In serious countries, once a national disaster happens, the President or Prime Minister cancels all official engagements and returns to the capital. And in a matter of hours, the nation or at least the press would be addressed. Unfortunately, the case of Nigeria, as always, is different. Our leaders seem not to understand what governance is.
It took President Goodluck Jonathan three weeks after the Chibok girls were taken into captivity to find his word. As I write, the Commander-in-Chief has not found it necessary to go to Chibok, at least to pat the parents of those missing girls on the back and tell them directly what the government is doing to bring back their children.
Jonathan's Aide on public affairs, Doyin Okupe was beating around the bush when CNN's Isha Sesay asked him the simple question on the mind of Nigerians: “when will the President go to Chibok?” If Okupe thought he was defending his boss, his utterances did the president no favours. He ended up rubbishing Jonathan’s image he is paid to polish.
First, he dishonourably denied that there was a plan to visit Chibok. The truth is that there was a plan to go to Chibok, which was later canceled due to what those in the corridors of power see as “security concerns“.
Okupe did not help the president by denying that there was a plan to go to Chibok.
A wise president would normally have gone there since. Certainly, no amount of presidential sympathy can take away the anguish of those Chibok parents. You don’t need to be in their shoes no know that they have not known sleep since their daughters were taken away. Neither have they found the appetite for food. They are presently traumatized. Their lives have been punctuated.
Their trauma can never be taken away by a presidential handshake. However, if Jonathan had gone to see them, it would have be a bold statement that he and the entire country stand by them in their times of trouble.
Okupe gave the impression that Jonathan’s junket to France to honour the invitation of another president took priority over his tasks as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is very unfortunate. The French President would not have done the same if Jonathan had invited him for a parley. Our leaders love to go to countries, where life seems to be good, but would do nothing to make their own country good.
If Okupe damaged his boss with his poorly thought responses, Jonathan failed to redeem himself when he got the chance while taking questions from the press after he and other invited presidents from West Africa finished meeting with the French President - in their search to answers to the Boko Haram insurgency.
Responding to a journalist's question during the so-called Africa Security Summit in Paris, he said his going to Chibok will not bring the girls back. “...the problem facing the president and indeed the Nigerian government is how to get these girls from where they are.”
It simply illustrates that Jonathan may not be fully aware of his legal and moral duties as president. Just recently when coal mine blasts killed over 200 hundred in western Turkey, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan went there to condole with the victims' families, even though he knew, using Jonathan's logic, that it would not bring their lost ones back. In fact, Erdogan had to cancel his planned official trip to Albania. Unlike Jonathan, he chose his priorities right.
Also President Barack Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 in the East Coast of the United States has become legendary. In fact, some analysts are of the view that it handed him reelection. Using Jonathan's wisdom, Obama could have refused to show up since it would not have repaired the damage.
Jonathan’s responsibility to visit the crime scene at Chibok and possibly meet with the missing girls’ parents is a paramount moral obligation. The mere fact that he has not gone there and still doesn’t know when he will go is both a personal (Jonathan) and national embarrassment.
In his desperate search for excuse why he has not visited Chibok, Jonathan argued:” They (girls) are not from one family, they are scattered over a particular local government area, which is made up of so many communities. So there is no family that you will go and visit.” Quite funny.
Does the president want to tell the world that Nigeria, as a country, lacks the capacity to organize something as simple as meeting the parents of the missing girls? The government of Borno state can do this with ease. Also Jonathan’s numerous aides can go to Borno and get the victims’ families together to meet their Oga.
Jonathan, you need to do some serious thinking. Nobody begged you to be president. You offered yourself willingly and you must take seriously the responsibilities of the office you occupy. People who offer themselves for the highest office of the land are great patriots, who love their country so much that they are prepared to die in the service of their fatherland. So, notwithstanding the “security concerns” – real or imagined - whether you like it or not, Mr. President, you must go to Chibok. The earlier you do that the better for your image and that of the country.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters