By Clifford Ndujihe
Lagos—SINCE the abduction of the Chibok school girls, in Chibok Local Council of Borno State on April 14,2014 the polity has been awash with calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to visit the area.
Apart from commiserating with the parents and families of the kidnapped girls, who are yet to be rescued nine months or exactly 277 days after, the visit, some observers said would have sent strong signal to the Boko Haram insurgents that the government was serious about curbing their murderous activities.
Thus, it was with joy that Nigerians received the news that President Jonathan would visit Chibok on May 16, 2014, a month and two days after the abduction.
However, to the surprise of many, the much awaited official visit was postponed indefinitely.
Preparations had been made for the visit. As early as 6 a.m on Friday, May 16, 2014, the major streets and roads within Maiduguri metropolis, particularly the road from the airport to Government House were heavily manned by security operatives, especially policemen in readiness for the arrival of President Jonathan. However, when the news of the cancelled visit filtered into town, most of the fierce-looking policemen deployed to the streets withdrew back to their stations.
A disappointed Governor Kashim Shettima who had to fly in from a foreign trip in a chartered flight and landed at the Maiduguri International Airport at about 9am, declined to comment on the aborted visit.
The presidency claimed that President Jonathan was never scheduled to visit Chibok. Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said every movement of the President was documented and that in this case, there was no record indicating that Jonathan would visit Chibok, adding that “it is, therefore, wrong and malicious to allege that a non-existent trip has been cancelled.”
However, two officials in the presidency, attributed the cancellation to security concerns. “There were apparent concerns about security after news of the planned trip was leaked to the media and published on front pages of newspapers on Friday,” they reportedly said.
President Jonathan had been expected to fly on one of his presidential jets from Abuja, to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and then be transported by military helicopter to the town of Chibok, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the south.
The road from Maiduguri to Chibok which passes by the Sambisa Forest to which the girls first were taken that is believed to be a known hideout of the insurgents, has been attacked many times.
Unhappy with the government’s attitude to their plight, the parents and families of the girls refused to meet with President Jonathan in Abuja on July 15 after meeting with Pakistani girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai.
However, on July 23, exactly 100 days after the kidnap of the schoolgirls, President Jonathan met with parents of the girls in Abuja. At the closed-door meeting were 53 of the girls, who had earlier escaped from their abductors as well as representatives of Chibok community and other stakeholders.
However, with criticisms increased in spite of his assurances, President Jonathan, yesterday visited Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.