Chibok Kidnap: President Jonathan has failed Nigerians By Daniel Elombah
According to reports, more than 300 school teenage schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria on April 15. Since then, 53 of the students escaped, leaving 276 still in captivity. (Other reports have 276 originally kidnapped and the 53 escapees bringing the number remaining in captivity down to 223)
Coming on same day that 100 were killed and over 200 injured in a bomb blast in Abuja, the girls’ abduction has been hugely embarrassing for the government and threatens to overshadow the World Economic Forum for Africa it hosts from today, May 7 to 9.
Before the World Economic Forum, President Goodluck Jonathan is still playing defense with Boko Haram. On Sunday, authorities arrested a leader of a protest staged last week in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls, further fuelling outrage against the security forces.
The question that hangs over the whole matter is how could more than 300 girls be kidnapped en masse and no one seems to know where any of them are? The president of Nigeria has admitted publicly he has no idea where the girls are, and only now has he begun to ask for outside help in finding the girls.
Yes, we blamed Borno State governor after the Head of West African Examinations Council (WAEC) National Office, Mr Charles Eguridu revealed, how the state governor, Shettima pressurised WAEC to conduct examination against its will at the Government Secondary School where the girls were abducted. Eguridu said that WAEC was initially reluctant to conduct examination in the area because of the security challenges but had to succumb when Shettima assured the council in writing that adequate security would be provided.
Yes, we blame the northern politicians who sought to use Boko haram for political ends and may have been inadvertently fuelling the crisis. We remember how the Northern leaders on June 2013 lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan for the proscription of two Islamic miltant groups – Boko Haram and Ansaru. While the North through its two prominent groups, the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Northern Elders Forum, faulted the ban, the National Assembly insisted that it was a welcome development. To the ACF and the NEF, the Jonathan administration has through the ban thrown a spanner in the works in its efforts to end bloodletting in the North through amnesty for Boko Haram and Ansaru members. They said they were waiting to see how the Federal Government would address the crisis in the North.
Yes, the whole matter casts doubt on the seriousness of the northern governors to protect their people. The kidnap saga raises many questions, including why few, if any, of the northern governors, most of them in opposition to the Jonathan administration, have publicly been of assistance. None of them has been seen to be working with helping in the search for the kidnapped girls. The northern governors, nearly all of them Islamic, believe that Jonathan has twice broken a political understanding that the ruling People’s Democratic Party has that the presidency rotate between the north (mostly Islamic) and south (mostly Christian). Jonathan is a southerner who assumed the presidency in 2010 when his northern predecessor fell ill and died. Some northern factions believed Jonathan violated the agreement by standing for election to a full term in 2011 and then did so again by announcing that he will seek re-election. There is evidently no sense of urgency by the governors of the north to help Jonathan out of this problem. That they seem to know as little as Jonathan about the girls also raises questions about the connection between the rulers and the ruled, as well as the threat from Boko Haram that some may feel. Nigerian politics, like those of many countries, are especially complicated.
YET, Despite these blame game, at the end of the day, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s armed forces who have been elected to protect the citizens and ensure their welfare and security. Simply put: The buck stops at his table!
My friend Gregg Ukaegbu wrote: “There is no objective measure that can be hidden under to exonerate or distance President Jonathan from having allowed Boko Haram to fester. He underestimated the problem from get go, with such statements as imploring Boko Haram to come out and introduce themselves. His docility and nonchalance acted as positive reinforcement for the terrorists and had this case of abduction not gained international attention, the president would have been proceeding as usual. Boko Haram had before this incident bombed an international center in Abuja, bombed a Christian church in Abuja around the Christmas period, bombed police stations, attacked military barracks, etc. In all these incidents, President Goodluck Jonathan responded with a tooth pick in his mouth as if nothing happened. Right now, he deserves not to be re-elected. The only thing that will return him to power is that Nigerians will find it too risky to entrust a Northerner with the presidency and Jonathan, irrespective of his debacles, will remain the best of unattractive options. It is very shameful to see elected officials in the United States, at least, being more proactive about a kidnapping that happened under Jonathan’s watch than Jonathan himself. His wife has done more than the president himself. The president seems not to understand his job, seems not to know how to do it, and seems to have surrounded himself with a concentric ring of short-sighted advisers and personal assistants. President Goodluck Jonathan has failed Nigeria on this issue, no sugar-coating. Anyone wanting to join his administration should begin by being truthful and not intentionally obfuscate very clear and settled facts. Had Jonathan been good at his presidency, many will go the mat for him; but right now, it is hard to defend him without denting the conscience. He has damaged his image as a man and as a president.”
