we done to Nigeria deserve this?
“I prefer to see the corpses of my daughters and accept my fate than to remain like this.”
But Esther Yakubu, another parent, is optimistic about reuniting with her daughter.
“I am hopeful that one day as the whole world has cried, we will have cause to rejoice,” said the woman who broke down intermittently during her brief speech.
Aisha Oyebode, daughter of the late Murtala Muhammed and chief executive officer of the foundation, comforted the parents telling them not to give up, saying: “Often times, I feel helpless when I think of the situation and I imagine how they (the parents) feel if I am feelng this way. We will continue to appeal to the government to do its best in ensuring that these girls are freed.”
Responding, Machel assured the parents that the world had not forgotten them.
She said she decided to meet with them to show solidarity and listen to their complaints in order to make a case for them in the international community.
Machel, who goes into history as the only woman to have been the first lady of two different countries – she was also married to Samora Machel, former president of Mozambique – drew so much emotion when she spoke.
“I have to say my heart is heavy; I’m a mother and also a grandmother. I know how it feels for a parent not to know the fate of their children,” she said.
“I shook hands with you and I felt your pains; I know how you feel, we all have blood flowing in us. I have heard your cries and I will not forget. I feel your pains and I will never forget.
“You have asked me to speak to the government; you have asked me to tell the world about your plight … I want you to know that despite the fact that we have not been able to bring the girls back, the world has not forgotten you.
“I won’t be honest if I say I will bring back the girls but we are hopeful. We have to make sure that the girls come back and we have spoken about that a lot but what we have not done enough is to talk about the parents. The psychological trauma that they go through, and that is one of the reasons that I am here.
“I will never forget not only what you have said but also your faces. I will carry your faces all around with me and I want you to look at this face, I don’t know when or how long but you will surely see this face again.”
Machel’s words lifted the spirits of the parents.
In his final remark, Yakubu expressed gratitude to her on behalf of all the parents. He also thanked the organisation for catering to their needs, saying the officials of the foundation visited them in Chibok.
He also appreciated the #BringBackOurGirlsMovement for its tireless campaign.