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Ikorodu School Kidnap: Ambode’s Tardy Response, By Folarin Ademosu

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The response from Lagos state Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on the Monday, 1 March, 2016 kidnap of three girls of the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School, Ikorodu, Lagos, was rather tardy. Like a stutterer struggling with his speech, Governor Ambode finally found his voice on Wednesday via an official statement by Steve Ayorinde, state information commissioner.

Expectedly, Governor Ambode described the incident as “unfortunate” – that much-loved cliché by Nigerian officials and politicians – and vowed assistance to “the police and other security agencies” to “prevent future reoccurrence (sic)”.

“We will deploy the resources at our disposal to safeguard every life and property within our care,” Governor Ambode rehashed the seeming default official response to emergency incidents.

Not minding Deputy Governor Ranti Adebule’s visit to the school on Tuesday, the day following the incident, swift, timely and valuable information from Governor Ambode wouldn’t be a bad idea. A personal visit by the governor to the school would have portrayed him as more responsive, sensitive and alert. Apparently, Governor Ambode’s later statement showed reluctance and came only after a stinging caption by ThePunch 2 March edition, captioned: Ambode Silent As 15 Gunmen Abduct Three Lagos Schoolgirls”. The evidence that Governor Ambode and his media handlers were woken to the enormity of the incident only after the newspaper story was published was supplied through the governor’s defence.

An excerpt from the statement read: “We have not been silent on this unfortunate development. In a delicate security matter of this nature, where young innocent people are involved and management of information demands utmost circumspect, we were convinced that swift and coordinated reaction, guided by intelligence reports on the part of the police, was a better and more sensitive approach to take, rather than a sensational, panic-stricken reaction.”

Moreover, it was surprising that Governor Ambode dawdled to comment on the incident immediately or a few hours after, claiming to be awaiting intelligence. One would have expected the media handlers to put out a statement with the same speed at which they post the governor’s activities, his wife’s and official pictures on social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, etc.

As governor and chief security officer, Ambode ought to be the chief comforter, first to be seen and heard and the one from who worried parents and the rest of us must draw strength, succour and direction to live through the pains of the sudden incident.

When in 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan appeared to demonstrate unforgivable insensitivity to a streak of national tragedies, then, opposition All Progressives Congress, through its combat-ready ex-spokesman, now Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, riled the former to no end. The APC – Governor Ambode’s party – lambasted President Jonathan for not visiting the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, where about 60 students were killed in February 2014 and for admitting the Chibok girls kidnap was real only 19 days after the incident occurred.  It was not that President Jonathan didn’t respond at all, it wasn’t just immediate as the APC and most Nigerians wanted.

A juxtaposition of the then and now events confirm that timely and effective response from government helps it public perception. Besides, such prompt official visit or communication, which could come in the way of alerts, warnings, directives about possible evacuation or self-protective actions, will aid response, rescue and recovery. An effective and well-conceived response from Governor Ambode immediately after the incident will in the least facilitate response efforts, elicit cooperation, instill public confidence, command respect, evoke empathy, sense of belonging, affection and assure families all was well. A lame defence is needless and merely typical of the kind of explanation one gets from a spanked child.

Folarin Ademosu is a journalist.

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