With a few days to Nigeria’s presidential polls, an online news agency, Empowered Newswire, is reporting that the Federal Government may be on the cusp of announcing the release of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted April 14, 2014 in a final dramatic push to sway voters to support incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
The newswire service reported that its sources in Abuja disclosed that the surprise rescue of the schoolgirls, whose abduction a year ago sparked global outrage, “is meant to swing the electioneering tide of things in favor of PDP’s presidential candidate and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan who faces a stiff opposition in Saturday’s election against his APC contender, General Muhammadu Buhari.” Newswire stated that the “pre-arranged” release of the kidnapped schoolgirls was seen as a winner.
Empowered Newswire stated that the Jonathan administration and PDP had been considering a variety of strategies to ensure that Mr. Jonathan is reelected, or at least to thwart the electoral triumph of Mr. Buhari. According to the site, one option the president and his party have considered is “the idea of an Interim National Government.”
Citing sources close to the military, Newswire reported that “there is a buzz in military circles that sometimes during the week, the military may announce the release of the girls.”
The newswire added that the leaders of the BringBackOurGirls campaign were aware of the development “as they confirm[ed] that words have been sent to the parents of the girls located in Borno, Kano and Kaduna states that they should be prepared to identify their children and wards sometimes this week. It is in fact believed that the parents might be asked to report in Abuja to facilitate the identification of the girls.”
According to Empowered newswire, some of the leaders of the movement for the girls’ rescue said they would rejoice if the girls return, but added that such suspicious timing of the girls’ release would indicate “the wickedness of our government.”
The news service quoted some political observers as questioning the government’s reported plan to use the fate of the girls for political advantage.
“The argument is that if the release of the girls is being planned that might suggest foul play somewhere,” stated the website, adding that its US sources were skeptical about the speculated plan.
Even so, Newswire quoted a BringBackOurGirls official as declaring that, if the government planned to announce the release of the girls in order to bolster the president’s electoral prospects, “that would amount to… the worst form of aggrandizement. And it is God Himself that will punish such wickedness on the part of some of our government officials.”
The website added that there were also unconfirmed claims that the Federal Government would announce a salary increase sometime this week as another measure to build a political momentum for the PDP in the presidential and national polls. Newswire noted that several Federal Government agencies were already behind in the payment of workers’ salaries.
Newswire reported that President Jonathan’s threat late last week to arrest those talking about an interim government seemed to put the final lid on that idea. It noted the president’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, had mentioned the idea in a public statement where he claimed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to be the head of an interim government.
Newswire reported that President Jonathan, the PDP and their political allies were “yet to perceive a water-tight strategy to win Saturday’s election regardless of some of the public show of bravery.” It added: “Besides, even the party Chairman last week ruled out a landslide, in what observers say is a revelation of real fears and worry within the ruling party circles and Aso Rock.”
In the report, Empowered Newswire linked last week’s violent protests in Lagos by the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) demanding the removal of Attahiru Jega, the chairman of Nigeria’s electoral commission, as “indicative of the fact that PDP is still very unsure how the elections would end up on Saturday. It is believed that PDP and friends of the president are behind those OPC protests in Lagos where the protesters were displaying different weapons.”
Newswire reported that international sources were confident that Mr. Jonathan would respect the results of the election, adding, however, “many hawks around the president have been identified as those responsible for developing ideas on how to ensure a decent way to rig the election or just prevent Buhari from becoming president.”