The Federal Government and former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday traded words over the kidnap of Chibok schoolgirls and the rescue efforts.
While the Federal Government, speaking through Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, had asked Jonathan to stop passing the buck on the missing Chibok girls of Borno State and accusing his administration of playing politics with the abduction, the former president said the minister attempted, as spokesman of the then opposition party, to frustrate his government’s effort to rescue the abducted girls.
In a press statement released on his behalf, Mohammed accused Jonathan of allowing the Boko Haram insurgency to escalate, while urging him to stop engaging in finger-pointing over the issue of the Chibok girls abducted under his watch.
The minister said such finger pointing was an unnecessary distraction from on-going efforts to secure the release of the girls, who have remained in captivity for long.
According to him, ‘‘while former President Jonathan reserves the right to defend his administration, he should not engage in finger-pointing by saying, in a statement, ‘some people who have obviously been playing politics with the issue of the Chibok girls will stop at nothing to further their interest.’”
Mohammed said if anyone ever played politics with the issue of Chibok girls, it was Jonathan’s administration under whose watch the girls were abducted.
He recalled how the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) repeatedly alerted Nigerians of the dangerous game being played with the insurgency by the Jonathan government.
He said: “After the girls were kidnapped and the Jonathan administration did nothing for all of 15 days or made any determined efforts to rescue them thereafter, our party, the then opposition APC, told the nation several times that the whole Boko Haram crisis was allowed to escalate by the PDP-controlled Federal Government so they can use it as a political tool ahead of the 2015 elections.
“In a statement on September 8, 2014, we said: ‘President Jonathan-PDP’s political manipulation of the Boko Haram has to be understood as part of its poker-like calculus for clinging on to political power ahead of the 2015 elections. The Boko Haram crisis is readily used by the PDP to rationalise the Jonathan government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, including visits and assistance to areas affected as well as effective response to abductions (e.g. the GEJ government was silent over the Chibok girls kidnaps for over 15 days).’”
The minister further said that the APC had been vindicated two and half years after by the report by a United Kingdom newspaper that claimed President Jonathan rebuffed an attempt by the British government to help rescue the girls.
“We hope the former president will now refrain from stoking further controversy over the lingering abduction issue and allow the government of the day to focus on its on-going negotiations to secure the release of the Chibok girls,” he said.
Reacting to the minister’s comments, on behalf of the former president, Reno Omokri, former aide to ex-President Jonathan, said Mohammed lied about the last administration’s response to the kidnap of the Chibok girls.
According to him, “my response to his lies is as follows: Opinions are subjective but facts are sacred. The facts are that then President Jonathan immediately sprang to action to rescue the kidnapped Chibok girls and it was precisely the fallacious Lai Mohammed, whose words I caution the international community to take with a pinch of salt, that attempted to frustrate the efforts by the then government to rescue the girls.”
While releasing his facts, Omokri said: “Below are factual timelines with dates, names and location. I challenge Lai Mohammed to rebut them with his own facts.”
He stated that on March 12, 2014, the then minister of state for education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, wrote the governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and advised them not to hold the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations in areas susceptible to the Boko Haram insurgency, which was ignored by Borno State governor.
He said: “April 14, 2014: Contrary to the advice given by the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan, the All Progressives Congress-led government of Governor Kashim Shettima, for reasons best known to it, chose to ignore that advice and held the WASSCE examinations in Chibok, a mainly Christian town that was susceptible to attacks from the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.
“On the day in question, the girls of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, were kidnaped by Boko Haram while preparing to write their final physics examinations.
“Curiously, both the Principal of the school and her Vice were not on the school’s campus, as the girls were inside a dormitory. The Principal of the school, Hadjiya Asabe Kwambura, later claimed to have gone to Maiduguri for a ‘medical check up’ on the day of the abduction. It seemed very inauspicious for a principal of a school to schedule a non emergency ‘medical check up’ for a time when the school she presided over was having, perhaps, its most important activity of the year, school leaving examinations.
“This same woman later changed her story when she told Fox News that she had gone to Maiduguri to buy medicines and was informed by her daughter about the kidnap. But how did her daughter, a student of the school, avoid being kidnapped? It is noteworthy that this particular principal was never reprimanded or disciplined or in anyway made to take responsibility for this obvious dereliction of duty by the Borno State government, which owns the school.
“Flash forward to April 2, 2016: Governor Kashim Shettima confessed in an interview with Premium Times that he, the chief security officer of the state, did not inform then President Jonathan when the girls were kidnapped for reasons best known to him.
“April 17, 2014: Exactly three days after the kidnap, President Jonathan, who had not been formally informed of the issue because of the deliberate refusal of the APC-led government of Borno State to brief him, called for an emergency meeting at the Presidential Villa after the military independently alerted him.
“Multiple dates in April, 2004: The military, principally the Air Force, were given conflicting information as to what direction the fleeing terrorists took when they captured the girls. Were these conflicting information a deliberate effort to send the military on a wild goose chase?”
He said on May 2, 2014, “Jonathan sets up a fact finding mission to determine the facts of the kidnap and stresses that the mission’s work would not interfere with search and rescue efforts.” “ After consistent confused and contradictory information from the Borno state Government and various other authority figures, the Presidency invited the principal actors in the Chibok saga to the Presidential Villa to ascertain the truth. The Presidency was shocked at the non-appearance by officials of the Borno State government. The governor’s wife, who was invited, shunned the event and when the then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, saw the scanty representation from Borno, she famously exclaimed: ‘na only you waka come’?”
Omokri said: On “October 15, 2014, during the Presidential declaration by then candidate Muhammadu Buhari, now the incumbent President, Audu Ogbeh, at that time the Director General of the campaign (he was later replaced) said on live television that the pressure group, Bring Back our Girls, led by a virulent critic of the Jonathan administration,
Oby Ezekwesili, also said that the #BBOG campaign is led by ‘members of our party, the APC.’ This is an exact quote and reflects the politicization of the saga. “From the above, it is clear that Nigeria’s minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has an estranged relationship with the truth.”
Source: Sun Newspaper