WASHINGTON — The Bring Back Our Girls campaign to free kidnapped school children has brought a political love/hate affair to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington.
The Obama administration dispatched a small contingent of troops to nearby Chad to support a reconnaissance mission in the search for the girls in Nigeria. First lady Michelle Obama was prominently photographed holding a “#Bring Back Our Girls” sign.
“But in all this show of friendship and support by an incredibly compassionate American nation, Senator John McCain has been a sad footnote,” Nigeria’s Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye said in a speech several weeks ago.
Republican Senator McCain’s comments in pushing for strong U.S. intervention to end the standoff with the girls’ Islamist Boko Haram captors aroused Adefuye’s ire.
Nigeria’s top Washington diplomat delivered a very unusual personal attack on the American lawmaker - to the point of saying how divine “providence” spared McCain from becoming president in 2008.
McCain’s office said the senator is passionate about helping to get the girls freed.
“Senator McCain notes with great sorrow that the hundreds of Nigerian girls remain missing,” said McCain spokeswoman Rachael Dean. “He still strongly believes the U.S. should do whatever it can to bring the girls home.”
The genesis of the controversy stems from McCain’s comment in The Daily Beast when the kidnapping story gained traction last month.
The Arizona senator said that a U.S. rescue attempt for the girls should come without necessarily waiting for permission from Nigeria’s president, whom he referred to as “some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.”
Others have criticized the Nigerian government’s efforts to free the girls as being late and poorly executed. The embassy has been the site of protests calling for Nigerian better government action.
Nigerian Ambassador Adefuye said McCain has gone too far.
“The ranking Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential candidate has inexplicably seized on the pain of a distressed nation not only to show contempt to our country but also denigrate the office and person of His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Adefuye said in a recent speech in Washington.
“One wonders what could have happened if the 2008 elections have gone the other way and McCain became the President of the most powerful nation in the world,” Adefuye said. “The good Lord has a better plan for the people of the world.”
The ambassador also offered to set McCain straight on the Boko Haram abduction issue.
“We will like to call on his well paid staff to brief him properly on Nigeria and accord our country as well as the Office of the President the respect they deserve,” Adefuye said.
The ambassador’s comments on McCain were eventually dropped from the front page of the embassy website.
The embassy is also warning Americans about fraudulent fund-raising schemes related to the girls’ kidnapping.
The embassy said scammers have sought to collect money “under the pretense of working in collaboration with the Embassy in solidarity with the adopted Nigerian girls.”
Asked about the issue, an embassy spokesman said the embassy has received calls from Americans curious about the fake fundraising endorsement. He urged prospective donors to investigate purported charities before they send money.