Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s corrupt and incompetent government failed to act quickly enough to save more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram last year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said. He said the government did not recognize the threat Boko Haram posed until it was too late, calling the reaction "lukewarm at best.” Jonathan took 18 days to contact the governor of the province from which the girls had been taken, he added.
"The government did not believe that there had been an abduction for some time," Obasanjo told a panel at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, the New Indian Express reported. "If that had happened maybe the girls would have been rescued."
A former member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and ally of Jonathan, Obasanjo has been increasingly critical of Jonathan’s administration, tearing up his PDP membership card live on Nigerian television last month. National elections in Nigeria were set for Feb. 14, but were postponed because government officials said they could not guarantee the safety of voters getting to the polls and because more than 1 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram in the country’s northeast.
A week before the election only about 46 million -- or two-thirds -- of the country’s voter identification cards had been distributed, Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega told Agence France-Presse in February.
Nigeria announced it would push back its presidential and legislative elections to March 28 because of safety concerns on Feb. 7. Though the nation's elections typically inspire violence, the Associated Press reported, the Independent Electoral Commission alleged it made the decision because of the presence of Boko Haram.
The PDP argued in a statement postponing the elections saved the country from embarrassment. If they had commenced as scheduled, the elections "would have been chaotic and far from fair and credible," the party said. More than 23 million people who hadn't yet gotten voter cards would have been unable to cast their ballots.
Obasanjo added during his speech to the Global Education and Skills Forum that Boko Haram had grown from a local insurgency to a regional issue, spreading to neighboring African states, including Chad and Niger, and called for a concerted effort from African nations to combat it. Obasanjo most recently served as the country's president from 1999-2007.
Jonathan has been the subject of criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency from inside and outside the country. Many in Nigeria’s opposition have accused the president of intentionally allowing the insurgency, which has killed nearly 15,000 people, to continue because the northeast is a stronghold of the rival All Progressives Congress.
Boko Haram, now facing a force deployed by the governments of Chad and Niger as well as the African Union, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group last week, which has reportedly been accepted.