By BEN AGANDE
Abuja— A meeting scheduled between President Goodluck Jonathan and parents of abducted girls in Chibok, yesterday, could not hold as the parents shunned the meeting.
The meeting was arranged after education activist and a victim of terrorist attack, Malala Yousofazai, met with President Jonathan on Monday and pleaded with the president to meet with the parents of the abducted girls to encourage them.
Jonathan, in a statement delivered by his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, accused the BringBackOurGirls activists of politicising the planned meeting by ferreting the parents out of Abuja before the meeting could hold.
Every arrangement had been made for the planned meeting with president, including sending a bus from the Presidential Villa to bring the parents of the girls.
The President’s statement noted that “those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.”
The President’s statement reads: “It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition.
“It is with great regret that I announce the cancellation of the meeting with 12 parents of the abducted Chibock children, as well as five of the brave girls who escaped from the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram.
“I scheduled this meeting, which was to be open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press, to listen to their stories and to privately brief the parents and the girls on our efforts to rescue the abducted girls. My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls.
“Unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of BringBackOurGirls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions.
“Those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit, are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.
“I want to be clear, this government stands with complete solidarity with the girls and their parents. We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls. Despite the shameful and disgusting games being played by the Nigerian chapter of BringBackOurGirls, as a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God.”
Okupe accuses campaigners of showmanship
Addressing state House correspondents later, Okupe accused the BringBackOurGirls activists of stopping the parents of the girls from meeting with the president.
He also accused them of showmanship and not showing any serious concern for the tragedy that had befallen parents whose girls were abducted.
Okupe, however, said in order to show that he was serious with meeting with the parents of the girl, Jonathan had directed that a formal letter be written to the parents of the abducted girls to reschedule the meeting.
Okupe said: “The meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. today (yesterday) at the instance of the request that was made by Malala and the President graciously agreed within 24 hours to meet with them but unfortunately the BringBackOurGirls leadership prevailed on the parents of the girls, stopped them from coming.
“Therefore, what happened was that they actually shunned the meeting with Mr. President because the foreign media and everybody was waiting for this meeting and since they were no longer coming and they made it expressly clear that they were no longer coming, in fact, that the girls were just few minutes away from Chibok, the meeting was aborted.
“It is obvious now that the BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria are interested in showmanship not genuinely concerned with the plight of the children and that of their parents. That is was has become clinically clear by this action because if the parents of the girls travelled so much from Chibok to Abuja, why will it be impossible for them to meet with the President who has graciously agreed to give an appointment within less than 24 hours to meet with them.
“We are just coming from the President and he has authorised that an official letter be written to the parents inviting them to formally come and meet him and it is going to be sometime next week.”