We Did Not Decline President Jonathan’s Invitation- Chibok Community Spokesman
The spokesman for the Chibok Community, Mr Lawan Abana, has denied the alleged shunning of a meeting between parents of the abducted girls and some of the girls that escaped from their Boko Haram captors that were in Abuja to meet with Pakistani Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai.
“I want to emphatically state that we did not (shun the meeting). We don’t have a reason to shun meeting our president,” he said, during a Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, on Wednesday.
“We are the beneficiaries of the magnanimity of our President. It is not true that we have declined to see the President. We have great respect for the person of our President and we will seize any opportunity to meet him, particularly at this critical period that we need his attention.”
He alleged that Chibok people were being attacked on a regular basis, stressing that they had every reason to wish to see the president. “We are happy to seize this opportunity to see the president,” he further said.
Mr Abana explained that women from the community had honoured the call of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and at such “the President could not have invited us and we decline; we have no reason for doing that.
He decried media reports that they had shunned the meeting, describing it as gross misrepresentation of their stand.
The Chibok Community spokesman pointed out that though there was a collaboration between the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign group and the Chibok Community leaders, it was very untrue that the campaign group had influenced the Chibok people in any of their engagements.
“The team has reiterated to us publicly and to other members of the family that it has respect and has never interfered with our stand.
“There was a request by the Malala Foundation through one Mr Issen to invite some parents of the abducted children and some of the ‘escapee girls’ which we did.
“The Malala Foundation after meeting with the girls and their parents alongside some members of the community were told that they were to meet the president, but only the parents, members of the community and the escaped girls who were around were led into one room and they were informed that there was a meeting with the president.
“We thought it was going to take place there and then but it didn’t happen,” Mr Abana said.
He also said the community had mobilised to receive the President before his planned visit to Chibok was cancelled, maintaining that “when we were contacted at the night of that day, we contacted the members of our community at home and those who are here.
“Members of the community discussed robustly and mobilised as many members of the community to scrutinise our demands to our President. It is not true that we actually declined; we have everything to lose by declining meeting with the president,” he said.
Suspicion And Animosity
He also confirmed that the President had written a letter inviting members of the community, parents of the abducted girls and some of the girls that escaped from the clutches of Boko Haram to a meeting on July 22.
“This is exactly what we wanted, we want to fine tune our position and jointly and comprehensively with the Presidency, so that we will be able, before then, to collate information so that we will be able to adequately present our case to the President and the presidency,” he said.
Earlier, a leader of the Chibok Community in Abuja, Mr Dauda Iliya, had blamed the refusal of the members of the community on the suspicion that lies between the Chibok Community and the Federal Government.
In a telephone interview on Sunrise Daily, Mr Iliya said: “As a Nation and as a people we have been traumatised; we have gone through a lot. There is suspicion between the Chibok people and government across board”.
He cited the “ugly incident where wives of some Chibok elders in Abuja were detained at the instance of the first lady” following a protest some days after the abduction as one of the reasons for such suspicion.
He further noted that the incidence had “created deep suspicion and animosity between the Chibok leadership and government,” adding that they were not part of an arrangement for the nine parents and four girls to see the government.
Mr Iliya, who said the parents and girls brought from Chibok to see Malala used translators to communicate, further noted that “at the point that an arrangement was going to be made for these girls, purportedly to see the President, our people involved in the translation were barred by security agents from being part of that meeting,” insisting that the situation further aggravated and deepened the fear and animosity.
Mr Iliya also noted the translators were shut out of a meeting with the Malala Foundation and “when the security agents and the Malala people were left with the nine parents and the girls they could not get their concerns because there was nobody to translate for them”.