For his part, Nobel Laureate Professor Soyinka stated that President Jonathan is in denial. “This is a government which is not only in denial mentally, but in denial about certain obvious steps to take,” Soyinka, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“It’s one of those rather child-like situations that if you shut your eyes, if you don’t exhibit the tactile evidence of the missing humanity here, that somehow the problem will go away.”
While agreeing with Prof. Wole Soyinka, Emeka Reuben Okala wrote that “Jonathan rested too much on his oars before acting. I can remember querying what he was afraid of for not wanting to take the insurgent group head-on at the prime time. Forget about what some stupid persons or groups in the north would say or were saying. Of course they would always say anyway. But as the Chief Security Officer of the nation-state, President Jonathan, with the unlimited powers available to him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, should have hit the iron whilst it was still very hot, but he didn’t! He only woke up too late to do the right thing when Boko Haram had already rooted itself firmly on the soil.
“I can remember how the late President Umaru Yar’Adua dealt decisively with the insurgent group when he nipped the problem in the bud. That’s the kind of treatment that I had expected Jonathan to give to the group at that early time. But he dwelt much on playing politics with them and some northern elements that wanted him to fail. So, who do you want to blame — those northern personalities/groups with their nagging negative utterances? Of course no! The blame should be roundly and squarely be dropped at the very door of President Jonathan!”
If only Nigerian’s know what the international media is saying about their country at the moment. International watchers are flabbergasted that three weeks after the kidnap of about 300 girls, people move about in a business-as-usual manner, Jonathan is hosting the world’s elite in an economic forum and his wife and first lady is crying “There is God oooo” while casting doubt on the story that more than 300 girls were actually kidnapped. In Dame Patience Jonathan’s warped mind: “this is a plot to destroy my husband”!
The kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls, followed by the announcement by the leader of Boko Haram – the terrorist group which has claimed responsibility for taking them – that the girls are to be either sold or forced into slavery is beyond appalling. It amounts to mass rape. It also does no honor to Islam. Although child marriage may be permitted under Islam, certainly kidnapping and rape is not. It is primitive and barbaric that deserves the strongest condemnation of the entire world.
The temptation to “do something” is almost overwhelming. Of course the western mind cannot comprehend the fact that in the face of one of the most serious political crises in Nigeria since the Biafran Civil War, there is no crisis room being with members from the highest echelons in Jonathan’s government, a war room or what you like, but something similar to the UK Government’s COBRA that is always summoned and meets every hour in the face of a national emergency giving hourly updates on the measures being taken to solve the crisis, in this case, to rescue the girls.
Yet what we rather have is Jonathan’s promising to set up a fact-finding committee 2 weeks after the incident! What are the members including those from the human rights community going to do? with neither Jonathan, nor his VP or high military officers as members? Where is the military, our special forces, the elite forces of the Nigerian government going after Boko haram? Is Jonathan saying that the country’s intelligence services have not interviewed all the 50 or so girls that have escaped together with their parents to gather intelligence and ascertain the exact location and the identity of the kidnappers? What a country!
Inside Nigeria, the government has been under growing pressure to “do something”.
Dr Sakyimah Akilu, a presidential adviser and spokeswoman on national security, told Sky News that it was true that there was a general impression that the Nigerian government had failed to react to the mass abductions.
“The truth is that we are pursuing every lead we have had. But you have to understand that they have been taken into the Sambisa forest and perhaps into the mountains in Cameroon – there are many places to hide,” she said.
This fatalism may explain why the Nigerian administration of Goodluck Jonathan appears to have been flat footed in hunting down the radical Islamist group which is now threatening the girls with a most un-Islamic torment.
It appears that the Nigerian Government has been slow in reacting to the crisis because much of their focus on Boko Haram has been a defensive one, aimed at protecting those participating in the upcoming World Economic Forum, to be held in Abuja this week. The fact that the bulk of Nigerian security has focused on this meeting of the economic elite and not on the search for the schoolgirls has not gone unnoticed in Nigeria and elsewhere, as is underscored by demonstrations in New York and Washington.
Belatedly, Jonathan is now asking for help from the United States and perhaps others in finding the schoolgirls. It may be too late, although any assistance should be desired and appreciated. There is no guarantee that the assistance will have positive results, but it would be an important step in fighting international terrorism of the worst kind together.
Now that Abubakar Shekau has the attention of the whole world, he won’t want to give up on the limelight the missing girls have given him.
The mass kidnapping and the response by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration may determine the future of his tenure and who is to succeed him. So far, the political leadership has handled the situation poorly.
How the Nigerian government handles these next 10 days may be not only the most important to Jonathan but to those that support him.
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