The ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party saturday exchanged angry criticisms over the 2014 kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok by Boko Haram terrorists and the similar incident that took place in Dapchi last month. Each accused the other of using the captured girls as campaign tool, a pawn in the game of politics.
PDP accused the ruling party of unwillingness to acknowledge the security lapses that resulted in the recent abductions and playing politics with the fate of the girls. But it drew a swift rebuttal from APC that equally blamed PDP, which was in power in 2014, for dilly-dallying with politics while the terrorists consolidated their hold on the Chibok schoolgirls.
APC had claimed that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration responded rapidly to the February 19 kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls by Boko Haram from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. It said that was unlike the April 14, 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, when the then PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan busied itself with politicking and denial, leaving ample room for the terrorists to hide away the girls. Buhari had also declared in a statement on February 23, four days after the Dapchi abductions, that when he learnt about the incident, he “immediately dispatched a high-level delegation on a fact-finding visit to the town. I also instructed the security agencies to deploy in full and not spare any effort to ensure that all the girls are returned safely, and the attackers arrested and made to face justice.” The president likewise stated, “Our government is sending more troops and surveillance aircraft to keep an eye on all movements in the entire territory on a 24-hour basis, in the hope that all the missing girls will be found.”
But reacting to the claims by the ruling party and the government, PDP said APC was being dishonest about the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, told THISDAY saturday, “You and I know that they did not respond (to Dapchi incident) immediately. They were even in denial initially. But the issue now is that they have not given a response to our question on why troops were withdrawn before the attacks took place.
“They have not given a response that is satisfactory to the majority of Nigerians. And as a matter of fact, the question about the withdrawal of troops before the abduction of the girls does not in any way relate to the alleged PDP non-responsiveness to the demands of the Chibok girls.”
Ologbondiyan said further regarding APC, “Have they not taken responsibility of governance since 2015 and how many of these Chibok girls have they rescued? Why are they playing politics with the lives of our daughters? Why are they playing politics with the lives of Nigerians? Was that the promise they made to Nigerians in 2015?”
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, an erstwhile APC member who returned to PDP on December 3 last year after helping to form APC, also spoke in a similar vein in an interview with THISDAY published yesterday. Atiku accused APC, which was in opposition when Chibok abduction happened, of exploiting the kidnapping for their own political advantage and undermining the efforts of the then PDP government to resolve the incident. He said the APC government’s carelessness was responsible for the seizure of the Dapchi schoolgirls.
Atiku said, “Let me paraphrase Oscar Wilde and say that to lose one set of girls to Boko Haram may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose another set looks like carelessness. As an opposition party, the APC was vocal to the point of exploiting the issue of the Chibok girls’ kidnapping.
“They criticised that (Jonathan) government every step of the way and some may even claim that they undermined the then government’s efforts at resolving that unfortunate incident. So, it is rather surprising that a set of people who were so unsparing in their critique of the previous government would be in a situation whereby they have allowed these same terrorists to kidnap 110 girls.”
The former vice president also said, “We already know that Boko Haram has an agenda to cripple Western education in Nigeria. So, how could we have left those schools unguarded?”
However, National Secretary of APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, described Atiku’s allegations as unfounded, saying, instead, it is the PDP government of Jonathan that played politics with the misfortune of the Chibok schoolgirls.
Abdullahi said concerning the kidnappings, “I don’t know about APC playing politics with the lives of the Chiboks girls because this is simply not true. Two, the fact that Dapchi girls’ kidnap incident happened was an embarrassment to all Nigerians, but the difference between the two is in the reaction of the government.
“Remember that when the Chibok incident happened, the PDP government of then were in denial. It took them over two weeks to even admit that something happened. But look at how this government responded with immediate effect, sending delegation, security chiefs and setting up an investigative committee.
“So if you are looking for the party that is playing politics with lives of the girls, which is a matter of national security that affects all, Atiku should look towards PDP that was busy blaming the Borno State governor, Shettima, and the APC instead of rescuing the Chibok girls. Or he means that for setting up the committee of investigation and taking immediate measures, APC is playing politics?”
Of the 276 girls snatched from Chibok, 57 escaped, four were found, 103 were released, and 112 are still missing. The authorities had claimed that some of the Dapchi girls were rescued, but that turned out to be untrue.
Also saturday, Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday said multinational task force within the Lake Chad Basin is part of the operation to search for and rescue the kidnapped school girls.
The DHQ also said the military was adopting all strategies in order to ensure the safe return of the girls.
Speaking to THISDAY on the cooperation from countries such as Chad and Niger in the search for kidnapped Dapchi school girls, Director of Defence Information, Brig General John Agim, said: “We have a multinational task force; they are all involved in the rescue mission, you know the multinational task force is headed by Nigeria.”
On the current situation with the search, Agim explained that though all the public wants to know is the result, the military was doing all it could to rescue the girls.
“We are still on the search, we are adopting all the different strategies to rescue the Dapchi school girls and to see what happened and how we can rescue them,” he added.
The federal had announced penultimate week that the search for the abducted girls had been extended to neighboring countries.