Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The case of Farida Ka’oje and Lois John: Stop politicization of criminality, by Maiwada Dammallam

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Viral reports about the planned forceful wedding of Lois Azurfa John, the 21-year old victim of the Kaduna/Abuja train attack who’s still in captivity, to a member of the ISWAP terrorists group behind the attack is as unsettling and repulsive as it’s embarrassing. There is no gainsaying the Federal Government need to employ all options to prevent this national embarrassment. Nigeria cannot afford to slide back into the barbaric days of might is right. In doing this, The Federal Government should take no hostages. It must express in the loudest and clearest voice its determination to sustain the status of Nigeria as a civilized country.
For a start, the FG, as a matter of urgency, should discard its somewhat lenient disposition and adopt a more stern mien to align Nigerians with the single agenda of restoring sanity into the country. The FG should at all cost deny charlatans and crisis entrepreneurs a chance to politicize the case of Lois Azurfa John or make the mistake of treating the case in isolation as may be pressurized by CAN or any individual or organization working with a divisive idea of a fragmented Nigeria as it was with the case of Leah Sheribu, a Dapchi abductee still in captivity. Depressing and embarrassing as it is, the case of Lois Azurfa John is still aeons away from the case of Farida Sani Kaoje, whose father, Sani Kaoje aka Sani Fari, I got to know and became very close with through his cousin, a very close friend mine, Bello Umar Kaoje (Sardaunan Bargu).
Farida Sani Kaoje was kidnapped alongside 70 other school mates when bandit-leader, Dogo Gide attacked Federal Government College (FGC) Birnin Yauri sometime in June 2021. That so far, only 30 of victims regained their freedom constitutes only a fraction of the traumatic stories of the victims of the FGC Yauri, abductions who today, are in their 14th month in captivity (and still counting). For FGC Birnin Yauri victim-parents like Sani Fari, it’s a story of a traumatic reality which gravity and pain only people who passed through similar emotional turmoils could express.
Farida Sani Kaoje was only 16 years old when she was kidnapped alongside 70 schoolmates by hundreds of fearsome bandits led by the dreaded Dogo Gide. Despite efforts to rescue Farida and her schoolmates by the government, including a stern warning by Governor Bagudu of Kebbi State to personally lead a mission to rescue the victims, only 30 of the victims came back home to the relief of their parents. Farida Sani and her parents are not among the lucky 30. Worse, the hope of rescuing her by her parents ended with the devastating information of her forceful marriage to bandit-leader Dogo Gide. Today, Farida’s father, Sani Fari, is depression personified to say the least. The once jovial, homely and high-spirited Sani Fari is now a shadow of himself; not only drained of his personality but every expectation of re-uniting with Farida. Today, Sani Fari is simply a personification of emotional pain, dejection, depression and hopelessness. All that infectious smile gone, replaced by almost touchable sadness.
One could get a near correct picture of Sani Fari only by imagining one’s daughter of 16 years kidnapped and in the den of bandits and while one is hoping and praying for an end to the traumatic situation, one gets to learn the daughter he’s looking at as the brightest gifts of his life is wedded to a bandit-leader, in a den of criminals and all alone, not a single face to call family. Also, one could only imagine the terrifying life of Farida as it is today in the hands of Dogo Gide. Farida, previously of the world of books, parks and video games, is now of the world AK-47s, RPGs and bloodshed. That Farida is allowed the privilege of short phone calls to her family once in a while by Dogo Gide only adds to the pain of her family — constantly being reminded of their helplessness and the terrifying situation of their loving daughter.
I came this far to remind all Nigerians about our responsibilities as citizens. Our penchant for politicizing sensitive issues is second to none on the global table. Dichotomizing purely criminal matters for the purpose of putting pressure on the government to do what’s right wouldn’t achieve anything for Nigeria beside compounding the problem. If mounting ethno-religious pressure could solve problems like this, the loud and largely politicized campaign to free Leah Sheribu, who was there long before Farida and Lois, would have seen Sheribu at home with her parents but she’s not. Just as much, if silence and near absolute media “unawareness” could soften the hearts of criminals, Farida would have been home with her parents given the absolute blackout the Nigerian media accorded her case. I’m sure very few readers of this opinion knew about Farida before this piece.
Somehow, we always allow fake commitment to religiosity override our sense of judgement. If Farida is a Christian abductee, by now CNN and BBC would have told the world her story. Today, only a handful of Nigerians, mostly those affected directly by her sad fate, know about her story. On the other hand, the fresh story of Lois Azurfa John, has already achieved national prominence and in the next few days the story may likely be the headlines of major global TV and radio stations. Why is the Nigerian media unconcerned about catastrophic events involving Muslims when they are always quick to deploy energy and resources in cases involving non-Muslims? Why can’t Farida and Lois be seen first as humans then as Nigerians who deserve the protection of the government and the support of other citizens before they are seen as Muslims and Christians?
The prominence given the case of Leah Sheribu by both local and international media misled many people to believe the infamous abduction of 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, in Yobe State in 2018 was a nefarious Islamic agenda against Christians. Somewhere in the frenzy of selective and politicized reportage, many people were forcefully made to forget that among the abducted Dapchi girls were Muslim girls with Nigerian blood running in their veins. This habitual irresponsibility was repeated with the FGC Birnin Yauri abductions. The clearest pointer to the poisonous contents oozing out of the media outlets is the general assumption that every Nigerian Muslim is either a dormant or an active Boko Haram extremist or bandit. How it’s lost to everybody that Muslims are the first-line charge victims of both insurgency and banditry with places they call home reduced to mere human abattoirs beats me.
No doubt, Nigerians should re-arrange their priorities and adopt a more positive disposition towards the problems asphyxiating the country. We should learn to appreciate the dangers of allowing the country to be fragmented on the basis of spurious or at best, overblown fault lines. The best way to infuse this lesson into Nigerians is for the government to adopt a no-nonsense policy of dealing with charlatans and crisis entrepreneurs whose stock in trade is to confuse the polity using ethnicity and religion as a tool. No government need to be encouraged by CAN or any Islamic body to upload its statutory responsibility of protecting lives and property. The idea of using religious bodies to put unnecessary pressure on the government should be discouraged by wielding the biggest stick possible where and when necessary to reset our sense of reasoning.
This is a prayer for the release/rescue of Leah Sheribu, Farida Sani Ka’oje and Lois Azurfa John. May they all be reunited with their families and loved ones.
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