Nigeria’s first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has been reported to have ordered the arrest and detention of two leaders of women from Borno state who had come to Abuja to march for the 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, abducted by Boko Haram gunmen since April 15. Saratu Angus Ndirpaya and Naomi MutahNyadar were in a delegation of the women protesters invited to meet with the first lady at the presidential villa.
According news reports, at the all night Monday meeting, the first lady riled at the women, saying that they had fabricated the abductions and accusing them of belonging to Boko haram which has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in a video released on Monday. The two women leaders were driven to a police station where they were interrogated. Saratu said she was released shortly afterwards but Naomi was detained overnight.
Narrating what happened at the meeting with Dame Patience Jonathan to Associated Press (AP) news agency, Sarah said, “She [Jonathan] told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband’s rule.” She added that the first lady was urged on by other women at the meeting with a “yes, yes” chant. “They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.”
Footage of Saratu’s interview was aired by Aljazeera Tuesday morning. AP reported a failed attempt to get the police authorities in Abuja to comment on the women’s arrest.”A national police spokesman referred a journalist to the spokeswoman for police in Abuja. Reached on the phone, the spokeswoman said she was driving and could not immediately respond,” it said. The first lady has not commented officially on the allegation that she ordered the women’s arrest either.
We want to take her silence as confirmation of Sarah’s narrative. We utterly condemn this brazen abuse of assumed powers. We say ‘assumed’ because the first lady’s office has no place in the country’s Constitution.Secondly, Dame Patience Jonathan, by ordering the arrests, has shown unbelievable insensitivity to the plight of the abducted schoolgirls and the pain of grieving mothers. This contradicts her vow few days earlier to personally lead a march to protest the abductions. Thirdly, to accuse the visiting women of having fabricated the kidnap story and being Boko Haram members is uncharitable and wicked.
It is a big shame that in this dark moment all the first lady thinks about is to agonize over her husband’s political future. The girls’ abduction has captured global attention and world leaders stand with Nigeria in condemning Boko Haram for taking innocent girls away from their school and threatening to “sell them in the open market”. Dame Jonathan’s action is out of sync with this international solidarity with our country in these trying times. She has not been an exemplary mother and a first lady. This is sad, indeed.