Michael Olugbode in Damaturu
IN his first visit to Yobe State since he assumed office and since the abduction of 110 schoolgirls by Boko Haram terrorists from a secondary school in the state, President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday could not resist taking a jab at his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan and his government over its handling of the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
Buhari, who chose to use the event of his visit to the state to draw a parallel between his government and the Jonathan administration, said his government acted more responsively when the 110 girls were abducted from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State.
But in reaction to the president’s remark, Reno Omokri, a former aide of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan dismissed the assertion, saying Buhari was being dishonest.
In a statement issued by the presidency on Buhari’s visit to Yobe, Buhari was quoted to have said: “The federal government’s response to the unfortunate abduction of the schoolgirls is a clear departure from the insensitivity of the past administration which looked the other way while the Chibok girls were taken away in 2014 and held in captivity for over three years.”
He made the remark at the Government House, Damaturu, the Yobe capital, where he met with government officials, security and intelligence chiefs, community and religious leaders, and the parents and families of the abducted girls, during a town hall meeting.
During the meeting, Buhari was said to have assured the parents and families of the missing girls that their daughters will be rescued or released.
He went on to recount the recent successes recorded by his administration in rescuing Boko Haram hostages, citing the release of more than 100 Chibok girls, University of Maiduguri lecturers, some female police personnel, students and an National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member.
On this basis, the president declared: “I have no doubt that the Dapchi girls will be rescued or released. I want to reassure parents, Nigerians and the international community that we will do all that is within our power to make sure that the girls are brought back safely to their families.”
The president told the gathering that the federal government was partnering with the international community including Nigeria’s immediate neighbours to ensure the safe return of the girls.
“Just recently, I reiterated our resolve to negotiate for the unconditional release of the girls.
“This is borne out of this administration’s conviction that doing so is safer and devoid of risk, and will not endanger the lives of our young girls who are in harm’s way.
“There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok and Dapchi, is released. The girls, like all our citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations.
“The Dapchi and Chibok students are our girls and must enjoy our protection. They must live to achieve their individual ambitions, to be great women of tomorrow. It is our duty to protect them.”
Buhari warned that anyone found to be negligent, leading to the abductions would be punished in accordance with the law.
“The federal government has set up a 12-member committee to unravel the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the students.
“The membership of the committee was drawn from among the security agencies and local residents. It is my hope that any agency, person or group found to have been negligent or culpable in the abduction of the girls will be punished in accordance with the law,” he said.
Enumerating several steps so far taken in the search and rescue of the missing girls, the president described the efforts as the best under the circumstances, adding that it was a marked departure from the attitude of the preceding administration when 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted.
“On 19th February 2018, we woke up to the painful news of the abduction of 110 students of Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi.
“Since this ugly incident happened, I have not left any stone unturned in making sure that the girls are rescued.
“I have ordered the service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police to take direct charge and brief me on a daily basis on the efforts to bring back the girls.
“Within four days of the incident, the Minister of Information visited Dapchi and the next day, the Minister of Interior who was accompanied by the Minister of Information revisited the school for an on-the-spot assessment.
“I have ordered the re-strengthening of a joint operational base involving the relevant agencies and services to coordinate the rescue mission. Consequently, the service commanders have not only established a unified command centre in Maiduguri, the military has raised several rescue teams to comb the forests in the North-east Theatre of Operation.
“In addition, the Nigerian Air Force has maintained aerial surveillance of the area. The federal government had earlier sent a delegation of senior officials to visit the governor and the parents of the girls to reassure them of the measures the government is taking, as well as have an on-the-spot assessment of the incident.
“The federal government’s response to the unfortunate abduction of the schoolgirls is a clear departure from the insensitivity of the past administration which looked the other way while the Chibok girls were taken away in 2014 and held in captivity for over three years,” he said.
The president was said to have pledged that his administration would remain resolute in the fight against terrorism and the Boko Haram insurgents.
Buhari also called on the parents and families of the abducted girls to refrain from making statements that may jeopardise the rescue of their daughters.
He said his government was aware of the actions of some Nigerians to use the situation to score cheap political points and urged good spirited Nigerians to shun them.
According to hem, “We are determined to restore peace to all part of the country – from the West to the East; North to the South. While calling for calm, I implore affected parents and families to refrain from making statements that may jeopardise the success of the rescue mission.
“We are aware of orchestrations by some evil elements to take advantage of the development to score cheap political points. I call on law-abiding citizens to shun activities and statements that may cause a breakdown of law and order.”
The president also commiserated with the parents, families and the government of Yobe State over the girls’ abduction, promising that the federal government was putting measures in place to ensure that abductions become a thing of the past.
