President Goodluck Jonathan’s fallouts from Chibok

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“Statistics say Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, with an average annual per capita income of 1,200 pounds, great wealth in most of the continent. But this is the greatest kleptocracy on Earth, whose oil wealth is pillaged by an elite which claws not millions, but billions…

We see in Nigeria the problems that beset the entire African continent…It is international publicity, not shame, that has forced President Goodluck Jonathan’s rotten regime belatedly to respond to the (Chibok) kidnapping…”– Max Hastings

THE past week must be one of the most difficult for President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Never has it been under so much scrutiny, for its conduct. Not even a successful hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa, allowed it a moment of triumphalism. A shocked world was scandalised by the administration’s response to the abduction of over 200 young girls from Chibok. The worldwide campaign to bring back the girls also focused world media attention on Jonathan’s refusal to respond to the abduction act for 19 days. Amnesty International(AI) reported that security forces received reports of an imminent attack on Chibok, four hours before, but did nothing to prevent the attack and the abductions. AI’s allegation has been particularly embarrassing for the government and was stridently denied.

President Jonathan’s handling of the Chibok abductions has triggered some of the most scathing criticisms of the administration since it was elected in 2011. THE NEW YORK TIMES editorial of May 6, 2014, titled “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls” stated that “the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been shockingly slow and inept in addressing this monstrous crime”. The editorial stated that “the reaction of Mr. Jonathan’s wife, Patience, was stunningly callous” and most damagingly: “Mr. Jonathan, who leads a corrupt government that has little credibility, initially played down (Boko Haram’s) threat…it wasn’t until…more than two weeks after the kidnappings that he called a meeting of government officials…” In the meantime, Nigerians across the country were taking to the streets demanding that the children be brought home; the same demand touched the hearts of people all over the world.

By May 7th, BBC World TV was reporting that the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was already re-tweeted a million times and on the same day, if one Googled “Bring back our Girls, one saw 2.1Billion results! The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, according to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL was created by a Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi; and by 11th of May 13, 2014, had been re-tweeted more than 2million times. Social media has made it a cause celebre , just as the Nigerian government dithered and tried, cynically, to politically manipulate the abduction and throw a Christian-versus-Muslim spanner into the exemplary unity which Nigerians were displaying on the need to bring back home our girls; alive! Mrs. Michelle Obama addressed Americans and made the Chibok abductions the central plank of her address, just as Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow, stepped out of her period of mourning to send message of solidarity and hope with the abducted girls. She added that Madiba would have understood the gesture! By 9th May, some of the most eminent international personalities like Desmond Tutu, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mo Ibrahim, Salim Ahmed Salim and musician Bono, joined the worldwide campaign calling for the return of the Chibok girls. They urged “all local, national and regional governments, with the full support of the international community, to dedicate their expertise and resources- from satellite imagery to intelligence services to multinational corporations’ supply chains-to #BringBackOurGirls”.

It was equally significant to note that Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, condemned the kidnappings and described Boko Haram’s action as “a gross misrepresentation of Islam”. Similarly, on May 9th, American president, Barack Obama, revealed that he wakes everyday thinking about our girls and wished that he “could reach out and save those kids”. If Obama was very measured the same cannot be said of the very rightwing and gung-ho John Senator McCain; he went on an offensive: “what we should have done, as soon as we know that these young girls were kidnapped…we should have utilized every asset we have, satellites, drones, any capabilities that we have to go right after them. We didn’t have to wait until a Nigerian government, the nonexistent practically government in Nigeria gave us the go-ahead”. That appeared very much like a blow below the belt for the Jonathan administration. And it was not the last during last week.

Former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was unsparing in her response to the Chibok abductions too: “The seizure of the young women…is abominable…The government of Nigeria has been, in my view, somewhat derelict in its responsibility toward protecting boys and girls, men and women in northern Nigeria over the last years”. She punched further that “Nigeria has made bad choices, not hard choices…They have squandered their oil wealth; they have allowed corruption to fester, and now they are losing control of parts of their (own) territory because they would not make hard choices…The Nigerian government has failed to confront the threat, or to address the underlying challenges”. When these blows were being rained on the Jonathan administration, international media outlets like CNN with anchor Isha Sesay were exposing the dark crevices of the nation’s governance process and putting to a lie, the posturing by the government. It was an incredible tour de force, which underlined all that is wrong with the performances of the Nigerian government, under Goodluck Jonathan.

But something good has eventually come out of all the fast paced event of the past week, or so. The international community finally arrived with assets that can help to unravel the Chibok abductions. The long-term potential consequence might even lead to the considerable weakening, if not total end of the insurgency. The regional and international danger of the insurgency has been under the limelight in recent days too and with the US, France, Britain, China, Israel and other countries offering Nigeria various forms of assistance, things will certainly turn a corner. But Goodluck Jonathan has to learn vital lessons into the future. Certainly, he cannot forget the past week in a hurry!

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