Special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati has hit back at the USA TODAY, a newspaper in the United States of America that attacked the Nigerian leader on the issue of abducted Chibok Gilrs, as he attends Africa-America Summit.
The newspaper, in its editorial today, Wednesday, insisted that President Jonathan needs to give more attention to the abducted female students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno state by members of Boko Haram since April 14, saying: “in the place of military, action is bargaining, and Nigerian leaders have sent ambiguous signals about who is negotiating and what’s on the table.”
In a quick response, President Jonathan’s Chief spokesman, Abati said: “the rest may have moved on, as USA TODAY writes in its editorial, but I assure you that safely rescuing the abducted girls and returning them alive to their parents remains President Jonathan’s topmost priority.”
Reproduced hereunder are the words of the two combatants:
From USA TODAY EDITORIAL TO PRESIDENT JONATHAN
Nigerian girls deserve continued attention: Our view
When a vicious militant group kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in April, much of the world was outraged. The Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral, spawning broad concern from people around the globe — and smug derision from critics of digital advocacy.
Four months later, about 60 of the girls have managed to escape and the rest remain missing. The world has mostly moved on, distracted by such events as wars in Gaza and Ukraine, the shoot down of a Malaysian jetliner and the immigration crisis at the U.S. border.
But amid all the horrors that regularly compete for the world’s attention, this one shouldn’t be forgotten.
OPPOSING VIEW: President Goodluck Jonathan’s top priority
For one thing, the teenage captives are symbols of the importance of educating girls. They were all seized after returning to school in a dangerous area to take their final exams. Among them are future lawyers, doctors and teachers — women who could someday help lead their country.
For another, there’s evidence that the international uproar might have helped raise the cost of harming the girls too high even for Boko Haram, an extremist group that regularly kidnaps and kills in its quest to bring a brutal form of fundamentalist Islam to parts of Africa.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that U.S. surveillance flights spotted large groups of girls, suspected of being the captives, in remote parts of Nigeria. That dovetails with reports that Boko Haram — whose name means “Western education is forbidden” — is treating at least some of the kidnapped girls with unusual care.
Leaders of the group, after first warning that the girls would be sold into slavery, later offered to trade them for Boko Haram prisoners held by the Nigerian government. The world’s focus on the girls has made them both valuable pawns and risky victims.
The response of the Nigerian government, which has often seemed overmatched in its five-year struggle with Boko Haram, doesn’t inspire much confidence. President Goodluck Jonathan at first largely ignored the incident, then claimed activists invented it, and finally yielded to pressure to accept international assistance.
Jonathan, in Washington this week for a U.S.-Africa summit, says his government is making every effort to find the girls. But he offers no evidence, is dismissive of the foreign help and argues that divulging any details could compromise the mission.
Jonathan has said repeatedly that a military operation to free the girls would probably result in the deaths of many, all but ruling it out. In the place of military action is bargaining, and Nigerian leaders have sent ambiguous signals about who is negotiating and what’s on the table.
The challenge of fighting militants who casually sacrifice civilian lives in the name of religion isn’t confined to Nigeria. American forces have struggled inconclusively with extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.
The world’s anger can sometimes seem a weak candle next to the flame of intolerance and murder, but in the case of the captive Nigerian schoolgirls, it’s important to keep it burning.
USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.
From Dr. Reuben Abati To USA TODAY:
President Goodluck Jonathan will not be stampeded into ordering any rescue attempt that may further endanger the girls.
The rest may have moved on, as USA TODAY writes in its editorial, but I assure you that safely rescuing the abducted girls and returning them alive to their parents remains President Jonathan’s topmost priority.of the world
The president met recently with parents of the girls and leaders of their community to give them a personal assurance that his government will continue to explore every possible option and deploy all available resources in the ongoing effort to bring the girls home.
As President Jonathan explained to the parents, the great challenge, which may have paradoxically created the erroneous notion of tardiness in the rescue effort, is to ensure that none of the girls lose their lives in any rescue operation.
President Jonathan’s commitment is not just to get the girls out, it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria. But he is very mindful of the safety of the girls and will not be stampeded into ordering any rescue attempt that may further endanger the girls.
We ask those who continue to suggest that the Jonathan administration is not doing all it can to rescue the girls to understand that we are dealing with terrorist thugs who celebrate death and have no qualms about slaughtering helpless men, women and children.
Other than the parents and relatives of the girls, no one else is more determined to do something about their plight than the president, who continues to be the target of unfair criticism over his government’s handling of the affair.
We quite understand that part of the problem is that the media and the public would like to know more of what is being done. But we ask our people and the global community to show greater appreciation of the fact that saying too much could have very adverse consequences for the entire effort.
Reasonable people should understand the challenging nature of this effort, but we know that there are persons in Nigeria who wish to exploit the plight of the girls for political reasons. That is unfortunate.
Above all, President Jonathan is committed in the long term to a comprehensive program of expanding educational opportunities for all girls and, indeed, all young people in Nigeria.
Reuben Abati is a special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. [myad]