Dear Lame (pardon me) Dame Patience,
It seems like the whole world and certainly over 50+ reputable print media and TV stations across the world must have gone crazy. What were they thinking in fabricating and reporting that Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from Chibok on April 13th 2014? Surely, Madame Naomi Mutah and the families of these girls and indeed the whole community of Chibok must have thought it would be a great joke to claim that Boko Haram in a brazen attack stormed into their community and shattered their lives and those of that daughters (whose only crime by the way, was seeking education) by taking them away into the Sambisa forest.
Forget how vulnerable and frightened these adolescent girls must be. I bet they (the people of Chibok, discerning Nigerians and the international community of course), must have thought it would be a great April Fool’s joke (albeit 13 days late) to embarrass the Government, your husband and show the lack of political will, ineptness, lack of strategy, security intelligence and resources of the Government of Nigeria against Boko Haram. Ha! You know what the greatest irony of all is though? It is that this same Nigeria is ECOWAS and Africa’s biggest contributor of peace keepers to war torn neighboring countries but they cannot even amass the security personnel needed to combat assaults and aggression in its own backyard!
The last few days and indeed weeks must have been a tough one for you Madame Patience, and certainly for your husband and his Government. Under such intense (and let’s face it mostly negative) criticism at the botched handling of the Chibok kidnapping and (lack of effective) response to the menace of Boko Haram, the mental stress must have been overwhelming and really your tears on national TV proved this point. If only people would endeavour to understand you and your priorities better.
I mean who has time to deal with a little known community of Chibok and the inconvenience of unnecessary civilian deaths and 1,500 innocent lives lost to date, thanks to Boko Haram when you have so many philanthropic events and organizations to see to? Most important of which is organizing and getting the capital ready for the World Economic Conference on Africa so we can celebrate Nigeria being the biggest economy in Africa- yay! (Not that we have anything tangible to show for it, but that’s a discussion for another day).
And of course, added to your mounting priorities is the list of politicians and people your personal aides and aide de camps have on their roster for you to reprimand and grill for one perceived slight or the other on your person. Indeed, I can understand what an inconvenience this Boko Haram and Chibok girls kidnapping business must be for your extremely busy schedule. What a dent it must be to your political ambitions and campaigning strategy for your husband and his PDP cronies. It must be hard being the First Lady.
However, as a daughter, a sister and concerned citizen of this great (yet flawed) nation of ours, I thought I might offer you some valuable insights that might win you some friends and buy you some PR points. In times of tragedy, a nation looks to its leaders for inspiration, for guidance, for protection and for decisiveness because the fundamental role of an “elected” Government is meant to protect the rights of its citizens from harm (whether perceived or real) and to use policies, legislations and frameworks to provide economic and social stability to its people.
Can you honestly say that the government of your husband has done so in the past 4 years given the dismal record of rising inflation, corruption and impunity of elected officials, unemployment and terrorist attacks on innocent citizens? And really, before we dissect the slow response of your husband to this latest incidence by Boko Haram (I mean, 2 weeks to speak out on the kidnapping of 276 girls is a bit much don’t you think?), but anyways, I digress-perhaps an example of leadership shown across the world in recent tragedies might help to better illustrate the salient points of “How to Show Leadership in the Face of National Tragedy 101.”
When the South Korean Ferry disaster happened, the prime minister of the country was quick to apologize for the slow response and met with affected families and emergency response team whilst simultaneously launching an investigation into the cause of the accident and bring the responsible parties to book. When the shooting at Sandy Hook happened in Connecticut in December 2012, not only did President Obama deliver an emotional and moving address to the American people, but also privately met, along with his wife, the families of the victims and immediately commenced a fiery national debate on gun ownership laws (okay, so he did not end up striking down the constitutional right to bear arms, but he got the nation talking!).
When MH370 disappeared, despite the criticism of the slow response and bungled communication, the Malaysian Prime Minister and Transport Minister still rose to the occasion in soliciting help and coordination efforts from the international community to find the ill-fated national carrier beyond the borders of their country and devoted resources to catering to and lodging of affected families, as well as set up information centres. I can give more examples, but I am confident that despite popular perceptions, you are an extremely intelligent woman and you get my drift. The point is that in each of these examples, leaders showed action. They provided resources, there was a strategy in place (whether successful or not), they accepted criticisms where and when due and started a(n) inter/national dialogue on where do we go from here and how do we learn from this situation and move forward as a nation and a people? Can you say the same for yourself?
So, Madame Patience, how about you and the Nigerian Government stop burying their heads in the sands of denial and impotence and get to work. Decisive leadership tempered with pragmatism and certainly compassion is what Nigeria needs right now, so how about we start with the following:
Free Naomi Mutah. Keeping her in an Asokoro Prison for “investigative questioning” does little neither for your image nor in helping with the cause of the Chibok girls. And if her crime is that she claimed that her daughter was amongst the girls, then I guess I better surrender myself for a healthy dose of “investigative questioning” too because I consider all those girls as MY DAUGHTERS and SISTERS.
Keep your eyes on the ball. Let’s not make the kidnapping of the girls about you or spin it as a political vengeance against your husband. Time is ticking and families of girls are lying in anguish not knowing what is happening to their children and only God know the state of mind that these girls are in. Every moment matters and we’ve already lost 3 weeks as it stands.
Let your husband and his advisors handle business. Given the lack of constitutional powers you have to handle such affairs of grave national security and really international security, perhaps you best leave it to those whose duties it is to act? Just saying, you have enough on your plate already.
That being said, you might want to advise your husband (perhaps in a discreet whisper or two) to convene a meeting with Gen. Gusau, Senator Obanikoro, Alhaji Adesiyan, Alhaiji Aminu Wali, Dr. Nurideen Mohammed, and others and start putting together a plan in tandem with countries such as US, Britain and Canada that have offered to help with intelligence, negotiation and resources sorely needed to bring these girls home and hopefully combat further escalation of Boko Haram’s violent reach across the nation
Let your husband as the president show decisive action. If he wants to contest for elections next year (not that you’ve made any secret that he wants to), let him prove his mantle by leaving the politicking to the side and show that this shadowy extremist group will not bring Nigeria to its knees.
Use this unfortunate but not isolated incident as a teachable moment for Nigeria and for us to build national unity- so you might want to cut back on the “we thank God for my health” lavish parties and use the budget instead to help affected communities in Borno and elsewhere that need the emotional, financial support and psychological resources to begin the process of re-building their shattered lives and most of all, to give them hope.
This is not the time for PDP or APC to ramp up political points as people lay dying. Ironically, your response (of course I mean your husband’s silly) to Boko Haram, if tactical, effective and decisive might actually score him some political points or at the very least win back some of his dignity and gain back some national and international respect.
Neither is this time to play along ethnic or religious grounds. These girls are not Hausas or Muslims, they are Nigerians period. And THAT is what matters. The 1,500 lives already lost to Boko Haram are Nigerian lives. And contrary to popular dismissal, Nigerian lives matter. We are now talking about 276 lives + 8 more taken a few days ago. If people across the globe can march in honour and support of these girls, who are we as Nigerians not take their causes seriously?
Fire your acting coach. I know you can do better than your display of tears and “there is God” display on TV.
Oh and while you’re at it, you might want to fire your English coach as well and hire a reputable interpreter who can help Nigerians decipher what goes on in your mind and appropriately sift between the ridiculous and the plausible. A word of advice though, don’t consider Thamsanqa Jantjie for the job.
GOD BLESS AND PROTECT NIGERIA!
Ngozi Blake Williams
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters