In what appears to be the beginning of an unfolding battle of wits, some parents of the over 200 girls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, have rejected an invitation to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
But the Presidency has accused the #BringBackOurGirls activists of allegedly playing politics and manipulating the Chibok girls’ parents, by stopping them from meeting Jonathan.
For the first time since the abduction of the schoolgirls over 90 days ago, Jonathan on Monday promised to meet with their parents “in the next 24 hours” (yesterday).
He announced the proposed meeting, when he played host to 17-year old Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl-child education advocate.
Malala, who expressed concern over the alleged levity with which the President had treated the rescue of the Chibok girls, told newsmen that her objective was to speak up for her Nigerian sisters, still held by Boko Haram.
Jonathan therefore assured that he would meet with the parents himself before the Malala Foundation team left Abuja, to personally comfort them and reassure them that his government was doing all within its powers to rescue their daughters.
It was learnt that the Presidency clarified that Jonathan will meet with only 12 of the Chibok parents, as well as the five girls who escaped from captivity. However, in a twist, as the President was waiting at the State House to receive them, information filtered out that the parents had left Abuja for Borno without seeing him.
Our reporters learnt that the 12 selected parents decried that they were too few in number to represent the over 200 parents of the abducted girls.
However, in a statement read to newsmen by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communications, Dr. Doyin Okupe, the President conveyed his displeasure over his inability to see the parents of the Chibok girls.
“It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition.
“It is with great regret that I announce the cancellation of the meeting with 12 parents of the abducted Chibok children, as well as five of the brave girls who escaped from the terrorist organization Boko Haram. I scheduled this meeting, which was to be open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press, to listen to their stories and to privately brief the parents and the girls on our efforts to rescue the abducted girls.
“My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls; unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions.
“Those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit, are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.
“I want to be clear, this government stands in complete solidarity with the girls and their parents. We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls. Despite the shameful and disgusting games being played by the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls, as a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God”, he said.
Meanwhile, members of the BringBackOurGirls campaign group yesterday took their over three months protest to the National Assembly, where they met with Senate President David Mark, over how to ensure the swift rescue of the abducted school girls.
The group, led by former World Bank Vice President for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili, had a hot debate with the Senate president on whether the federal government was doing enough towards the rescue of the Chibok girls.
Mrs Ezekwesili and Mariam Uwais urged Mark to prevail on relevant authorities to intensify efforts to rescue the Chibok girls alive, even as she said that the response which Mark gave them on how far the government has gone in its rescue operations was not tangible.
Responding, Mark implored various campaign groups working for the release of the abducted Chibok girls to collaborate with government agencies for the eventual release of the girls.
He said that collaboration amongst various interests in Nigeria became necessary so that the civil society groups and government agencies would not work at cross purposes in the quest to free the girls.