The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, has said that it is unfair for anybody to see President Goodluck Jonathan as the problem in the case of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Borno State on April 14.
Abati argued that those criticising the President were ignorant of what the Federal Government was doing to rescue the girls.
He said the attempt to ignore the issues and argue that Jonathan was the problem had resulted in deliberate mischief fuelled by ignorance and sponsored propaganda.
Abati made his position known in an opinion titled, “Nigeria’s offensive against Boko Haram Charges of a ‘do-nothing’ strategy are misconceived” published by Washington Times.
Abati however admitted that the concern that had been expressed over the abduction of the girls was legitimate and understandable.
“What is not fair, and which stands out in many of the criticisms directed at the Nigerian government, is the attempt to ignore the issues and argue that President Goodluck Jonathan is the problem.
“This attempt to turn the matter of the abducted girls into a referendum on the Jonathan administration has resulted in a complete misreading of the situation and much deliberate mischief fuelled by ignorance and sponsored propaganda,” he wrote.
The presidential spokesman said the most popular misconception was the notion that the Jonathan administration had consciously adopted a “do-nothing” strategy, and that the government only responded and considered international partnership necessary after pressure was mounted on it to do something.
He recalled that the Boko Haram threat dated back to 2002 and had become a bigger menace, and a full-scale terrorist movement by the time Jonathan assumed office in 2010.
He said the sect’s elements and their international allies had carved out enclaves in the North-East of the country by hosting their flags and threatening to destabilise the government and impose an Islamic state.
During the past four years, Abati said Jonathan had taken proactive steps to combat terrorism, through military, political and social approaches.
He also recalled that in May 2013, a state of emergency was declared in the most affected northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and had been renewed twice.
While saying that Nigeria was not acting alone, Abati said the military operation involved the Nigerian security forces and the Multinational Joint Task Force set up under the auspices of the Lake Chad Commission with troops contributed by Niger, Nigeria and Chad.
Abati said Nigeria also shared intelligence and efforts with Cameroon and Benin through the Gulf of Guinea Commission, focusing on piracy, border security and checking the proliferation of small arms and light weapons within the region.
He said since 2011, Nigerian security chiefs had been meeting regularly with their counterparts from the four neighbouring countries on matters of peace and security.
These efforts, he added, yielded positive results, notably the decimation of the ranks of the Boko Haram and their restriction to the Sambisa Forest.
He added that a Presidential Dialogue Committee was set up to pursue the option of a peaceful resolution of the Boko Haram insurgency while adding that the President also launched a Presidential Initiative for the North-East, an economic-recovery programme.
He therefore argued that the April 14 abduction of the Chibok girls and subsequent developments marked a turning point in the Boko Haram saga, describing it as a terrible resurgence of an ongoing challenge, not the beginning.
He said, “The assault on schools by terrorists and the threat to turn innocent young girls into sex slaves and prisoners of terrorism is unacceptable. The outrage is understandable. But we must not become so blinded by its horror as to reduce it all to the fault of one man. This is not about the strength or failings of one man.
“Terrorism is an assault on human rights and our civilisation. It requires international cooperation and concerted domestic action.
“President Jonathan is fully committed to ensuring that the girls are rescued alive. Yes, it has been more than 80 days since the nightmare began. Americans, Canadians, the British and other friends of Nigeria are all involved in the search, in one form or the other, but unfortunately, with all the technology and intelligence at their disposal, the girls are yet to be found.”