At about 2pm on the 3rd of April, I alighted from a bus under the Ojuelegba bridge. I came upon another bus parked just by the side of the road, with school children stuffed into it. My use of the word ‘stuffed’ is no accident because these children were not sitting; they were not even standing or ‘lapping’ – they were just stuffed. The phrase, ‘packed like sardine’ immediately came to mind as they were bundling themselves into the bus, stepping on feet and hands and bags, clawing, pulling each other down so as to get on, biting and yelling.
The driver of the bus sat calmly in his seat doing nothing, waiting; the conductor stood a safe distance away from the chaos waiting for them to ‘arrange demsef finish’ and when it looked like the open door wasn’t space enough to let them in, he opened the rear compartment. And of course, some of the uniformed mob broke away and commenced another regime of chaos trying to get into the bus through the boot.
A number of bystanders and passers-by tried yelling at the children to behave themselves and look for another bus but if you have ever seen a starving dog just thrown a bone, you should have an idea of just how much attention the children paid to the rebuke. While I watched, thoroughly harassed on their behalf, a police van cruised past, very slowly. Through the wound down windows and from the rear of the pick-up van, the Nigerian policemen observed the ruckus. Without braking for even the minutest of seconds, the van cruised on by.
It was at this point that I took out my phone and took the pictures below. While I took the pictures, many of the bystanders made cracks; some called me ‘Reporter!’, and one looking like a black Toyin-tomato snickered, “Don’t put us on Facebook oh”
In that situation, I played no blame games. I did not blame the president or any minister, neither did I blame the policemen – they must have been chasing armed robbers in slow motion. I also did not blame the bystanders or passers-by whose actions could be aptly summarized as an occasional rebuke, snicker, sigh and/or shake of head; what else could they have done?
I did not blame the bus driver or his conductor – it was just business. And I certainly did not blame the children – the bus was clearly charging a subsidized rate and many of them must have had little or no transport fares; those who might have had enough must have been saving it for a roadside treat or the rainy day.
I threw no blames.
On the night of Monday, 14th of April, 107 girls (ages between 15 and 18) were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Bornu state. On Wednesday, the military spokesperson at the Defence Headquarters, Major General Chris Olukolade, issued a statement claiming that most of the girls had been rescued, with only eight still missing for whom the search was still on. He also claimed that a member of the Boko Haram sect that participated in the abduction was also nabbed by the military.
Reports from the Principal of the school and Executive governor of the state are however, contradictory. The Principal, Mrs. Asabe Kwambura, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning that the military’s claim was false.
“There is nothing in the military statement that is true about our abducted girls,” Mrs. Kwambura said. “Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students; all I know is that we have only 14 of them, and the security people especially the Vigilante and the well meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them.”
Borno state’s Governor Shettima was also quoted by the BBC Hausa service that same Thursday morning faulting the claims of the military.
He reportedly said, “We have recovered 14 of the girls and we have announced a N50 million reward for any credible information that will help us get our girls released and rejoined with their families.”
In this situation, I still play no blame games. Because where would one start and where, stop? Does one blame the government – their blame calendar is booked full a whole year in advance, or the military – they are always ‘doing their best’? Or does one blame the parents for letting their children out of their sights, the principal for taking the children in to write their WASSCE, or the girls for not running fast enough away from the abductors?
You could even choose to leave all human elements out of it by blaming the weather. Or a societal system so marred that the value of a child is non-existent. Or if you care, a society where human life battles fashion and food for a position on the scale of preference after crude oil, money, pride and politics.
For me, I still will not be part of the blame game.
Like a local wrestler, I dump all of the blames down in the center of the ring. And I turn around and walk away; he who has the strength, let him pick up and throw.