The Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Doyin Okupe on Wednesday, July 16, blamed the convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, of scuttling the proposed meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and parents of the abducted Chibok girls, who were in Abuja.
“I have it on good authority that the Chairman of the Chibok Community in Abuja and the parents were very enthusiastic and happy that the president was going to see them”, but was quick to add that “unfortunately the night before Malala left we knew there was something untoward that was already in the offing” he said.
Mr Okupe alleged that the Pakistani Child Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai, before boarding a plane back “was on the telephone with some of the leaders of Bring Back Our Girls and in particular, Mrs Ezekwsili, who insisted to her that under no circumstances would they allow the girls and parents to visit the president” adding that “Malala was very upset and distraught that she was on the phone for about 40 minutes pleading.
“When she was not successful, she gave the phone to her father, who also passionately pleaded that having made this effort so far, it will be very sad and unbecoming and a major setback to the world if the Bring Back Our Girls campaign should frustrate that meeting” he said.
He described the incident as an unpleasant development in the bid to rescue the girls and added that “yesterday was really a dark day; a very unfortunate day that we had a very unpleasant development in this issue of Chibok”.
Speaking via a telephone interview on Sunrise Daily, Mr Okupe said “Malala broke down in tears” adding that “that they agreed with her that if she made that appointment they will go”
He however said President Jonathan has formally written to the Chibok Community to see him on the matter and debunked claims that Malala’s visit prompted the invitation.
He noted that several committees had on the instance of the Federal Government visited Chibok town but were not allowed to see either parents of the abducted girls or some of the girls that had escaped from their captors due to “fear of being seen on camera”.
He however noted that “it is the same people that were able to come to Abuja and didn’t cover their face(s), they were ready and willing to speak on camera openly to local and foreign media”.
He said the President has assured Nigerians that “he will do everything within his power to ensure that he brings the girls back safely”.
Suspicion Between Chibok Community And Federal Government
Meanwhile, a leader of the Chibok Community in Abuja, Mr Dauda Iliya, has blamed the refusal of the members of the community on the suspicion that lies between the Chibok Community and the Federal Government.
Also speaking via 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 reason for such suspicion.
He further noted that the incidence has “created deep suspicion and animosity between the Chibok leadership and government” adding that “we are not part of an arrangement for those nine parents and four girls to see the government”, Mr Iliya said.
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 “that 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”
He however said that a meeting is possible if the President writes formally to invite the parents of the abducted girls and some of the girls that escaped from the den of the Boko Haram sect.
Mr Okupe had earlier said the President has sent a fresh letter of invitation to the community for another meeting scheduled for next week.
The Presidency alleged that efforts by President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with the parents of the Chibok girls hit the walls yesterday (Tuesday, July 15) following the refusal by the Nigerian ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaigners to allow parents of the girls, who were in Abuja, to meet with the President.
The leadership of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaigners have, however, denied the allegation. While they said that they would want more parents to be involved in the meeting, the Federal Government believe the campaigners are more interested in more showmanship than the plight of the children.
The Presidency said that Malala nearly missed her flight while pleading with the leadership of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign to allow those parents to meet with the President since they were already in Abuja.