Anger, Shock Over Jonathan’s Refusal To Visit Chibok

Anger, shock and disappointment swept across the country yesterday after President Goodluck Jonathan cancelled a scheduled trip to Chibok, Borno State, where over 200 students of the Government Girls Secondary School were abducted by the Boko Haram sect last month.

The Presidency denied he planned to be in the town yesterday.

Traumatised parents of the abducted students and other residents of Chibok who had gathered to receive the President and hear words of encouragement from him went home fuming with anger.

They wondered why the President chose to disrespect their emotions.

After waiting with others for several hours at the burnt remains of the school to welcome the President, an exasperated parent declared: ”This is really sad for most of us because we all thought he would come, and we were all thinking that his coming would give us better hope for our children’s freedom.

“But here we are being tossed up and down, people playing with our emotions.”

Dr Allen Manasseh, whose 18-year-old sister Maryamu Wavi is among the abducted girls, said: “You begin to question what could be more important to the President than the lives of these students.”

“The parents were hoping he would come with some information for them about where the girls may be and what efforts are being made to recover them. To be told that he is not coming was not easy for them. It’s not an easy thing to have a missing child.”

He said the cancellation of the trip had only helped in further diminishing the people’s faith in the President.

Bulus Mungo Park, an uncle to two of the missing girls, said: ”The parents were happy that our president would come and see for himself. He was our last hope.

“And now we don’t know what is happening. We’re hoping he can still come some time.”

It was an anti-climax to the expectations of the residents a few hours earlier as news of the failed trip spread.

As the people looked forward to seeing the President, Chibok community leader, Pogu Bitrus had said that although the residents were angry with the federal government’s slow response to the girls’ plight, they no longer held it against him as they considered his visit “better late than never.”

A retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said the traumatised parents would have been relieved had the President visited them.

He said: “When they announced that he was going to Chibok, we were all very happy. We thought that his presence would give the parents of the abducted girls a ray of hope. It would have shown that the President is worried and concerned and that would have made the people to be very happy.

“It could be that the President cancelled the trip because of security reasons. The President cannot go anywhere in this country unless there is a good security report on it.

“From the beginning, the President was not interested until women started demonstrating. It was at that point that he started showing some concern. The wife was even saying that the girls were not abducted.

“The President is the chief security officer of the country. The promise of the President to guarantee the security of the citizens is not fulfilled here. It is almost a month that these girls were abducted and he has not gone there to show his concern. It is not good for the him. He should be concerned about the security of the citizens.”

Chief Ladi Williams (SAN)  said: “We need to know if there was a plan by the President to go to Chibok. We have the right to know because these girls are our children and grandchildren. The President owes us a duty to explain what is happening to us because he is part of this nation.

“It is however not right for us to work on speculation. It is speculative to say that he cancelled the trip out of fear of being attacked by the insurgents. We should give him the benefit of the doubt to explain why if it was actually cancelled. One of his security aides should come out and tell us the true situation of things.

“It is obvious that our security system is not up to the task. Therefore, if there were security reports that he should not go to Chibok, it would be fool hardy for him to do so.”

Chief Ayo Adebanjo,a member of the National Conference said there must have been a reason for the ca ncellation of the trip.

“He must have been guided by security reports. He planned to Chibok because he was concerned about the situation there. Along the line, he did not go again. There must be a reason for that. It would be fool hardy for him to go there if security report had warned him not to go there.

“We should remove sentiment from all this. We were told that WAEC authorities did not approve of the examination centre in Chibok but the local authorities thought otherwise. That is what is responsible for all this. If the president should go to Chibok and something happens, security operatives would say they warned him against it but he refused. It was better for him to have heeded security advice.”

Another Senior Advocate,Professor Itse Sagay said: “The whole world was aware that he was going there and that also includes the insurgents. What greater victory would Boko Haram have if they succeeded in bringing down the President of Nigeria. If the president should go to Chibok, Boko Haram would members will go there in their numbers and do the possible damage they can bring upon this country.

“My view is that security agencies must have got some information which made it unwise for the president to travel to Chibok. I don’t think it is right to add the tragedy of the president on top of the 276 girls that we are now worried about. I will not condemn it because there must be a good reason for him not to have gone.

“It is obviously not right for the president to be sympathizing with the people from afar. We blame him for not reacting swiftly when the incident occurred. They were indifferent almost to the point of callousness. They did not react until the whole world and the international community reacted. It was then that Nigeria government woke up. There is no doubt about that. But is that why we have to sentence him to be ambushed and killed? That is the question. Let us not add to the problem we have already. We apologise to the parents in Chibok. They should be patient. We don’t want a double tragedy.”

The Presidency vehemently denied that President Jonathan was due in Chibok yesterday.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati said in his Twitter account that there was no planned visit to Chibok.

He dismissed the reports as rumour and said it was wrong and malicious to say that a “non-existent trip has been cancelled.”

His words:”Every trip by the President is usually pre-announced. The Presidency did not at any time announce a trip to Chibok today (Friday). Ignore rumours.”

He explained that the statement issued by my office on Thursday only indicated that the President was scheduled to travel to Paris yesterday.

However,two officials said there were apparent concerns about security after news of the planned trip was leaked to the media and published on front pages of newspapers yesterday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not supposed to give information to reporters.

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, had to cut short a trip to London, arriving home hours before the president’s scheduled appearance in Maiduguri.

President Jonathan had been expected to fly on one of his presidential jets from Abuja to Maiduguri, and then be transported by military helicopter to Chibok, 130 kilometers to the south.

The road from Maiduguri to Chibok passes by the Sambisa Forest to which the girls first were taken. It is a known hideout of the insurgents. Soldiers say 12 troops were killed in an ambush on that road on Monday night.

The Defence Headquarters said that four soldiers were killed in a firefight on the outskirts of Chibok that night.

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