President Goodluck Jonathan suffered a major blow yesterday after parents of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram as well as some of the girls who escaped captivity rejected an offer to meet with him.
The meeting was arranged in an effort to show Nigerians and the international community that the President showed empathy for the families and genuinely wanted to assist in bringing back the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April.
The Nigerian government has been heavily criticised by national and international media over the perceived slow reaction to the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno State.
Pakistani School girl Malala Yousafzai had also confirmed the President’s willingness to meet with the group during her recent visit to the country where she met and commiserated with the girls and their families.
The meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday, however, the families pulled a shocker by pulling out of the talks at the last-minute leaving the President’s spokesperson Doyin Okupe to address the media on the cancellation of the meeting.
Speaking in Abuja on Tuesday, Okupe accused activists within the Nigerian #BringBackOurGirls campaign group of engineering the rejection and playing politics with the lives of the missing girls. In a statement obtained by Sahara Reporters, Okupe, who spoke on behalf of the President, said he would not be drawn into petty politics for the sake of the girls and blamed members of the political opposition for the cancellation.
“It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition.”
“It is with great regret that I announce the cancellation of the meeting with 12 parents of the abducted Chibok children, as well as five of the brave girls who escaped from the terrorist organization Boko Haram. I scheduled this meeting, which was to be open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press, to listen to their stories and to privately brief the parents and the girls on our efforts to rescue the abducted girls.”
“My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls.”
“Unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions.”
“Those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit, are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.”
“I want to be clear, this government stands with complete solidarity with the girls and their parents. We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls. Despite the shameful and disgusting games being played by the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls, as a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God.”
In June, President Jonathan cancelled a meeting at the last minute with the families of the missing girls and community elders which was scheduled to take place in Borno state, citing security concerns.
US PR Firm has been dragged into the confusion as Nigerians took to social media yesterday to accuse the firm of a smear campaign against Nigerians who joined the BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Former education Minister Oby Ezekwesili slammed the President for employing the firm in the first instance with a reported $1.2 million dollar contract. Twitter was agog with comments by users who accused the firm of ignorance by misleading the media suggesting that the activists were linked to the main opposition party APC and for calling them ‘terrorists’.
— RIP Dora (@damoche) July 17, 2014
It's to SUCH HATE? That our Presidency deployed our public resources to hire US firm @LEVICK to label INNOCENT CITIZENS "terrorists"??
— oby ezekwesili (@obyezeks) July 17, 2014
we dont need some PR company from DC to tell us how our govt feels about us. we live here, you operate from DC @LEVICK enjoy your lunch fee
— musa (@Perseverance__) July 17, 2014