“The government under my watch will continue to maintain normalcy and ensure that incidents of this nature are stopped. Be assured that measures are being put in place to achieve these objectives.
“I am here in Yobe State today to express my sincere sympathies with the parents, families, the government and the entire people of Yobe State whose daughters were callously abducted by unrepentant terrorists,” he said.
Responding, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State thanked the president for sharing in their grief, stressing that the visit was fatherly and welcome.
Gaidam assured him that the people of the state were behind him and would do everything necessary to support the development of the country.
He said the president has demonstrated compassion with the people of the state since the sad incident as he had earlier sent four separate delegations to Yobe.
He said the president’s the visit boosted the people’s confidence that the girls will be rescued and brought back home.
“This has shown that the president is with them and feels their pains as a father and is ready to do everything to rescue the girls,” the governor said.
Gaidam also thanked the international community for their concern and the security agencies for their unrelenting efforts in the fight against the insurgency.
He informed the president that the military had restored personnel to Dapchi town, while security personnel have been deployed in all schools in the state.
However, in reaction to Buhari’s comment that he handled the Dapchi abduction better that Jonathan handled a similar incident in Chibok four years ago, Jonathan’s former aide dismissed the assertion, saying Buhari was lying.
In a statement yesterday, Omokri said: “It beats my imagination why a president who is close to 80 years of age will continue to lie like a child.
“When the Chibok girls were kidnapped, the Jonathan administration did not ‘look the other way’ as President Buhari claims and historical records prove this.
The Chibok girls were kidnapped on April 14, 2014. Exactly three days later, on April 17, 2014, then President Goodluck Jonathan called an emergency National Security Council meeting at Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Is this the act of an administration or a president that looks away?
“Now more than two weeks after the Dapchi Girls were kidnapped, has President Buhari held a National Security Council meeting to address the situation?
“No, he has not. As a matter of fact, to prove to Nigerians how inept he is, the president cancelled the Federal Executive Council meeting that was to hold after the Dapchi Girls were kidnapped because of a conference he had to attend.
“Between a president who calls an emergency meeting after Chibok and a president who cancelled an important meeting so he could attend an economic conference, who can be described as looking the other way?”
Omokri wondered what kind of serious leader cancels the most important meeting in his nation at a time when Kaduna is facing ethnic and religious killings, Zamfara is facing mass killings by bandits, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba are facing an onslaught from Fulani herdsmen, and 110 girls were kidnapped in Dapchi.
According to him, “When Yusuf Buhari had an accident, President Buhari cancelled all his engagements and headed straight to the hospital.
“When the Dapchi girls were kidnapped, the same President Buhari carried on as usual and went to Kano to go and dance and socialise at a society wedding!
“After the Jonathan administration held an emergency National Security Council meeting on April 17, 2014, the Nigerian Army and Air Force began searching for the Chibok girls with sorties being flown in search of the girls.”
He further alleged that one of the people who undermined the then administration’s anti-terror war was Buhari who on June 3, 2013, said the “military offensive against Boko Haram is anti-North”.
Omokri also observed that the president lied when he said his administration “rescued” 100 Chibok girls, saying they were not rescued but released by Boko Haram in exchange for ransom and captured commanders of the terror sect.
“The Chibok girls were not rescued. As a matter of fact, they were released by Boko Haram after the alleged payment of huge ransoms and freedom of captured Boko Haram commanders by the Buhari administration.
“Only two weeks ago, Shuaibu Moni, one of the Boko Haram commanders released by the Buhari administration went back to Sambisa Forest and released a video threatening Nigeria.
“Who knows whether it was money allegedly paid as ransom to Boko Haram, or individuals freed by the government that were used to facilitate the kidnap of the Dapchi girls and the recent killings of United Nations staff in Rann.
“Again, three weeks ago, Chief Mike Okiro, the head of the Police Service Commission, revealed that under President Muhammadu Buhari, 150,000 policemen are guarding ‘big men’ instead of performing core police duties.
“President Buhari’s son, Yusuf, alone had more guards guarding him than the guards attached to Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, at the time of the kidnapping, yet the president has the guts to say he handled Dapchi better than Jonathan handled Chibok.
“A serious president, knowing how vulnerable the North-east is, would have sent these 150,000 policemen to guard schools in the Northeast rather than send them out to guard APC big shots all over the country.
“Finally, can President Buhari, who claims to have defeated Boko Haram, tell the world how many people are killed daily by Boko Haram under his regime as compared to the previous regime?
“In the first ten weeks of 2018, Boko Haram killed 519 people in the North-east. Only a patently dishonest leader can claim to have defeated Boko Haram with such numbers,” he said.