Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency Monday night in Abuja reacted to the conclusion drawn by CNN journalist, Isha Sesay, in her book that the Federal Government of Nigeria had abandoned Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok girls in captivity to their fate, saying it is untrue.
The presidency was reacting to Sesay’s submission in her new book, “Beneath The Tamarind Tree,” written about the 270 Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14, 2019.
Dissatisfied by Sesay’s conclusion in the book, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Nigeria’s government’s determination to rescue the girls along with Leah, the lone Dapchi schoolgirl, held back by Boko Haram when it released her peers on March 21, 2018 over her refusal to deny her Christian faith, remains strong.
He acknowledged that the book would be useful in dissecting what it described as crimes against humanity, and added that it would also assist in rallying international support for the young captive girls.
Shehu was also swift to add that whereas it was notable that the author acknowledged that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had secured the release of 50 percent of the kidnapped Chibok girls, the author was yet wrong by her submission that the government does not know who it should negotiate with in view of the split of Boko Haram into two factions.
“The Presidency wishes to seize this moment to reiterate the government’s unwavering determination to secure the release, by peace or by force, the remaining 110 Chibok girls, Ms Leah Sharibu and all other citizens held captive by terrorists.
“It is imperative to do this at this time in view of the doubts that may possibly arise following the release of a new book, ‘Beneath The Tamarind Tree,’ written about the kidnapping of 270 Chibok school girls, by Isha Sesay, the ex-CNN star and now a Child Rights activist.
“This book should serve the useful purpose of spotlighting the crimes against humanity by Boko Haram terrorists, etching it permanently on the public mind.
“In addition, the book should rightfully stir up interest and rally international support for the young girls on the continent who must stay in school and avoid early pregnancy and marriage, in order to actualize their God-given potential.
“In her introduction of the book, Isha claims that she wants to ‘humanize’ the girls, instead of them being seen as ‘mere headlines.’ She acknowledged the release from Boko Haram captivity of more than 50 percent of the girls under the Buhari administration but says, very rightfully, that ‘we must not forget the 112 who are still missing.’ On this, we share a common position.
“In stitching together her compelling portrait of this unfortunate yet paradoxical incident, Isha, this terrific journalist risks a negative judgment of history on a book that is a farrago of misrepresentation.
“It is wrong of the author to say, of the Buhari administration that “they don’t know who to negotiate with” because Boko Haram had split into factions.
“This is a misrepresentation of the position of the government on split in the leadership of the terrorist group into two contending factions.
“When government spoke on the issue, it was clear that this split had the effect of making negotiation and reaching an agreement a more difficult talk. Otherwise this country and our international partners are still engaged through third parties with the terrorists,” the statement said in part.
Admitting that the government had no information on where the girls are held captive, a factor he said had militated against efforts to secure the release of all the girls, the presidential spokesman was quick to add that notwithstanding the situation, it was not enough reason for the author to conclude that “government had given up on the Chibok girls when the truth is that there is nothing on the ground to give that impression.”
He also faulted Sesay’s submission that both the government and the people of Nigeria had abandoned the girls to their fate mainly because of their poor backgrounds and they are not associated with fame.
Against this backdround, he said: “No. Nigerians care, and that is why the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG movement was able to generate ‘the groundswell of public opinion’ as acknowledged by the author.”
He insisted that “no one here is giving up and we are happy that the individuals, groups and nations partnering with the administration have continued to show interest in securing the release of our daughters.”