The fireworks among The Guardian of U.K., former President Goodluck Jonathan, and Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed between Sunday and Monday over the Chibok girls has led to further outpouring of facts, some fresh, from another Jonathan aide, Reno Omokri.
everyday.ng reported early Monday how a spat between The Guardian and Jonathan, inexplicably drew out Alhaji Mohammed, who latched on to Jonathan’s response to The Guardian of U.K to take exception to Jonathan’s comment that politics was at play over the Chibok girls to take a swipe at the former leader. (Please see previous report on everyday.ng titled, FG joins the fray in Jonathan, newspaper spat over Chibok girls.)
And now another former assistant to Jonathan on Electronic media, Omokri, has thrown his hat into the ring whip-lashing The Guardian and Mohammed.
In his weigh-in article titled, “Response to The Guardian of U.K. and Nigeria’s Minister of Information,” the former spokesman insisted his former boss sought and got help from the British government over the abducted girls.
His article reads: “My attention has been drawn to a report in the Guardian of the U.K. alleging that the former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan rebuffed efforts by the British military to rescue the kidnapped Chibok Girls sometime in 2014.”
Nothing could be further from the truth and to prove that this story from the Guardian is untrue, the international community will recall that when a Boko Haram affiliate kidnapped a Briton and an Italian, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara, from Birnin Kebbi in Kebbi state of Nigeria, then President Jonathan personally authorized British Special Forces from the British Military Special Boat Service, to attempt a rescue mission in Sokoto state on the 8th of March, 2012 a full two years before the Chibok Girls Saga. The British Military sent boots to the ground and these troops were given full and unhindered cooperation by both the then Nigerian government and the Nigerian military. This already shows that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had set a precedence of allowing British Military Forces operate in Nigeria to rescue hostages.
This proves that not only is The Guardian story untrue, but it was not well researched. Why would then President Jonathan approve that operation and rebuff the other? The story from The Guardian is built on a foundation of lies. This is however not surprising since The Guardian stated that it was relying not on its own investigation but on second hand hearsay reportage from The Observer.
The international community is reminded that it is public knowledge that then President Goodluck Jonathan wrote letters to the trio of then US President, Barack Obama, then British Prime Minister, David Cameron and French President, François Hollande, asking them for precisely what The Guardian says he refused, help in rescuing the Chibok Girls.
The international community is reminded that so eager was the then Nigerian President to rescue the girls that he personally approved for these foreign governments to fly over Nigerian airspace in order to identify the location of the Chibok Girls. Not only did Dr. Goodluck Jonathan welcome foreign intervention, he was also the prime mover in the Multi National Joint Task Force involving Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and authorized the military forces of those nations to fight Boko Haram on Nigeria soil. If President authorized the military forces of these nations to operate against terrorists in Nigeria, why would he refuse similar assistance from Nigeria’s international partners?
And to Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s current minister of information (if he can be so called) who said: “After the girls were kidnapped and the Jonathan Administration did nothing for all of 15 days or make any determined efforts to rescue them thereafter, our party, the then opposition APC, told the nation several times that the whole Boko Haram crisis was allowed to escalate by the PDP-controlled Federal Government so they can use it as a political tool ahead of the 2015 elections.”
My response to his lies is as follows. Opinions are subjective but facts are sacred. The facts are that then President Jonathan immediately sprung to action to rescue the kidnapped Chibok Girls and it was precisely the fallacious Lai Mohammed, whose words I caution the international community to take with a pinch of salt, that attempted to frustrate the efforts by the then government to rescue the girls.
Below are a factual timelines with dates, names and location. I challenge Lai Mohammed to rebut them with his own facts:
Timelines: March 12, 2014: The then minister of state for education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, wrote the Governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and advised them not to hold the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations in areas susceptible to the Boko Haram insurgency. This letter had the reference number HMSE/FME/147/VOL.1/150 and the subject: ‘Security challenges and the conduct of the 2014 WASSCE and SSCE in Borno, Yobe and parts of Adamawa States’. The Governors of Yobe and Adamawa acknowledged the letter and cooperated with the then Peoples Democratic Party led Federal Government to bus students to secure locations to write their scheduled school leaving examinations.
