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Published On: Wed, Jul 16th, 2014

Jonathan and the Malala humble pie

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Jonathan-vs-MalalaBy Charles Onunaiju

The visit of the Pakistan youngster, MalalaYousafzai, brutally shot and wounded by the Pakistan Taliban for speaking up for girl education in her country, was breathtaking, both in scope and the issues it raised.The main reason for her visit, according to her, was to lend her voice to global campaign to rescue the 200+ young girls abducted by the Boko Haram sect since April 15th from the sleepy village of Chibok in Bornostate.

Immediately after news of the abduction broke, senior government and ruling party officials and their hangers on went to town with tales of a grand conspiracy by detractors and opponents to discredit the government with the “Chibok missing girls”. However if actually, government opponents and detractors have managed to stage the missing of the girls, it underscores more graphically, government incompetence and crucial failure because aside from the exclusive control of the country’s security architecture, the region and state in question is under emergency rule, which give the federal government total and sweeping powers over security issues.

The Bornostate government which allegedly insisted that the school in the Chibok community was safe for the students to write their exams against the alleged advice of WAEC, can actually and could have been over-ruled by the federal authorities if they know their onions. The fact is that most people in the federal government understand government only in its simplest and most rudimentary function; distribution and allocation of patronages; – government appointments, award of contracts, other plumb perks and sundry favours. Hardly do they appreciate the burdens of leadership, including sacrifices of personal comfort.

That the ordeals of the Chibok girls have aroused global indignation, attracting a youngster, whose promising life was nearly cut short by an extremist sect, sharing the same implacable hate for civilization like their Boko Haram counterparts in Nigeria, is entirely at the door step of an incompetent regime.

However, notwithstanding the goodwill of the Pakistani teenager, her audacity to wag finger at our government and direct at what would have to be accomplish with time line to butt,illustrates a new depth and disgraceful tempo that a government of supine inefficiency and egregious incompetence have reached. Miss Malala may have addressed the United Nations special session, got feted by powerful western media channels at prime time, but she is yet to poke finger at any government in the world, including her own government whose record of serial bungling, incompetence and venality is in the open.

Talking down, a Head of State with cabinet ministers in deferential tow, is a new frontier of non-State activist diplomacy that the young Pakistani lad has accomplished in Nigeria under President Jonathan and would never contemplate to extend to anywhere else in the world.

Why would the Nigerian State be subjected to, such a sadistic deconstruction? The young girl’s elegance intelligence and confidence is admirable. Her ordeals at the hands of the primitive sect that attempted to assassinate her, gives her campaign for girls education, the moral torso it needs to make remarkable impression. Coming in Nigeria to lend a voice to the campaign to rescue the missing girls and promote girls education are obviously worthy causes. Government’s panic at the new level of international search light, Miss Malala’svisit would have been made at its inefficiency led it to hijack a visit that would have been barely and a mere solidarity visit.

The youngster seized her moment, directed President Jonathan to meet with the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and getting assurance of same. This is after the president has demurred on the same issue that most Nigerian’s have urged him on, in the past, with the claim that neither going to Chiboknor meeting the grieving parents would get the girl’s back. Under Malala’s marching order, the president has agreed to meet the grieving parents of the missing Chibok girls.

The fact, however, is that while the Pakistan teenager voice may have had the weight of international celebrity aggressively propped by the West, there is a really nothing new that she said to president Jonathan and his government. For more than two months, some Nigerians have been camping out in Abuja and pressing the urgent need to rescue the Chibok girls and for government to take measures to assuage the pains of the grieving parents of the girls, by at least, a symbolic visit to the community. Government officials have suggested something that the “Bring our girls back” activists were opposition politicians as if that makes them less Nigerians and unfit to be involved in national issues.

Now that a Pakistani teenager has come and said the same thing, senior government officials including the president are scampering to be seen to be doing something on the same issues that constructive voices have been patriotically urging at home, since about three months when the girls were kidnapped.

One key issue that Miss Malala canvassedwhile in Nigeria was education. Africa’s most curious post – colonial calamity was the neglect of education, notwithstanding that it was the intellectual enablement, fostered by education that was the core weapon in the anti – colonial struggle. Education is the most formidable component in the construction of human capital, the most dynamic force in any development strategy.

Charles Onunaiju is a journalist based in Abuja


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