I have remained quiet about Nigeria’s continuing efforts to
find the girls kidnapped in April from the northern town of
Chibok, because, honestly, I hoped the world would ignore it as
just another “African tragedy.” But the attention brought by
#BringBackOurGirls forced my administration to abandon its
usual do-nothing strategy. I admit that for weeks, the
Nigerian military was nowhere to be seen in Chibok and
aggrieved parents had to resort to venturing into the jungle on
foot to search for their children. But I assure everyone, we are
doing our best.
I am speaking out now because national elections are in less
than a year and my Washington PR firm needs to earn the
reported $1.2 million I am paying it to reverse the criticism
that has overshadowed all my good intentions.
I wish to assure Nigerians and the international community
that, even though my military officially wrapped up its
investigation into the kidnappings, without locating the girls, we
are sparing no resources. We will keep the findings of the
investigations secret, since my good-faith assurances are
My heart aches for the missing children and their families. In
fact, my heartache was so painful that I canceled plans to visit
Chibok. Instead, I eased my pain by flying to Paris for a
national security summit. My first lady, Patience Jonathan,
shares in my grief for the families affected by the tragedy.
She was so troubled by the agitation of protesters demanding
their girls back that she told them to stop their actions and
allegedly ordered the police to detain several protest leaders.
While terrorism knows no borders, and security threats rage on
across West Africa, Nigeria has long been reluctant to accept
counterterrorism assistance from the United States and other
partners. Nothing is more important than stopping the
machinations of Boko Haram, except maybe my desire to keep
up appearances and show the international community that
Nigeria was winning the war against the group. I know that I
have characterized Boko Haram as a temporary scourge, but in
the wake of the latest attacks and kidnappings of more women
just this week, I recognize that it has effectively exploited the
inability of the Nigerian military to put up any semblance of a
sustained coordinated response. But in spite of all the
challenges, we are definitely doing our best.
Despite Nigeria’s status as a regional powerhouse with a
population of 168 million, until now it had not occurred to me to
collaborate with neighboring countries to fight terrorism. I
wish to thank French President François Hollande for inviting
me and other West African presidents to Paris to discuss this.
When it comes to strategizing on African solutions to African
problems, a European should take the lead. Besides, I do my
best thinking in Paris.
My critics say that decades of neglect have led to conditions
amenable to radicalization in the north. My detractors will
point also to human rights abuses perpetrated by the military.
Let the finger-pointing stop. I am sparing no resources. I
propose to set up an international summit to organize a fact-
finding commission of investigative inquiry to study the
progress of ongoing investigations of corruption and lack of
development in the north. I have again asked President
Hollande to provide a forum for this in Paris, though I would
accept the French Riviera.
Something positive can come out of the kidnappings more than
70 days ago. The world has seen what can happen when
terrorism is left to run amok and the citizens of a country
have little faith in the ability of their government to protect
them. But I wish to assure Nigerians and the rest of the world
that I am doing my best.
Karen Attiah works in The Washington Post’s Editorial
Culled from saharareporters.com