A Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Ladi Williams, in this interview with Ademola Adeyemo speaks on the state of insecurity in Nigeria, especially the kidnapping of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls, and the efforts of the government to rescue them, among other issues. Excerpts:
What is the hope of rescuing the Chibok girls now that their abduction has entered the second month?
Nigeria is a prayerful country, we should continue to believe in the power of God, we should not be discouraged. God will give us the peace to go through this terrible crisis. We should continue to pray for the safe return of our dear daughters as soon as possible well and alive. However, the utterances of some government officials are callous, unpatriotic and unfair.
Specifically, it was the minister of state for FCT, Jumoke Akinjide that spoke in this regard; she said that the mothers of the abducted girls and other protesters should direct their complaints to the terrorists. This is shocking from a junior minister of Nigeria. This is most arrogant, inconsiderate, irresponsible statement ever made in such circumstances. She showed no compassion for the plights of the parents forgetting that they may be poor, downtrodden but they are human beings with rights to protest and they were right to have directed their protests to the president who stands in locus parentis to all Nigerians anywhere.
One cannot but contrast this arrogant statement with that of Mrs. Obama, who in great humility, despite her exalted position, identified with Nigeria and humanity when she displayed placard. In contrast, a minister, speaking for the nation and addressing a crowd of protesters was talking as if nothing has happened. What we have is a national calamity of such magnitude even history will tell us that this has never happened, abducting school girls, not every parent can afford the expensive education of Ms Akinjide, but that does not give her the license to trivialise this national calamity.
What do you advise President Goodluck Jonathan to do?
Well, Jonathan is vested with the executive power, all the legitimate instrument of cohesion is vested on the president, and he can use these to rescue the girls. Akinjide was wrong to have directed the protesters to go to Sambisa forest, is she indirectly acknowledging that the government is incapable and incompetent. The President has the duty to protect lives and property of Nigerians.
No matter what people say, our first lady, Mrs Jonathan, has done well, the first lady was compassionate, she broke down she was overwhelmed on television. She spoke in pidgin English which all Nigerians will understand. Akinjide should have kept quiet. I was dissapointed to see the SFG, Senator Anyim and Reuben Abati looking askance .They should have stopped Jumoke Akinjide and let the whole world know that she spoke for herself. It is by doing so that the international community will know that the President has no intention to send grieving mothers to Sambisa forest.
How would you appraise the efforts of the military in this matter?
We have a capable military which has assisted other nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Somalia, Congo and others. If we can help them to put their houses in order there is no reason why we should not put our own right. I do not share the lack of confidence in our military. The president should ensure that the military is well equipped, well trained and well-motivated to continue to do their best which is to protect lives and property. No stone should be left unturned in this regard.
The president should do whatever to bring back the girls without compromising our interest and integrity. He should be mindful of who speaks for the presidency so as not to cause disaffection to the president and the country. I believe that with what the people know about Jonathan, one thing you cannot accuse him of is that he is not a compassionate person.
The abduction of the Chibok girls is part of the unfortunate happenings in the country. Nigeria has to accept that there is a war going on, a war being fought in a non-conventional way. Nigeria is at war with unseen enemies, they are ruthless, it has nothing to do with whether you are a Muslim or Christian. So, the protesters should continue to protest peacefully and make their points to the government, it is their rights to do so