Ten years ago, precisely on the night of 14th April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State. It was reported that 57 of the girls managed to escape, some were rescued by the Nigerian Armed Forces while some have died. As we speak, over 90 of these girls are still under captivity, and ten years down the line, it does not appear that they would regain their freedom anytime soon.

Against the backdrop of the unprecedented nature of this incident at the time, and the global outcry that it evoked, the singular fact that over 90 of the girls are still in the bush after ten years places a huge moral burden on the Nigerian state and its level of preparedness to safeguard the nation and the citizens, which of course is its primary responsibility. That moral burden of the failure of the federal authorities to bring back all of these girls would forever hang above the nation like the mythical Sword of Damocles. The ghost of those of them that died in captivity would also continue to roam the streets of Nigeria until they find justice. This is not superstition; it is a raw fact.

This state of affairs calls to mind the ever-present danger inherent in leadership that makes a pledge under oath to protect the land only to renege or fail to fulfil the pledge ten years after. Each time the nation looks up, that Sword of Damocles would be right there dangling precariously above its head because of the oath and the broken promises. Without wishing our beloved country ill-luck, and at the risk of sounding sadistic, in Literature it is recorded that ‘if you say that someone has the Sword of Damocles hanging over their head, what you mean is that they are in a situation in which something very bad could happen to them at any time’. Of course, everybody knows that something very bad has been happening to our country in recent times. Apart from the Chibok girls, hundreds have been kidnapped or murdered and many are still suffering the same fate till today. But even in traditional African society, it would be foolhardy for someone to swear to a traditional oath, possibly in a shrine, and assume that nothing would happen to him if he is found culpable in the act for which the oath was sworn to, especially for persons in positions of power. Oaths are not meant to be taken lightly. There have been cases where an entire family is wiped out by deities before whom oaths were sworn to, and later broken. As they say in Anioma adage, ‘The gods may forgive, but they don’t forget’. As it is for individuals and communities, so it is for a nation that breaks its promises to its citizens. The point here is that though uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the head itself must be accountable for the crown and must be prepared to protect it at all cost. In other words, a king does not tergiversate.

Now, in classical Greek era, Damocles was a courtier under Dionysius, ruler of Syracuse. As relayed by Wikipedia, Damocles was of the view that his king Dionysius was enjoying himself and therefore fortunate to be king.

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So, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that so-called fortune and enjoyment. Joyfully, Damocles accepted to be king for one day and proceeded to sit on the throne surrounded by fragrant perfumes, lavish food, and beautiful girls. Dionysius then arranged that a sword should hang directly above the throne by a single hair of a horse’s tail to serve as warning that something terrible might happen to a king at any time. In the midst of his enjoyment, Damocles saw the dangling sword each time he raised up his head on the throne. Realizing the danger, he begged the king for permission to depart because he no longer wanted that kind of dangerous enjoyment. This is the burden a leader must bear in so far as he has sworn to an oath of office to protect his people. The Sword of Damocles is hanging above his head every minute, and there is no escape.

Invariably, the pain and seeming rejection being experienced by those remaining Chibok girls (now Chibok women) are directly proportional to the Damocles’ danger the leadership stands to face should the girls be abandoned in the bush to their own fate.

If the Nigerian state under previous administrations failed to rescue the girls, and the present administration under the leadership of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu also fails to rescue them, it would amount to double tragedy, not only for the girls but also for the entire nation.

*Anthony-Spinks writes from Asaba, Delta State.