By FEMI EGBEWOLE
When on Saturday, January 24, 2015, President Jonathan, during his presidential campaign in Maiduguri, Borno State, declared that his first priority, if elected on February 14, would be to commence total war against Boko Haram insurgents, my initial reaction was that of an audience at a comedy show, reeling from the toxic laughter of a spell-binding joke.
“We have a commitment to end terrorism in Nigeria”, he said. “We must defeat and bring Boko Haram to an end. Borno people deserve a return of peace; we shall ensure that all our captured territories are reclaimed and all the kidnapped persons, including our daughters the Chibok girls, are rescued safe and alive.”
Courageous. Awe-inspiring. Noble. My mind ran back and forth, with amazement and wonder that our very own number one citizen, and who incidentally is a father, could utter these statements without a trace of cowardice. Or whether, it was just an impostor who had seized the moment by giving an audience bereft of hope and happiness a dose of smokescreen. I shudder to think at the thought of having a daughter locked up in the darkest recesses of our nation, with no certainty of safety, freedom, and deprived of the basic fundamental human right to life for over 284 days. Yet, Mr. President has found the best use for such an evil situation – at a time when the whole world stands together to condemn and fight against terrorism and its dastardly acts. Mr President has done the most noble deed of using 219 girls, missing under his watch, and in Boko Haram custody, as an electoral tool for his re-election bid.
Two hundred and nineteen! Imagine 219 students, representing the graduating set of a faculty in one of our universities – all gone! Missing. And rather than deal with the reality of a volatile situation, the campaign organization of Dr. Jonathan has resorted to blackmailing strategy to ensure that the people of Chibok, Borno State and the women crying day and night for the release of these girls to vote for him.
Barely a month to the general election, Mr. President now deems it fit to visit the same state where the girls that had been neglected for months – all in a bid to ensure he is re-elected come February 14. This government has truly and most ignobly lost its soul. Not so much that it had one to begin with, but whatever trappings of morality and ethics this government ever had from inception has been swept away by the wind of history. It certainly would make good reading for a history student when in time to come this administration is remembered in the history books.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports in May 16, 2014: “Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has called off a visit to the town where more than 200 school girls were abducted, officials say. Sources had told the BBC he would stop in Chibok, in the north-east, on his way to a conference in France on the threat from Boko Haram militants.”
This was barely a month after the kidnap of these young, teenage girls from their school, and in which any concerted military action could have given this administration credit and the people’s trust, but for security reasons the trip was cancelled. The Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria Arm forces panicked due to security threat. Admittedly, the threats may have been real, and even now, we are witnesses to the daily and wanton destruction of lives in Borno State; however, a more diligent and determined president would certainly have considered all the alternatives and saved his nation at a time of war and restlessness. Alas! When the Chief Security Officer is not safe in his nation, that simply spells doom for his people.
About 276 days later, after the kidnap of these girls, our President has finally been given the security clearance to visit Borno State. The Punch report of January 16, 2015 says: “President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday paid a surprise visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, one of the three North-Eastern states worst hit by Boko Haram insurgency. There had been clamour for him to visit the zone since April 14 when over 200 schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok by the sect.” It begs the question, what has his security team been up to? And if at a time that Maiduguri, the capital of the Borno state, is also facing the same terrorist onslaught our President deems it appropriate to visit the state to canvass for votes, what stopped him from visiting the state when the tide was less turbulent?
Nine days afterwards, Dr. Jonathan goes back to Maiduguri to promise the release of the girls, if voted to power. Here is to say, the president has both the yam and the knife, but rather than peel and cook, he has held on to both till the knife became blunt and the yam rotten. He could have determined the deliverance of the girls from captivity. He could have fought Boko Haram to their grave. But he did nothing.
We need a change, a breath of fresh air from the staleness of the last six years. We need men who would put their oxen to the plough and not turn back. We need deliverables and not empty promises. Our children and the future of the nation must not be an issue of electoral instrument but a frantic approach to progress. Nigerians should cast their vote wisely.