by Olalekan Adetayo
One of the major issues that worked against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid is his government’s inability to rescue the over 200 girls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by members of the Boko Haram Sect on the night of April 14, 2014. It will be recalled that there was a global outrage against the government in the wake of the incident for allegedly not taking quick action. If fact, in the early stage, the government doubted if indeed any girl was kidnapped.
That government’s perceived lukewarm attitude gave birth to a movement known as the Bring Back Our Girls which has a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and Hajia Hadiza Bala-Usman as leaders. They engaged embassies, groups and media houses among others on the matter. One thing they were not able to achieve despite many attempts was to have a one-on-one with the President himself.
Security agents were always on hand to stop them at any time they marched towards the Villa to meet Jonathan. The best they got was when the President dispatched a team of government officials led by the then Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Olajumoke Akinjide, to meet with the campaigners far from the Villa Gate.
When power changed hands like the religious ones will say and President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, the BBOG campaigners made an attempt to meet the new President. Their request, unlike before, sailed through. On July 8, 2015, the gates of the Villa were thrown open for them. They engaged the President inside the Briefing Room of the Council Chamber. As expected, promises were made. At the end, the campaigners were satisfied that they met with Buhari.
GALLERY: No Comfort for Chibok Mothers: Click on any image below to enlarge
Having waited for months without the rescue of the girls as promised, the campaigners decided to return to the President on Thursday. Signs that the honeymoon was ending started early in the day when news went out that the campaigners would this time be received at the old Banquet Hall far from the “inner chamber” where they were received during their first visit. As if that was not enough, the President also decided to adopt Jonathan’s style. He directed the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Al-Hassan, to lead a government delegation to the meeting.
That did not go down well with the campaigners and Ezekwesili did not mince words in telling the government delegation that they would rather talk directly to the President or no deal. All attempts by Al-Hassan to appeal to them did not yield any result. They maintained their ground.
The government delegation contacted the President who agreed to join them. There was excitement in the air when the announcement was made that Buhari was on his way to listen to them. Immediately the President arrived, journalists were asked to leave the venue. That was also unlike their first visit which was opened to the press.
The interview Ezekwesili granted after the meeting further confirmed that the honeymoon was ending for the campaigners as far as Buhari is concerned. She quoted Buhari as saying to the campaigners and the girls’ parents behind closed doors that he expected them to be appreciative of his government’s efforts. “The President stated that he would also have expected us to acknowledge the efforts that they have so far made and that we failed to acknowledge the efforts they have made, but that he wishes that we would agree that he is very committed to the matter of our Chibok girls,” she said.
When they returned to the Unity Fountain, the former minister also told journalists that Buhari was emotionally disconnected from the parents of the girls during the meeting. My only conclusion is that the honeymoon is ending so soon and I won’t be surprised if they are restricted to the gate during their next visit.
Olalekan Adetayo is a columnist with Punch, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.