The Nigerian Presidency has welcomed with reservations a new book titled “Beneath The Tamarind Tree”, written about the kidnapping of 270 Chibok school girls, by Isha Sesay, the ex-CNN broadcaster and now a Child Rights activist.
A statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Monday, however, noted that the book was hampered by misrepresentations.
According to him, the book should serve the purpose of spotlighting the crimes against humanity by Boko Haram terrorists, etching it permanently on the public mind.
He added that 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.
Shehu noted that, ”in her introduction of the book, Isha Sesay 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 per cent 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 Sesay, this terrific journalist, risks a negative judgment of history on a book that is a farrago of misrepresentation.”
The presidential aide, however, observed that it was 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.
According to him, this is a misrepresentation of the position of the government on split in the leadership of the terrorist group into two contending factions.
He said it was clear that the split had the effect of making negotiation and reaching an agreement a more difficult task.
”Otherwise this country and our international partners are still engaged through third parties with the terrorists.
”While it is true that the government has no information on where the captives are held, otherwise it would have seized the location and recovered the girls using all means at its disposal.”
Mr Shehu also dismissed as incorrect that the Federal Government had given up on the Chibok girls, saying there was nothing on the ground to give that impression.
He revealed that already the Ministry of Women and Social Development, has a fully staffed government unit dealing with the Chibok abductions and its fallout.
”This book asserts that the government and people of Nigeria no longer cared about the girls because “they are poor…they don’t have famous names; people just don’t care.”
”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.
”Yes it is true that “the only reason“ the sitting government at that time ‘acknowledged fully what had happened’ was due to the public outcry but it is again unfair to lump criticism on the Nigerian Government without differentiating which of the two administrations that served Nigeria from 2014 to date.
“The Buhari administration came in 2015 with a promise to recover the stolen girls and a milestone has indeed been achieved by bringing back and caring for more than 50 per cent of them, even though the job cannot be said to be complete.”
Mr Shehu stated that government’s explanations had become imperative at this time in view of the doubts that may possibly arise following the release of the book by Isha Sesay.
He, therefore, reiterated the government’s 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.”