President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday finally met with parents of the girls abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State by members of the Boko Haram sect on April 14. At least, we can point to that as one of the dividends of the recent visit of a Pakistani girl-child education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai.
About 51 girls who escaped from their abductors during the midnight raid on their school, including their principal, their parents, opinion and community leaders from Chibok as well as officials of the Borno State government joined the parents of the abducted girls in the widely publicised meeting.
The Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, venue of the meeting did not in any way suggest that the meeting was for a group of traumatised people who needed all the comforting messages that could come their way.
The hall was elaborately decorated to the extent that it became a joke among colleagues that probably the over 200 girls in captivity had been rescued and the government wanted to hand them over to their parents at the meeting.
A very big green-and-white banner was used as the back drop for the high table. The banner had the inscription, Special Meeting of the President with Parents of the Abducted Chibok Girls, boldly written on it. Seats were adorned in green and white silks and were arranged to form the green-white-green national colour.
That was not all. Members of the Brigade of Guard’s musical band were on hand to provide music! Before the meeting started, voices of some musicians such as Timi Dakolo rent the air from the public address system.
A section of the hall was also arranged for participants to take lunch after the meeting. Venue of a wedding reception could not have been more colourful.
The President’s august visitors arrived the venue in four red luxury buses belonging to the Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited. They formed a line as they made their ways into the hall. They looked traumatised, unhappy and obviously oblivious of the lavish reception prepared for them.
Inside the hall, they sat quietly with some of them folding their arms either to show their unhappy state or responding to the extremely chilly nature of the hall occasioned by the cooling system.
At about a few minutes after 11am, the President arrived amidst a welcoming melody by the band. The guests and government officials rose while Jonathan and members of his delegation that included the President of the Senate, David Mark, made their way to the platform where they would be calling the shots at the meeting.
With the national anthem recited, it was time to chase the unwanted guests away for real business to start. A presidential aide came. Without uttering a word, he gesticulated to journalists in a manner a farmer will wave his hands to chase away his goats or hens.
Some journalists expressed surprise that the meeting would be held behind closed-doors despite the international attention and interest that it had attracted. But in this case, like many other cases, their opinion did not matter.
After about three hours of emotion-laden discussion behind closed-doors, the doors were flung open for journalists to come in. Those who thought they were called in to at least listen to the President’s closing remarks were again shocked when what they met was the rendition of the national anthem, signalling the end of the parley.
Another drama later played out outside the hall when armed security men were quickly deployed to ensure that desperate journalists who wanted to interview any of the escaped girls or their parents did not succeed in doing so.
They were led into waiting buses by a combined team of operatives of the Department of State Security Service and policemen.
We are eagerly looking forward to a more elaborate reception from the government by the time the girls in captivity would have been rescued. We are waiting.
Chidoka: From road to air transport
That Osita Chidoka is a lucky man is not in doubt. About seven years ago, he was brought from outside to head the Federal Road Safety Commission. He became a household name on the job. Reckless motorists had it tough with him at the saddle. Those who thought seat belts are designed as decorative pieces learnt in a hard way. He also made policies that became subjects of litigations. A good example is the controversial new number plates.
On Wednesday, a bigger (and of course, more juicy) job was assigned to the man. The President asked him to drop the assignment of ensuring sanity on the road and begin to manage air transportation. He succeeded his kinswoman, Mrs. Stella Oduah, as the nation’s Aviation Minister.
Chidoka who was cleared by the Senate last week for the ministerial job had arrived the Villa on Wednesday for his inauguration with his full complement as the FRSC boss. His subordinates took turn to take photographs with him in front of the Council Chamber and saluted him for the last time (at least, as their boss).
Before Jonathan entered the venue for the swearing in, one of his top aides came and invited Chidoka for consultation with the President. That was where the deal to make the man next in rank to him, Boboye Oyeyemi, the new Corps Marshal was sealed.
Chidoka still left the Villa after attending his first Federal Executive Council meeting with the paraphernalia of his former office. His FRSC Aide-De-Camp was still trailing him while people congratulated him.
As he resumed duties at his new office, however, it is important for him to beware of the banana peel that led to the exit of his predecessor and sister.
By the way, Oyeyemi, in his first ever press interview as Corps Marshal which he granted State House correspondents promised to build on the foundation laid by Chidoka. For reckless drivers, he made it clear that he would be tougher than his former boss.
So motorists, fasten your seat belt!
For Sanusi, level don change!
Former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Lamido Sanusi, was here on Wednesday for the traditional breaking of Ramadan fast with the President. When he was at the saddle at the apex bank, Sanusi always appeared in the Villa in his fitted suit, clutching office files.
On Wednesday, however, he came in his capacity as the Emir of Kano. Instead of office files, he was holding his rosary and staff of office. Instead of suit, he was decked in the regalia of a royal father. Instead of reeling out statistics on interest or exchange rates to the President, he led his colleagues in a prayer for peace to reign in the country.
The same gates of the Villa shut against Sanusi by Jonathan for alleged financial recklessness were flung open to receive his His Royal Highness, barely a few months after. Indeed, level don change!