It is now just past 500 days after the nightmarish incident. It needs to be recalled that following the controversial abduction of over 200 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on April 14, 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorists group, a social media campaign with the slogan, ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ was embarked upon to put the Goodluck Jonathan government on its toes in the quest to rescue the missing girls.
The slogan, adapted from a speech delivered by Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Education Minister and Vice President of the World Bank’s Africa Division, was made popular on twitter network with the hash tag, #BringBack- OurGirls#. As expected the hash tag became a worldwide social media cause advocating for the return of the 219 abducted Chibok school girls. Through it, the story of the Chibok girls became a major news item globally even as the United States, Britain, France, China and some other countries pledged to support Nigeria in the search for the missing school girls.
We recall that protests demanding greater government action to rescue the girls were held in several Nigerian and Western cities. Thereafter, daily rallies at the Unity Fountain in Abuja by demonstrators continued till the first quarter of this year. In the course of evoking national and international sympathy and portraying the government as incompetent, the campaigners spared nothing from tears to the use of symbolic colours calculated to prove that government was insensitive. On April 13, 2015, hundreds of protesters wearing red tape across their lips walked silently through the city of Abuja as part of events to mark a year since the abduction of the Chibok girls.
On the website of Bring Back Our Girls, the promoters of the campaign vowed not to relent in their demand on government to bring back the girls and bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book. As to when the campaign will stop, the group said, “Not until our girls are back and alive!” But the girls are not yet back and the campaign has gone cold since the enthronement of the new regime of Muhammadu Buhari. The tweeters have become slack, leaving Nigerians to ponder over the real motive of the campaign and the promise to fight till the girls are found.
This lethargic disposition of the group towards the cause they earlier pursued militantly has confirmed earlier suspicion that the campaign was an emotional tool of political blackmail geared towards the removal of the party in power. Not a few Nigerians had noted that the campaign had some political undertones and that the campaigners were working for the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to dislodge Jonathan’s government. Ezekwesili one of the founders of the campaign consistently denied these allegations.
However, with the recent political appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman, a co-founder of the #BBOG# campaign, all doubts that the campaign had a political goal and that some were active participants for political gains, have been erased. Usman was first appointed into the transition committee of Buhari and later as Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i. At the heat of the #BBOG# campaign, she was also secretly serving on a number of committees of the APC including APC’s Election Planning and Strategy committees. She was also the Director of Finance in the Nasir el-Rufa’i Campaign Organisation. All these have raised suspicion about the real motives of the campaign.
We consider it immoral for anyone in the forefront of the emotional campaign of the Chibok tragedy to make political gains out of it even when the mission of the campaign is yet to be achieved. We are of the view that since the 219 girls are yet to be rescued, any #BBOG# campaigner who accepts political appointment under the current regime is a beneficiary of the abduction of the girls and thus should be considered as guilty as the Boko Haram who abducted them.
That is not the only worrying issue. The rather despairing statement credited to Buhari expressing doubts about the possibility of finding the girls has dampened the hope of an eventual end to this nation’s abduction nightmare. Even though the immediate past regime did not succeed in bringing back the girls despite all the efforts made and the achievements recorded in the war against Boko Haram, Nigerians do not expect the current regime to give excuses. Government should devise new strategies to deal with the issue, especially the need for the military to build up their capacity in intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism techniques. The burden of halting the Boko Haram menace also lies on the religious and political leadership of the north. They should devise ways of countering the radicalisation of the youths so as to decimate the murderous group and restore peace to the region. With the visit of the campaigners to President Buhari, we plead that the campaign ante be upped to its utmost limit. The past 500 days of the Chibok girls’ should be the ultimate pointer to need to rescue them.