April 14, 2014: Contrary to the advise given by the Peoples Democratic Party led Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan, the All Progressive Congress led Government of Governor Kashim Shettima, for reasons best known to it, chose to ignore that advise and held the WASSCE examinations in Chibok, a mainly Christian town that was susceptible to attacks from the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. On the day in question, the girls of Government Girls Secondary School Chibok were kidnaped by Boko Haram while preparing to write their final physics examinations. Curiously, both the Principal of the school and her Vice were not on the school’s campus as the girls were inside a dormitory. The Principal of the school, Hadjiya Asabe Kwambura, later claimed to have gone to Maiduguri for a ‘medical check up’ on the day of the abduction. It seemed very inauspicious for a principal of a school to schedule a non emergency ‘medical check up’ for a time when the school she presided over was having perhaps its most important activity of the year, school leaving examinations. This same woman later changed her story when she told Fox News that she had gone to Maiduguri to buy medicines and was informed by her daughter about the kidnap. But how did her daughter, a student of the school, avoid being kidnapped? It is noteworthy that this particular principal was never reprimanded or disciplined or in anyway made to take responsibility for this obvious dereliction of duty by the Borno state government who owns the school.
Flash forward to April 2, 2016: Governor Kashim Shettima confessed in an interview with Premium Times that he, the chief security officer of the state, DID NOT inform then President Jonathan when the girls were kidnapped for reasons best known to him.
April 17, 2014: Exactly three days after the kidnap, President Jonathan who had not been formally informed of the issue because of the deliberate refusal of the APC led government of Borno state to brief him called for an emergency meeting at the Presidential villa after the military independently alerted him.
Multiple dates in April, 2004: The military, principally the air force, were given conflicting information as to what direction the fleeing terrorists took when they captured the girls. Were these conflicting information a deliberate effort to send the military on a wild goose chase?
Flash Forward to January 6, 2017: One of the Chibok girls who escaped from her captors granted an interview to the New York Times and revealed that they were not taken to Sambisa Forest by the terrorists as previously thought. According to her testimony, they were rather taken to the Borno state capital of Maiduguri and kept at a house there for months.
Flash Forward to January 11, 2017: Chibok Community leader, Pastor Bulus Baba, in an interview with local media corroborated the New York Times report and said even after they left Maiduguri they were moved to another town and kept in the home of an influential local politician. According to him: “The girls said, they spent over 8 months in Gwoza local government area along with other abducted women. They said they were kept at a resident of one of the top politicians in that local government area until at a point when a fighter jet dropped bomb that touch part of the house killing some of the girls.”
May 2, 2014: Then President Jonathan sets up a fact finding mission to determine the facts of the kidnap and stresses that the mission’s work would not interfere with search and rescue efforts.
May 2, 2014: Frustrated by the school’s authorities to come clean with accurate information about the identities of the missing girls, the Christian Association of Nigeria released the names of the kidnapped girls for the first time.
May 3, 2014: Charles Eguridu, head of the West African Examination Council’s National Office in Nigeria revealed in testimony broadcast live on national television that WAEC had asked the Borno state Governor not to hold examinations at Chibok due to safety issues, but that Governor Shettima, in writing, had assured WAEC that he would provide adequate security for Chibok, a promise he did not keep. According to Mr. Eguridu: “The Borno state government also refused to relocate the students from Chibok to safer places like Maiduguri. “Borno state government only agreed to relocate the remaining 189 pupils after the abduction of the girls.” Talk about medicine after death.
