By Abba Adakole
It appears whatever President Goodluck Jonathan does or does not do in relation to the Boko Haram kidnap of many school girls from Chibok in Borno State is bound to elicit palaver from certain quarters. The most recent reason for all the loud, confused and mostly hypocritical talk on the Chibok girls issue stems from a visit to the President by the parents of the kidnapped girls. Also on the entourage that honoured the President’s invitation and visited the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja were some of the young ladies who had earlier escaped from Boko Haram’s captivity.
After the visit, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook buzzed with reports of a N100 million-largesse supposedly doled out by the President to the visitors from Chibok. Soon enough, the print media picked up the matter and went to town with it. Not even the denials by Doyin Okupe, Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, and the Kibaku Area Development Association (Chibok community) that Jonathan did not give out any N100 million stopped the noise over the matter.
Perhaps, this may be because the Chibok community leaders issued a statement in which they explained that the Presidency gave the parents and escaped kidnapped girls a total sum of N22.4m. And since the Presidency has not denied giving out the N22.4m, it is not inconceivable that such a sum may, indeed, have been given out.
The question which then follows is: what is all the noise about? If the President invited parents and escaped kidnapped girls all the way from Chibok to Abuja, was he wrong in footing their travel and accommodation bills and perhaps offering a little stipend for the inconvenience of them leaving their homes to journey to Abuja? Is it now a strange thing in Nigeria for a host to cater to the welfare of his guests?
It is amusing that many of those who have tried to twist the matter and make it into an unsavoury tale of bribery are so-called activists affiliated with one non-governmental organisation (NGO) or the other. As all discerning Nigerians now know, these NGO activists do little except receive funds from foreign donor agencies and thereafter dance to whatever tune their foreign paymasters are playing by turning in copious reports that are in essence a form of intelligence-gathering for foreigners. Indeed, many NGO activists are spies in all but the name.
Even a cursory look at the activities of these NGO activists will reveal that they never attend a seminar or workshop where they are not guaranteed large sums of money under the guise of transport/airfare, accommodation, per diems and honoraria. It is therefore the height of hypocrisy for these same people to turn around and criticise the Presidency for basically being concerned about the welfare of citizens who were specially invited to pay the President a visit.
Moreover, the insinuation that the money given to the Chibok parents and returnee girls is meant to silence them over the fate of the remaining kidnapped girls is uncharitable. President Jonathan is a parent and would certainly never wish for any daughter of his to be abducted by a sect like Boko Haram. As such, it is impossible for him to offer money to parents of the kidnapped girls in order for them to forget about their missing daughters. He has given clear assurances that the government is doing everything it can to ensure the safe return of the Chibok girls.
What has come to the fore in recent times is that some of those using the Chibok girls issue to raise their political profiles are being funded by some opposition politicians who are keen to stir up sentiments against the Jonathan Presidency. It is unfortunate that despite the calls by several patriots like Senate President David Mark and Chief (Dr) Tony Anenih, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees (BoT) on Nigerians to unite against Boko Haram, some politicians are still keen on politicking with the challenges thrown up by the group.
Such an approach to the Chibok girls issue is deplorable as is the attempt to present what was essentially a well-intentioned deed by the Presidency in bad light. Whatever money may or may not have been given to the Chibok parents and the returnee girls, no one expects them to forget about the Chibok girls who are still missing since the entire country continues to pray and hope for the safe return of the girls.
The nefarious Boko Haram group, who kidnapped the Chibok girls in the first place, are the enemy that all Nigerians must unite to fight. Jonathan and the security agencies are doing the best they can to bring the girls home safely. The very least all Nigerians can do is support the President and the security agencies in this endeavour.
Abba Adakole via Twitter:@abbaadakole