Of Malala’s Visit and Jonathan Hypocrisy By Wale Ajetunmobi
Of all the celebrities and notable figures, who identify with Nigerian people on the abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram fighters in Chibok, a hitherto sleepy neighbourhood in Borno State, last April, only Malala Yousafzai – the celebrated victim of Taliban’s anti-education aggression in Pakistan – has given some practical sympathy by visiting Nigeria.
The girl-child education rights activist flew into the country, last weekend, to openly identify with the abducted Chibok girls and their parents. She met with the escapees privately, perhaps to get first-hand information on how the abduction was executed by the criminals. Also, probably to know how the luckless girls would be feeling in company of stern-looking armed Boko Haram guerillas and their armoured tanks.
Malala’s visit is understandably conceived in good faith, having shared similar fate with the abducted girls. Although on her own case, she almost kissed death after several bullets were fired into her skull by Taliban militants.
However, Malala’s mission to Nigeria has its intended and unintended messages. First, it taught us some lessons on why we need to promote education despite untenable opinions of certain perverts, who believe education should only be restricted to the four wall of madrasah (Arabic schools).
Malala, a teen who hails from a predominantly Muslim society, becomes a role model for children for holding a belief that, education must not be restricted to Arabic schools alone. This is the intended message of Malala’s visit and we must strive to ensure the message is not lost.
Her unintended message being that, she exposed the hypocrisy of President Goodluck Jonathan and his coven of political jobbers camouflaging as Ministers and also, the overzealousness of the security agencies.
Had the Pakistani teen visited Nigeria before the committee set up by the president to investigate whether the Chibok girls were truly abducted by the Boko Haram, what would have been the discourse of the meeting between Jonathan and the Pakistani girl? Would the president have denied there was mass abduction Chibok schoolgirls and perhaps respectfully (or harshly, as his mood dictates) told the young girl to go back to wherever she may come from?
It is instructive to note that, months after the schoolgirls were herded into Sambisa Forest by the terrorists, President Jonathan lived in denial of the incident. Sycophants around him made efforts to make us believe that the abduction was the creation of government’s opponents; hence, existing in figment of their imagination.
Despite the moving stories of the girls’ parents, and their cries, the president maintained a stone-walled countenance and behaviourally dismissed the abduction, thereby insulting the emotion and psychology of the hapless parents.
Even, the gripping clip released by Boko Haram showing the girls in group, clad in Hijab (Muslim veil) never convinced Jonathan that Boko Haram terrorists are in possession of the schoolgirls. The presidency, we were told, was studying the clip to “identify” if the teenagers in the video were actually Chibok girls. Many wondered: how would they identify the girls without the presence of their parents?
Rather than spreading intelligence to ascertain the whereabouts of the kidnapped schoolgirls, President Jonathan and his coterie of bootlickers lunched a cold-blooded offensive against patriotic citizens protesting the girls’ abduction. The presidency released a false security reports, claiming the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners were being sponsored by politicians of a certain opposition party to discredit the Jonathan government and bring it down.
The protesters would come under police attack for speaking for the helpless girls in Boko Haram’s den and for carrying placards with hash-tag inscription: #BringBackOurGirls.
Enter Mbu Joseph Mbu. Remember him? The hyperactive and highly partisan cop, who almost turned Rivers State to Siberia, was the ‘capable’ Rottweiler deployed by the Federal Government to hound the patriotic citizens that left their home to speak for the girls. The #BringBackOurGirls protesters were arrested and hurled to police cells for peaceful demonstration – the most civilised fashion of venting anger in a participatory democracy.
There have been several attempts to discredit the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners, which resulted in court cases on whether the protesters have rights to hold sitting at a public place and demand certain things from the government.
On twice or thrice occasions within 90 days that the girls were taken away, the #BringBackOurGirls protesters have marched on the Presidential Villa to seek audience with President Jonathan. They were never allowed to the president’s office or residence on each occasion; in fact, battle ready gendarmes were deployed to ‘repel’ the civilised demonstrators whose only weapon remains #BringBackOurGirls placards.
We were never told Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education, or Maryam Uwais, a lawyer, or Dino Melaye, a former member of the House of Representatives or Hadiza Bala Usman, or even Japheth Omojuwa, a celebrated young entrepreneur and blogger, hung riffles around on their shoulders while they led the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to Aso Rock. Yet, these are respected Nigerians who should privilege of president’s welcome to air their grievances.
Alas, Malala – a 17-year-old Pakistani girl – with the same #BringBackOurGirls campaign the Ezekwesilis, Melayes and Uwais of this country have been pushing was in Nigeria for three days and President Jonathan threw his doors ajar for her. The next thing: ministers, presidential aides and security officers, who attacked Nigerian protesters, started falling over themselves in photo ops with the Pakistani teenager. This is hypocrisy at its best and the presidency insulted the sensibility of every rational Nigerian, who had expected Jonathan would give audience to the aggrieved citizens clamouring for the release of the abducted teens.
The most insulting of Malala affairs is the promise Jonathan made to the teenager. “I promise to meet with the girls’ parents,” the president reportedly told Malala. But anyone who understands Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima’s grievance with the president would, by now, know that the Jonathan’s promise to the teenager indicated a sheer presidential contempt for people of different political standpoint.
Governor Shettima’s overt and covert pleas to the president to visit Chibok and meet with parents of the abducted girls met a brick wall. Rather, the governor was turned the object of tirade by the presidential aides, who threw vitriolic innuendos at Shettima and his political party. Why didn’t the president or his aides upbraid Malala for lending her voice to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign?
We must praise this Pakistani teen for borrowing the Nigerian presidency some wisdom, which can be succinctly put this way: “If you can’t pick wisdom from your people, we will not hesitate to come from outside to deliver the wise message.”
We know the president is only concerned about his re-election in 2015 and nothing more. This is what he lives for, not minding whether people were abducted or killed by terrorists on daily basis. Whether it is Malala or Obama that visits, we don’t care. What we demand from Jonathan is to strip his presidency of hypocrisy and summon courage to free the girls from their captors and re-unite them alive (not in body bags) with their parents.
Wale Ajetunmobi is a Lagos-based journalist. He can be reached on twitter @Riddwane / firstname.lastname@example.org
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