May 4, 2014: After consistent confused and contradictory information from the Borno state Government and various other authority figures, the Presidency invited the principal actors in the Chibok saga to the Presidential villa to ascertain the truth. The Presidency was shocked at the non appearance by officials of the Borno state government. The governor’s wife who was invited shunned the event and when the then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan saw the scanty representation from Borno she famously exclaimed ‘na only you waka come’?
May 5, 2014: many residents of Gamboru Ngala were killed by Boko Haram forces after troops stationed there left that town to go to the Sambisa forest area closest to Chibok town to look for the missing girls. The precision behind the arrival by Boko Haram just as the troops left the town gave rise to strong suggestions that the terrorists were tipped off by a mole.
May 6, 2014: The then National Publicity Secretary of the APC and now the current minister of information, Lai Mohammed, released a statement calling the Presidency’s intervention a ‘distraction’.
May 6, 2014: In response to a request by the Nigerian Government for help, then United States President, Barack Obama announced that the US was dispatching personnel into the area to help search for the missing girls.
May 9, 2014: Nigeria welcomed experts from the United States and the United Kingdom to help search for the girls.
May 11, 2014: Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima tells the local and international media the girls had “been sighted”. In view of later testimony by the released girls that they had initially been kept in Maiduguri, Shettima’s accounts now elicit more suspicion especially as Boko Haram released a video a day after the revelation by Governor Shettima.
May 12, 2014: Boko Haram releases a video purporting to be of the Chibok girls. However, in that video, the girls do not look terrified and one of them is shown distracted as she appears to be sending a text or making a call on her mobile phone which was visible to the camera. This video is still publicly available on YouTube. Giving the testimony that they were held in Maiduguri the state capital before being taken to Gwoza, how could this video have been shot in day light without attracting some attention?
May 26, 2014: The Nigerian military revealed through Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, that it knew the location of the girls but could not attack because of fear of loss of lives of the girls after a similar operation in Sokoto to save an Italian and a Briton led to loss of lives of the hostages taken by an affiliate of Boko Haram.
Unspecified Date in May 2014: The Jonathan administration began secret negotiations to secure the release of the Chibok girls.
September 7, 2014: In an interview with foremost Northern Nigeria daily, Leadership Newspaper, some of the parents of the kidnapped girls alleged that the entire saga was a conspiracy. In that interview, a Chibok parent, Bulama Jonah, said: “We still believe that there was an internal collaboration in the abduction of our daughters by the Boko Haram gunmen, because we have correct information that some of the teachers, who are very senior in the school, managed to move their own daughters and family out of the school premises before the attack. “That is why we are insisting that (the Borno state) government must provide our daughters and we would not take it lightly if they don’t produce our girls for us. The girls were in their custody, because school premises belong to government; and we believe they were aware of the attack but failed to provide security for them.”
October 6, 2014: Then President Jonathan visits Niamey as part of efforts to secure the release of the Chibok girls with the help of the Nigerien government.
October 15, 2014: During the Presidential Declaration by then candidate Muhammadu Buhari, now the incumbent President, Audu Ogbeh, at that time the Director General of the campaign (he was later replaced) said on live Television that the pressure group Bring Back our Girls, led by a virulent critic of the Jonathan administration, Oby Ezekwesili, lso said that the #BBOG campaign is led by “members of our party, the APC.” This is an exact quote and reflects the politicization of the saga.
Flash Forward to July 12, 2016: President Muhammadu Buhari appoints Bring Back our Girls co-founder, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, as the head of Nigeria’s largest and perhaps most profitable parastatal, the Nigerian Ports Authority. Many consider this as a reward to Ms. Usman and a corroboration of the “members of our party, the APC” comment of Chief Audu Ogbeh.
October 17, 2014: A truce was announced with Boko Haram after negotiations which was to allow for the release of the Chibok girls. The truce was broken by Boko Haram who reneged on their promise to release their captives. From the above, it is clear hat Nigeria’s minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has an estranged relationship with the truth.