Iconic singer Onyeka Onwenu, who is the current DG of National Centre for Women Development, was a guest on Channels TV Sunrise programme this morning Monday May 12th where she spoke about the missing Chibok girls. She expressed her reservations about the case and also called out Professor Wole Soyinka for referring to the First Lady as 'that woman' in the interview he had with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Read the full interview below...What am saying is that, is it at this time we have to vilify the person of the First Lady who did the right thing by inviting these people? A lot of that has gone on and I take offense at this even as a woman. When I hear someone like Wole Soyinka referring to her on CNN as that woman, something in me boils because there is a lack of respect for women. This has happened not just with this first lady but with every single first lady and perhaps its when they have passed away or when they've left office that we suddenly realize the contributions that they've made and these women work very hard and care and love this country so it really offends me to see her vilified and I was at those meetings and at no point did she say Oh I don't believe the girls were taken." Ms Onwenu said.
When asked why we had to wait this long before all of this protest, Ms Onwenu replied;
"Well thank God for the protest. The protest has helped us to focus attention on what is going on. Its so saddening what is happening. I find it difficult to talk about it because I would want to cry and there is a great deal of frustration and anger that this has festered, that's for sure and also that some people are politicizing it. This Boko Haram issue has been politicized for a long time and I think we ought to be careful about that. There should be no name calling at this stage. What this should do for us is to bring us together. Yes mistakes were made along the line, no government is perfect, no people are perfect. We are not but this is a time for us to rally support and come together, lets find these girls. We welcome everyone's contribution that is constructive but if it is not constructive please keep it aside. We don't really need it at this stage."
Asked if there has been any zeal to arrest the situation before now, she responded;
"I think so. When all this started, the government did not come out to speak on the efforts it was making but I don't think any government would come out and give you the nitty-gritty of their operation. That would be giving out too much to the enemy and when the first lady gathered a group of women together in her office, it was out of that frustration of "what is the information" because we were not having enough information at that point about these girls. Number 1. Who are these girls? They must have names. They registered for WAEC, they filled forms. Where are the parents? Its not enough to go to the streets to demonstrate, come let us discuss, lets find solution, lets ask questions? and a number of questions did come up. The Principal, where were you? Were there any supervision for the girls? No Headmistress, No Dorm mistress and how come these girls were left in a situation where there was no light, no generator, no security and they were allowed to spend time in that hostel and also there were boys registered to take their exam in that centre, where were the boys? And why were the girls gathered and left in a situation were no security was provided for them and the agencies say they were not aware that the girls were there. Madam Principal, at what point did you know something was going wrong in your domain and wherever you were, who did you contact? You waited until the following day. So many questions were agitating our minds.Who would provide these information. WAEC said they had the list, they brought out the names of the girls. Ok Madam Principal do you have a list? Oh no its in my hotel and when you get it, there are names of over 60year old people who are on that list! What is going on?
Asked if she was sure about the fact that some people on the list were actually 60 years, she said;
"Yes, Yes and there was a letter written by the Minister of Education asking that the girls in remote areas be brought together in Maiduguri for the exams and since security could not be assured, bring them together. Some of the state Governors did not respond and some said we can provide security and that was not the situation. These letters are there in black and white.
Asked how many girls are missing, she said
"I don't know. I don't know. These are the questions we were asking and I think our government needs to investigate this thoroughly and find out where the disconnect happened because this is a matter of calling up the records. You have the pictures besides the names and you can identify who are those taking these exams and we have to ask those questions and we have to ask not just the FG. We have to ask the state government, we have to ask the Local Government. At what point did you find out that there was these movements? Who did you tell? And if you contacted the Military or the SSS tell us and why did they not do something. These number of young girls that were taken away were taken in lorries. The lorries were parked in a kilometer and a half away from the school and they had to walked a long distance. Who saw them? What did you do? These are the questions that we ought to be asking. I hope that at the end of the day, all this that is happening because I am a firm believer that all things work together for good. I think this is going to help this country to streamline our security operations, to streamline information gathering, to streamline what we do when there is an emergence. Its also going to expose a lot of things because I believe mistakes were made along the line and those mistakes, some were made by the Federal government but certainly by the state and Local government. And instead of pointing fingers, lets put our heads together and say lets not make the mistakes again.
Asked if the state security officers have explained how the girls were moved considering the state is under 24-hour curfew, she said;
"I am in total agreement with you and I think we need to ask all these questions. What am saying is that, is it at this time we have to vilify the person of the First Lady who did the right thing by inviting these people? A lot of that has gone on and I take offence at this even as a woman. When I hear someone like Wole Soyinka referring to her on CNN as that woman, something in me boils because there is a lack of respect for women. This has happened not just with this first lady but with every single first lady and perhaps its when they have passed away or when they've left office that we suddenly realize the contributions that they have made and these women work very hard and care and love this country so it really offends me to see her vilified and I was at those meetings and at no point did she say Oh I don't believe the girls were taken. What we were doing was fact finding and thank God because most of the information that we do have has come from. Why pick on her and start vilifying her because she is a woman? I think that's wrong because she has done very well and even for me at some point in the meeting, I just wanted to put away the camera and have myself a cry because that was the mood e were in"