On November 4, 1979, exactly a year to the November 4, 1980 US presidential election, 52 America diplomats and citizens were purportedly taken hostage in American Embassy in Tehran, Iran by Iranian students belonging to Muslim Students followers of the Imam’s religious hardliners.
President Jimmy Carter of Democratic Party was seeking a re-election, while Governor Ronald Reagan from California was seeking at all costs to unseat him along with George H. Bush, the former CIA director, as his running mate.
It happened that while Reagan and Bush were using the hostage as their main campaign issue, forcing Carter to spend most of the time trying to explain to the American electorate his government’s efforts to get the hostages free by their captors. In other words, the Reagan-Bush campaigns were benefiting from this unfortunate incident.
Jimmy Carter was so humiliated and frustrated that his entire re-election campaign spent most of the time wanting to free these Americans and less on campaigning for his re-election, while his opponent – the Reagan-Bush campaign- seemed ready to exploit the situation by the hostage issue, their number one campaign slogan.
Certainly, two weeks to the November 4 presidential election, in his desperation to become the next president of the US, Ronald organised a meeting with some family members of the hostages, where he announced to the American electorate that if elected president, he would definitely bring back to America the 52 hostages. Believing him without demanding from him how he intended to bring back the hostages, Americans went on to elect him president, instead of Jimmy Carter, who everyone believed couldn’t release the hostages.
Paradoxically and coincidentally, the hostage saga ended on January 20, the same day Reagan was sworn in as the president. In fact, exactly few hours after Ronald Reagan was sworn as the 40th President of the United States, the 52 American citizens were unconditionally released.
It was long after investigations that, it was later discovered – as most of the Iranians involved in negotiations alleged through a series of confessions – that the hostage was a scheme orchestrated by George H. Bush, the former CIA director. With all the swiftness it required, the CIA and Reagan administration took all the necessary steps to ensure that these confessions were under the public rug.
Should Chibok Girls’ kidnapping almost exactly a year, be to Nigeria’s presidential election the repeat of the 1979-1980 Reagan – Bush presidential election strategy in Nigeria by Buhari? The question has become pertinent here because of the similarities, particularly the recent public pronouncement by the APC presidential candidate who told Nigerians that, if elected, he will bring the girls without telling the same Nigerians how and why we have to wait for his election for the girls to get their freedom. In other words, why on earth should Buhari, whom some time ago, Boko Haram named their negotiator, also get the luxury of going as far as making the kidnapped girls’ release not only a campaign issue, but a condition to Nigerians?
In short, I am still to come to terms with Gen Buhari’s pronouncement that if elected he will bring our Chibok Girls to their parents; forcing all Nigerians to want to know if the General has any hand in their kidnap; since his election as president of Nigeria has become a condition for their eventual release.
In his desperation to become president, he has to be this insensitive to the agony of the parents of these girls? If Buhari has no hands in their disappearance, how come he is certain that if elected, he should see to their release, without telling Nigerians how he intends to achieve that? Is Buhari a true patriot and statesman, if his condition of seeing to the release of the girls is to be elected president of Nigeria?
If he knows where the girls are being kept all these while, the emotional and mental horrors the girls and their parents have been subjected for months and still fails to date to advice the Jonathan administration on how the girls could regain their freedom, then, Buhari not only lacks the true sense of patriotism but also lacks the moral grounds to seek the vote of Nigerians who in future he could easily use as his political scapegoats.
Enwegbara is a development economist and international public policy commentator.