Again, Obasanjo Blast Jonathan over Handling of Chibok Girls Abduction
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan should have acted faster when he was informed about the kidnap of schoolgirls by Islamist militants, one of his predecessors said.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s comments came as members of the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee visited Chibok where the girls were kidnapped and converged on the burnt school premises.
Most of the parents wept as they recounted the incident.
“The president did not believe that those girls were abducted for almost 18 days,” Olusegun Obasanjo said in an interview yesterday on Bloomberg TV Africa. “If the president got the information within 12 hours of the act and he reacted immediately, I believe those girls would have been rescued within 24 hours, maximum 48 hours.”
Instead, Obasanjo said, “the president had doubts: ‘Is this true, or is it a ploy by people who don’t want me to be president again?’”
Obasanjo criticized the administration in an 18-page letter in December. He accused Jonathan of serving the ethnic interests of his Ijaw people and fostering divisions between the largely Muslim north and the Christian south in a bid to win re-election in 2015.
“I don’t believe he has performed to the expectations of many Nigerians, not just me,” Obasanjo said in the interview.
The Islamist group Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Nigeria on April 14, sparking a global outrage and prompting the U.S. and U.K. to send teams to help Nigeria rescue them.
Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is a sin,” is waging a violent campaign to impose Islamic law in Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, leaving more than 4,000 dead in the past five years.
Jonathan said today in a national broadcast that the gains Nigeria has made in 15 years of unbroken democratic rule are under threat from the Islamists. Security forces have orders to “launch a full-scale operation” and use any lawful means to end the attacks, he said.
Meanwhile It was an emotional moment yesterday in Chibok, Borno State, where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted last month as the girls’ parents, schoolmates and members of the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee converged on the burnt school premises.
Most of the parents wept as they recounted the incident. The committee Chairman, Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Sabo, also reportedly betrayed his emotions as he listened to the parents’ accounts of the April 14 invasion of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, by Boko Haram gunmen.
A statement by the panel’s spokesman, Mr. Kingsley Osadolor, said Gen. Sabo assured the parents that the girls would return home safely.
According to the statement, the presidential fact-finding panel was received by the State Commissioner for Education, Musa Kubo; Chairman of Chibok Local Government, Bana Lawan, five District Heads of the Chibok communities, Chairman of the Parents-Teachers Association, the principal, and others, including wailing parents of the abducted girls.
The statement said: “Also present were some of the students who escaped from the insurgents.
“Members of the Committee visited the burnt-out structures of the Government Secondary School, where the girls were abducted. The receiving party conducted members of the committee round the grounds of the school.
“The Principal, Vice Principals, matrons of the hostels, as well as security guards and cooks were earlier debriefed by the committee in Maiduguri.
“The committee later held an interactive session with the Chibok communities on the school premises.
“At the meeting, Gen. Sabo, who spoke with misty eyes, said the Committee came, first, to sympathise with the parents and other community members over the havoc of the insurgents.
“He assured the people of President Goodluck Jonathan’s concern about the fate of the abducted students, saying that the President was having sleepless nights”.
The statement said Sabo also urged the people to remain calm and patient.
He also informed them of the multifaceted approach government is using to resolve the abduction saga.
Gen. Sabo was quoted as saying: “As we gather here today to see you wailing, by the grace of God, we will also gather here to dance and rejoice with you when the girls regain their freedom”.
The Chibok LG chairman lauded the committee for visiting and bringing messages of succor and hope to members of the communities.
He also faulted those who had claimed that the mass abduction was a political gimmick.
“The greatest fact your committee can find are the biological parents of some of the students who were abducted”, Lawan said.
The commissioner for education expressed happiness over the committee’s visit.
“He urged members of the Fact-finding Committee to convey to President Jonathan the people’s hope and belief that the girls would be found and reunited with their families”, the statement said.
Others who spoke at the meeting included Rev. Enoch Mark, whose two daughters are among the abducted girls.
“The Rev. Mark frowned at what he called the politicization of the abduction issue, pointing out that the matter was also not religious, because the families affected were adherents of the country’s major faiths”.
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