The Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, has decried the misconception that his principal, President Goodluck Jonathan, has consciously adopted a “do-nothing” strategy with respect to the rescue of the over 200 secondary schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists on April 14 as well as stopping the marauding sect in its tracks.
In an opinion article published in the Washington Times yesterday, the president’s spokesman, while acknowledging that the concern that has been expressed over the abduction of the girls is legitimate, he said: “What is not fair is the attempt to ignore the issues and argue that President Goodluck Jonathan is the problem.”
He stated that the attempt to turn the matter of the abducted girls into a referendum on the Jonathan administration has resulted in a complete misreading of the situation and “much deliberate mischief fuelled by ignorance and sponsored propaganda”.
“Take for example, Karen Attiah’s morbid satire, ‘What Nigerian president should have written’ (The Washington Post, July 3). The piece merely repeats worn misconceptions about the Chibok incident and the efforts of the Jonathan administration in Nigeria to find and rescue the abducted girls.
“The most popular misconception is the notion that the Jonathan administration has consciously adopted a ‘do-nothing’ strategy, and that the government only responded and considered international partnership necessary after pressure was mounted on it to do something,” he wrote in the opinion piece.
The presidential spokesman explained that the Boko Haram threat dated back to 2002 and had become a much bigger menace, and a full-scale terrorist movement, by the time Jonathan assumed office in 2010.
“During the past four years, Mr. Jonathan has taken proactive steps to combat terrorism on our shores, including military, political and social actions.
“In May 2013, a state of emergency was declared in the most affected northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. The state of emergency, lasting six months, has been renewed twice since then, with the full concurrence of the Nigerian parliament.
“Nigeria was not acting alone. The military operation involved Nigerian security forces and the Multinational Joint Task Force, set up under the auspices of the Lake Chad Commission with troops contributed by Niger, Nigeria and Chad.
“Nigeria also shared intelligence and efforts with Cameroun and Benin through the Gulf of Guinea Commission, focusing on piracy, border security and checking the proliferation of small arms and light weapons within the region,” Abati said.
Continuing, the presidential aide pointed out that since 2011, Nigerian security chiefs have met regularly with their counterparts from the four neighboring countries on matters of peace and security, adding, “These efforts yielded positive results, notably the decimation of the ranks of the Boko Haram and their restriction to the Sambisa Forest.”
He noted that a Presidential Dialogue committee was set up to pursue the option of a peaceful resolution of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Mr. Jonathan also launched a Presidential Initiative for the North-east, an economic-recovery programme. Other steps taken since then include deradicalisation programmes and the Safe Schools Initiative.
“The April 14 abduction of the Chibok girls and subsequent developments marked a turning point in the Boko Haram saga. It was a terrible resurgence of an ongoing challenge, not the beginning.
“The assault on schools by terrorists and the threat to turn innocent young girls into sex slaves and prisoners of terrorism is unacceptable. The outrage is understandable. But we must not become so blinded by its horror as to reduce it all to the fault of one man.
“This is not about the strength or failings of one man. Terrorism is an assault on human rights and our civilisation. It requires international cooperation and concerted domestic action,” he argued.
Abati maintained that the president was fully committed to ensuring that the girls are rescued alive, stating, “Yes, it has been more than 80 days since the nightmare began. Americans, Canadians, the British and other friends of Nigeria are all involved in the search, in one form or the other, but unfortunately, with all the technology and intelligence at their disposal, the girls are yet to be found.”
He said Jonathan was keenly aware of his responsibility for the safety, security and wellbeing of the Chibok girls and all Nigerians and wants the girls back like everyone else and is doing everything within his powers to rescue them safely and return them to their distraught parents.
Meanwhile, the dreaded Boko Haram sect is believed to have taken over one of the major routes leading into troubled Borno State capital, Maiduguri, forcing travellers to embark on a circuitous journey that adds two extra hours for those driving into the city.