Dapchi is a town in Yobe State, North-East Nigeria, about 75 kilometres south of the Niger Republic border. On 19th February 2018, about 110 girls were reported to have been kidnapped from Government Science and Technical College in the remote town, by alleged or more accurately, assumed Boko Haram terrorists.
The story was curious from the very beginning, with credible report that the Nigerian military had withdrawn troops from the region, just in time for the terrorist to come in with several trucks; load and evacuate over 100 girls; and make an unhindered exit from the town. Several reports indicated that the “terrorists” were clothed in military camouflage and many of the students thought they were soldiers.
The military did not deny the reported withdrawal of troops from Dapchi before the “terrorists” incursion, claiming instead that the withdrawn troops were to have been replaced by police officers, an arrangement the police authorities immediately claimed they were unaware of. The Dapchi incident occurred against a backdrop of a resurgence of violent attacks by the terrorists which had stripped the government’s claim of “technically defeating” or otherwise ending the Boko Haram scourge, of any credibility.
Only recently in February, Boko Haram had released three University of Maiduguri lecturers and ten policewomen who it had kidnapped, from all accounts against payment of a large ransom in foreign currency! With the Buhari administration providing such bounties in direct funding to Boko Haram, it was not unexpected that the group would be in a position to organise further, more ambitious (and potentially more lucrative) attacks!)
It was also to be expected that once abductions by terrorists were proven to be likely to be rewarded with very profitable ransoms, other actors outside and within government and security agencies, would get involved in the venture. In this context, the Dapchi abductions were probably predictable. It was also possible to craft scenarios in which government itself could contrive a staged abduction and shortly thereafter, rescue in order to boost its declining fortunes and popularity as the 2019 elections draw nearer. On the other hand, it is possible to speculate that the kidnapping could be a ploy by “enemies” of the government trying to replay the Chibok girls kidnapping which was leveraged by the then opposition and its domestic allies (in civil society) and foreign friends to destroy the Jonathan Presidency.
Several pieces of information appeared to support the former hypothesis rather than the latter–the withdrawal of soldiers before the attack; the president’s willingness to draw a seemingly premature comparison between the government and its predecessor’s handling of the Chibok and Dapchi kidnappings, as if he was certain his own would end better; the fact that unlike the Chibok victims, virtually all the kidnapped girls were Muslims; and the controversial manner of return of the Dapchi girls to their school from where they were kidnapped.
Undenied reports confirm that just as it appears troops were withdrawn to facilitate the entry of the terrorists on February 19, on March 21 when they were returned, soldiers and journalists were explicitly withdrawn to enable the terrorists bring back the Dapchi girls! News reports suggested that the only Christian among the Dapchi captives, Leah Shahibu was kept by the terrorists due to her refusal to renounce her faith in favour of Islam. The Boko Haram terrorists reportedly (and supported by images on social media) indeed had time to preach and parade round Dapchi before their exit to loud cheers from the local community. One report claimed the terrorists apologised for taking the girls saying they would not have taken the girls if they realised they were Muslim girls!
Many Nigerians have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, but certainly understandably, that the Dapchi kidnapping was staged by persons in or around government and the security agencies to boost the government’s image and perhaps extract resources from the public purse. Public scepticism has been re-enforced by the blockbuster accusation by General T.Y Danjuma, former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister that the Nigerian Military under Buhari are “colluding” with “armed bandits” (read Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen) to carry out ethnic cleansing across communities in central Nigeria!
General Danjuma’s accusations are serious and amount to a call on the international community to intervene in Nigeria to prevent full blown Somalilisation! His call on the threatened communities to rise up and defend themselves and their territories is unprecedented though understandable in the context unchecked ethnic cleansing by so-called “Fulani herdsmen” and unwillingness by the Buhari administration to take action.
Those who love this country will urge President Buhari and his advisers to pull back from the precipice before Nigerian unity is irretrievably destroyed.