Did foot-dragging on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan lead to the intricacy surrounding the location and rescue of the Chibok school girls, who were abducted by the Boko Haram sect on the night of April 14?
According to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, the initial lethargic response of the Presidency for more than two weeks led to the withholding of valuable decisions that would have led to the over 200 school girls’ rescue.
The former president, whose views on national issues in recent times have seemed not to go down well with the current administration, gave the damning verdict in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa, aired on Saturday.
“The president did not believe that those girls were abducted for almost 18 days”, Obasanjo said in the interview.
He added that “If the president got the information within 12 hours of the act and he reacted immediately, I believe those girls would have been rescued within 24 hours, maximum 48 hours”.
The ex-president lamented that rather than spring into action after receiving security briefings about the abduction, “the president had doubts”.
According to him, Jonathan’s initial action was to ask: “‘is this true, or is it a ploy by people who don’t want me to be president again?’”
President Jonathan’s slow response to the kidnapping was the “most unfortunate aspect of the whole issue”, Obasanjo stated.
Recall that the female students, who were sitting for their WAEC at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were tricked into leaving their hostels in Boko Haram trucks, whose members disguised as military personnel in the early hours of April 14. Although the over 200 school girls’ abduction became national news almost immediately, the president remained aloof until 20 days after the incident before he even acknowledged that they might have been missing.
It was widely believed that Mr. Jonathan only reckoned with the uproar generated by the girls’ abduction after international pressures mounted, ahead of the World Economic Forum for Africa, which was hosted by Nigeria in Abuja.
The first time he ever mentioned the issue of the girls’ abduction was in a media chat in which he blamed the parents of the school girls for not volunteering information about the victims and the incident.
But his predecessor would have none of it as he recalled that an equal lethargy by President Jonathan thwarted his earlier efforts to mediate in a bid to end the insurgency three years ago.
Boko Haram, whose violent campaigns have led to the death of more than 4,000 people since it started in 2009, with the highest number of killings taking place in 2014 alone, is believed to be waging a war for the enthronement of Sharia law in most of Northern Nigeria.
The Boko Haram insurgency has also been explained as a political tool especially by members of the President Jonathan administration, who often postulate that it was set up with the sole aim of destabilizing the regime and help to return power to the North, despite the fact that the group’s history pre-dates the current administration.
This much was affirmed by Mr. Obasanjo, who said the sect was in existence during his administration but did not pose any problem because he did not interfere with their Sharia.
On the president’s performance, Mr. Obasanjo said in the Bloomberg interview: “I don’t believe he has performed to the expectations of many Nigerians, not just me”.
Watch interview here