Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima indicted the Federal Government last night for what he called its slow response to the kidnap of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls.
According to him, the government was politicising the April 15 incident when a timely action was required. The global outcry over the incident forced the Federal Government to begin the search for the girls, who were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, he said.
Shettima spoke to CNN’s Christine Amapour in London. With him was All Progressives Congress (APC) Women Leader Sharon Ikeanor, who is playing a role in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Shettima said it took the President a while to take action. He said: “It took a while. For the first three weeks, we were politicking. And there is a whole lot of difference between governance and politics. Instead for us to pointedly address the problems, we were busy looking for scapegoats.”
The governor, who described Boko Haram fighters as “rabid lunatics”, said the Federal Government must do everything possible to bring back the girls, even if it would require “talking to the devil”.
He said: “We need to get these girls back and we don’t have time on our side. It is too painful; this is how it would be if our own daughters are involved. So the issue of not negotiating with the terrorists is out of the context. If it means talking to the devil…if Mr devil can come down and we can get back our girls.
The governor, who has been criticised for observing that the insurgents are better motivated and equipped than soldiers, spoke of how he warned the Federal Government of the impending danger.
His words: “…And the fact in all these things is that, three years ago, I was repeatedly telling them that before long, that this is not a minor problem, that if it is not handled with tact and care, it is capable of metamorphosing into a conflagration that might consume the whole north. But the Federal Government was deaf, dumb and blind to the reality.
“We need a holistic approach to solve the issue; military approach is not the only option because Boko Haram is a phenomenon grown out of social exclusivity, poverty, hunger, joblessness, hopelessness, illiteracy… These are very dangerous cocktail or mixture that can really explode anywhere.”
Does he believe the girls would be found? Shettima said: “I am an optimist. I believe that they would be found and this is one thing that is agitating the mind of everybody… Believe me, we are working assiduously; we are getting information and anytime we get information, we relay it to the military for them to take it to the next level. Certainly, we got some information two, three days ago and we obliged them (military) with the information we got; and we are working with the local communities because we have a very robust platform of local people, who have been sensitised to report to us any unusual movement, be it of vehicular or human traffic. And they are doing a good job.
“We have gone out of our way to assure them (parents) and we are partnering with the military to provide adequate security and we are buying into this school programme championed by Gordon Brown, so that our schools can be better secured. I have to thank the global community for bringing the whole issue on the spotlight.”
On the allegations by Shtetima that the Federal Government was playing politics with the mass abduction, Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Mr. Mike Omeri, in a telephone conversation with our correspondent, said: “Let me say that since the beginning of this abduction saga, not a single government official has accused anyone of playing politics with the matter. We are not going to take up issues with them. What is paramount for this government and the President is to see to the rescue of the girls alive.
“Those playing politics with the matter know themselves and they are the ones shouting loudest. The President will be visiting Chibok to assess things for himself and I’m sure everyone now knows the level of his commitment to ensuring an early resolution of this matter. How can a leader of a party and governor of a state accuse the President of playing politics with the lives of Nigerians? To what end?”
Speaking also on CNN yesterday in Abuja, Omeri said the government was open to dialogue as against negotiating the release of the girls by swapping them with Boko Haram prisoners.
He said the government was moving troops into the Sambisa forest.
Omeri said he was not in the position to give details about the movement of troops into the forest.
He also said the government was on the right track to rescue the abducted girls.
Omeri said: “The results are slow in coming. There is national attention and energy directed to make sure that our beloved children are returned to us and reunited with the rest of Nigerians so we can continue to do the things that we normally do.
“The government has mobilised sufficiently and in collaboration with partners, more initiative and strategy is been deployed.
“Money? Are they for sale? We will amicably find a solution to it. I believe so because the government of Nigeria, led by our President, has shown the determination and mobilised to the last man.”