from Africa in Transition

Nigerian Fecklessness Over the Kidnapped School Girls

May 12, 2014

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Examples of the political ineptitude of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration over the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls keep piling up. The latest is a Leadership report of the police forcefully dispersing a peaceful demonstration on Sunday, May 11 in Abuja. The demonstration was taking place at Unity Fountain Park, in the Maitama district, where “#BringBackOurGirls” protests have taken place for the past week. According to Leadership, the officer in charge claimed he had “orders from above” to stop the protest.

The authorities may not have taken into account that the leader of this particular protests was Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of solid minerals and a former minister of education, both in the in the Obasanjo government. She was also one of the founders of Transparency International and a World Bank vice president for Africa. She is a powerful personality of commanding integrity.

When the police stopped the peaceful demonstration Oby Ezekwesili is quoted as saying, “one thing I know they should not be doing is dispersing peaceful citizens in their peaceful gathering; this is a democracy. How can the government act like this? I never thought that I will live to see the day that a democratic government will try to violate my constitutional right to peacefully gather in protest of the fact that we have not seen the girls that were abducted out of our territory for so many weeks now.”

Another protestor, a former member of the House of Representatives, said to Leadership, “we feel very insulted as Nigerians. This is a peaceful assembly, but the police came here with machine guns, with hot water tankers and all sorts of ammunition to stop us from assembling.”

The police have refused comment.

The Jonathan administration gives the appearance of being rattled by the international pressure over its handling of the kidnapping. But, it is also subject to domestic pressure, not least by demonstrations by Nigerian women. In the longer term, Nigerian domestic dissatisfaction may prove to be more significant for domestic politics, though exactly what that significance will be is, as yet, unclear.