Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of education and David Mark, president of the Senate, openly exchange altercations over why the more than 200 abducted Chibok girls by Boko Haram have not been rescued girls since April 14
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Jul. 28, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
MORE than three months after the abduction of more than 200 secondary school girls by members of Boko Haram sect in Chibok, Borno State, government officials and various pressure groups are still bickering over government’s inability to rescue them.
The blame game took another dimension on Tuesday July 15, 2014 as David Mark, Senate president engaged Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of education and arrow head of the bring back our girls campaign group, in a war of words during which Mark warned her against politicising the campaign for the release of the missing girls.
Trouble started when Ezekwesili and other members of the group had besieged the National Assembly demanding information about the whereabouts of the girls. The campaigners lamented that more than 90 days after the girls were abducted, there were no concrete efforts to rescue them other than the disclosure by Alex Badeh, chief of Defence Staff, that the government knew the location of the girls.
Ezekwesili said that the biggest problem of her group was the fear that the girls could become history as many other strange things happen in the country on daily basis. Also speaking, Maryam Uwais, one of the executive members of the group, wondered why the campaigners were being portrayed as enemies of the nation as she recounted how they were often intimidated for merely showing concerns for the plight of the girls. “Why are we being intimidated for standing for the abducted girls? Why are we now being portrayed as the enemies of the state?” she asked.
After listening to them, Mark faulted the women’s claim of concerns for the plight of the girls, saying no group should portray itself to be more concerned than the other.
He also said the women should avoid working at cross purposes with the government but should rather co-operate with it in the effort to rescue the girls. Mark also accused them of grandstanding over the abduction and asked them to desist from doing so.
Mark added: “I am not sure any Nigerian with blood flowing in his vein will be indifferent to the plight of the Chibok girls. Government has not ruled out any option in the quest to free our girls. Let us be on the same wavelength and free the girls alive. I don’t think any group should play politics with this matter.
“The case of the Chibok girls is a sad commentary. Nobody anticipated this ugly trend. We are all under stress locally and internationally. The situation does not call on anybody to grandstand. All hands must be on deck to rescue the girls. We must do everything humanly possible to rescue the girls alive and end insurgency and terrorism in the land.”
Not satisfied with the explanation, Ezekwesili said the Senate president had failed to provide tangible answers to their questions as she demanded to know what exactly the government was doing, whether it was dialoguing for the release of the girls or not.
She said: “We talk almost with anger because of conflicting reports we are getting. We are wondering why it took the Federal Government a long time before action could be taken on how to rescue the girls.” She added that the campaign wanted a united front against the common enemy and a result from the rescue operation.
“This group is a group for the citizens and a group for Chibok girls. You have not given us a very tangible response we can hold unto. I hope when we come back, we will have a tangible response.”
Her comment seemed to have infuriated Mark who fired back by saying: “Oby, I hope you have not come here to hear from me that Chibok girls will be released tomorrow morning? Let’s not reduce this matter to a classroom discussion. We should be on the same wavelength and not on different wavelengths. They are doing everything possible to bring back the girls. I don’t know what tangible answer you want to get from me again. I’m not dialoguing with Boko Haram.”
He added: “What is important to all of us is to work hard to bring our girls alive. Nobody should politicise this. Lives are involved and we are all fathers and mothers here. It is better imagined than witnessed.”
When the group departed from Mark’s office, it headed for the office of Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives. The speaker, on his part, welcomed and assured the group of his continued support for its cause.
Tambuwal told the campaigners that though some leaders in the country were opposed to his call for negotiation with the sect, he had been consistent, stressing that negotiation should not be seen as an act of cowardice or submission to the insurgents, but as a strategy.
The speaker said: “I have personally come out about two or three years ago in Kano to advocate for negotiations with Boko Haram. Many Nigerian leaders feel that we should not negotiate. I have maintained my position that we should negotiate. If negotiation is what will bring back, for example, Chibok girls, for goodness sake, let’s negotiate. The negotiation is not just submitting. It is a strategy.
“So, let’s get these girls out and then if you want to confront them, you go ahead. But as a government, we must do whatever we need to do to bring back the girls safely and live.”
He said he was not in the position to get daily updates on the security situation but assured that the security agencies were working hard to rescue the girls.
On the group’s concern that it had been called names and harassed in the course of the campaign, the speaker admonished the campaigners not to relent in their campaign towards the release of the girls.
He said: “I have heard you talk about insinuations and attempt to label your group something that you are not. That should not bother you. It should encourage you. Do not be deterred by that.”
This was not the first time the group would be visiting the National Assembly. On April 30, about two weeks after the girls were abducted women from various civil society organisations defied a heavy downpour to protest the delay in securing the release of the girls.
The women also led by Ezekwesili stormed the National Assembly to seek intervention from the law makers in the efforts to rescue the girls.
On that occasion, many of the women wept inconsolably, before the leadership of National Assembly appealed to the federal government to deploy everything at its disposal, including military arsenal to rescue the innocent girls.