» Sam Omatseye » How the girls haunted Jonathan
How the girls haunted Jonathan
Posted by: Sam Omatseye in Sam Omatseye 16 hours ago
This columnist cried to the rafters after the Chibok girls were whisked away by the bandits in the name of God. I titled the piece, Swap the Girls Now, on May 19, 2014, and not a few thought it a heresy.
The presidency forswore dining with the enemy, which was what the whole idea was interpreted to be. Now, they want to exult that they have actually dined with the damnable foes and are on the verge of releasing the girls after six months in captivity. But is this an act of heroism or desperation by the Jonathan administration?
When the tragedy first occurred, the Jonathan administration did not accept it. They asked questions rather than provide answers. Some of them asked, how was it possible that hundreds of girls could be abducted in a convoy and no one stopped them? So they said it could not be true. The enemies of Jonathan were at work again. They did not wish him well. Even the president went live on national television asking the parents of the abducted to provide the names of the students. His wife categorically said the girls were not missing. That was the first scene of the drama. It was the stage of denial.
Later the same administration knew that it had happened. It started to tell the country that it knew what was going on. It was the work of the opposition party, the APC. When Oby Ezekwesili rallied the young and the old behind her #Bring Back the Girls movement, they accused her of working with the opposition party. They wanted to rally Nigerians behind Jonathan’s innocence. He is an innocent man. He provided the soldiers. He declared emergency. What else could he have done? The APC should leave Jonathan alone. They put the point as nakedly as they could. This became worse when CNN flew into the country, and reported day by day the updates of the events. Doyin Okupe said to the nation on CNN about the Nigerian military being on the trail of the militants with aircraft and tanks, etc. We never saw any result. It was the stage of propaganda.
When propaganda did not work, they saw that the whole of the world focused on us. John McCain, senator and former presidential candidate in the United States, lambasted our bumbling military and leaders. Ditto Hilary Clinton. We heard nothing but silence from the vaults of the presidency. They wanted to divert attention from what was going on in the country. They wanted to see if it was possible to scale the acceptability of the president against the narrative of the missing girls. So, they orchestrated a new campaign called Bring Back Jonathan. It back fired. It was the desecration of the innocence of an idea. Like crude oil spilling on pristine waters, it was a dangerous gamble. They also made surreptitious moves on the media to play it down. But three newspapers, inspired by The Nation, began a permanent column on the front page, urging the federal government to bring back the girls. They had no answer. They sulked. They demurred. They cowered. It was the depression stage.
Not long after, Malala, the now winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, came calling. They had no choice but to allow the relations of the missing girls to visit Aso Rock. It was a grudging concession. The humiliation was colossal. It took a teenager to wake them out of their supercilious torpor. The president had called off, in official cowardice, a trip to the village to show solidarity. Now, in a torpedo of the African tradition of visiting the bereaved, it was the bereaved that visited the condoler, and what condoler! This was the end of denial. They no longer could say, even to themselves, that it was a politically motivated kidnap.
Again, the matter had begun to sour. The matter became intractable. More and more people died from the bullets of the godless bandits. Territories fell, Boko Haram flags flew defiantly, video clips proclaimed the rhetoric bluster of their leader, pictures from the northeast bled with gore and streamed with tears, soldiers mutinied, their wives blighted the streets with protests. What the Jonathan administration thought would go away became a monstrous albatross.
It became difficult to blame the opposition, although there was some level of gloating from the APC that it was Jonathan’s cross. But Jonathan is leader and leaders take responsibility. From depression, they descended to a place of ambiguity. They had no answers. The imagination was empty of rhetoric. Ezekwesili and her followers drummed up the campaign. Although CNN and the international media had moved elsewhere, Nigeria was still on the radar. The conversation never ceased. It was like a low burning flame that never petered out, stubborn, illuminating, spreading, lapping up more victims of leaves and dry paper. The big house, with its big kerosene tank, is threatened.
Then the inner sanctum of the regime started worrying. Not because the girls were not released. But because the TAN campaigns were revving up and it was getting close for Jonathan to unfurl his ambition. He will not have “I have no shoes” kind of mantra to latch on to. Rather the Chibok girls will stick to him like what we in the Niger Delta call jiga, that little worm that hid under toes of shoeless boys playing around rivers and ponds. He did not want that. They – he and his team – had to get this Chibok nonsense out of the way. They moved into the desperation phase.
That explains why he eventually dined with the enemy. Remember that picture of him with Ali Modu Sheriff with Chad leader? That was part of the deal. Hypocrisy is the hallmark of the desperate. He can don any identity in order to get things done. Why did he not say, well, Modu knows a thing or two about this matter, and we can parley with him so we can get the girls out? Rather his party called APC Boko Haram party when Modu was an APC man. But when he became a PDP man, Olisa Metu and presidency votaries lost their tongue, only to regain it in chatting with him on the Chibok girls.
So, are we to thank Jonathan if the girls actually come out? Or he will thank himself for having taken an albatross out of the way of his ambition. It is what we can call a gift horse in the mouth. A cynical boost of goodwill. He would not release the girls if not because his campaign is about to take off. It is an act of selfishness. It reminds me of Lord Byron’s lines in his Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, “He had no objection to true liberty except that it would make the nations free.” Jonathan was less interested in the Chibok girls’ freedom than the freedom for him to campaign for the second term.
Culled From: Sam Omatseye
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