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Published On: Tue, May 20th, 2014

Chibok: A Jonathan no show

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jonathan-sadFirst, Nigerians were told that President Goodluck Jonathan would be in Chibok, a rural community in Borno state, where over 200 girls were abducted from their dorms by gunmen believed to be Boko Haram insurgents a month ago. According to Presidency sources, Jonathan would visit the burnt out school early Friday morning and later in the day fly out to Paris, France where he would attend a security meeting the next day, Saturday, to discuss mainly the 5-year old Boko Haram insurgency in three North-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. The meeting, which was attended by government officials from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, was financed and hosted by the French government.

Delegates also went from the United States and the United Kingdom.

The two European countries and the US, a week earlier, had decided to step up to the plate in the search for the kidnapped schoolgirls when they realized that the Nigerian government was not quite up to it due to its slow response to the Chibok traģedy. That led a former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain to remark that Nigeria lacked a functional government. Far away in Nairobi, Kenya, former President Olusegun Obasanjo told journalists that President Jonathan was overwhelmed by Nigeria’s present security challenges. Twice in less than a month, Boko Haram took their murderous campaign close to Abuja, the seat of government, when on April 14 and May 1 they bombed Nyanya, a suburb of the capital city, killing over 100 people.

The Chibok abductions happened on April 15, a day after the April 14 bombing of Nyanya bus station during an early morning rush. It was exactly a month after when the news filtered out that Mr. President would, after all, be visiting Chibok. The visit, if it had taken place, would have given him an opportunity to reconnect with a sorrowing nation which had come to see him as a leader who did not care or lacked empathy. As it turned out, the president did not visit Chibok where parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls had been waiting all day to receive him. Instead, he flew out of the country to dine and wine with western leaders, led by French President Francois Hollande, in the name of a security meeting. On his return, he avoided Chibok again.

In lame defence of President Jonathan, his media spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the president had never planned to visit Chibok in the first place. If he had, an official statement announcing a planned visit would have been given to “document it”. He said that was standard practice. But this defence raises a question on its own. If the president never planned to visit Chibok, how come the misinformation? All the national dailies and online publications that ran the story of the President’s impending Chibok visit couldn’t have been wrong – all of them! This says a lot about the way Presidency officials handle or mishandle information about the President’s movements in and out of the country.

Besides, the failed Chibok visit is further proof of the scorn the President and his wife, Dame Patience, have for Nigerians. Even when he tries to show he cares, he eventually makes a mess of it. Recall that on the day Nyanya was first bombed, Jonathan briefly visited the site in the afternoon and immediately afterwards resumed his reelection campaign outside Abuja. On her part, a fortnight ago, the First Lady invited some women from Borno state to a meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, only to accuse them of having fabricated the abductions in order to embarrass her husband’s government. Not done, she ordered the arrest and detention of two of the women.

This is not the way Nigerians want their president to conduct himself in the nation’s most difficult times. Nigerians want a leader who will say he cares and walk his talk. Jonathan is anything but that.


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