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CHIBOK! Keeping Hope Alive for the Abducted Nigerian Teenage School Girls

Hmmmmmm, it is now 60 long days!!! Where exactly are the girls? How are they faring? When will they breathe the air of freedom again? What can Nigerians and the world do to end the reign of terror which has become the lot of defenseless communities, particularly in North Eastern Nigerian? Sighing and a myriad of unending and yet to be answered questions fill my thoughts each day, as I reflect over the mind boggling issue of the more than 200 Nigerian teenage girls who were taken captive from their boarding school in Chibok, North Eastern Nigeria; by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members.

In recent years, Nigeria consistently falls within the top 10 countries for kidnapping in the world, with over 1,000 cases reported each year, according to a report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Another risk consultancy firm, Control Risks, reported recently that 74 per cent of kidnappings recorded in Africa in 2012 occurred in Nigeria. The percentage is so high compared with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa partly due to the relative economic gap between rich and poor in the country, with criminal groups turning to kidnapping as a form of income, explains Frances Nobes a Global Risk Analyst at the crisis management company red24.

The disheartening story of the kidnapped girls has continued to stir people around the world to lend their voice to the calls for the Nigerian government, neighboring countries, world powers and public spirited individuals to help rescue the girls. Thanks to the internet and it's associated social media platforms which ensured that the news and calls to action for the rescue of the girls went viral and remains alive. A Face book message sent to me yesterday by Charles A., a friend who resides in a town in Borno State reads " When are you coming to Chibok, the young ladies here need your encouragement and touch". Well, my sincere response to him remains that " My heart goes out to the people of Chibok , women and girls in particular. I have been doing my bit by participating in related peaceful protests and social media campaigns aligned to the call for the safe rescue of the abducted girls. The only way of sustaining that bit is to stay safe and keep hope alive".

On what life is like in his part of Borno State, he responds that "It is every man to himself living in fear, business has collapsed and there is threat everywhere. We went on and on exchanging views about the heightened level of insecurity prevalent in our country. It is no longer uncommon to hear people express their anxieties and many have become disenfranchised with the Nigerian government. Charles also feels that "the government is not doing enough about the issue".

I strongly desire to see that this girls are returned to safety and given all the attention they may need to reintegrate them back to their families and community. So, in the course of my recent visit to Abuja, Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory I could not help but endorse and participate in the '#BringBackOurGirls Abuja' campaign. "There's a 'BringBackOurGirls ' rally that has been on for days running, around the Abuja Millennium Park. Guess you can make it there after your meeting tomorrow." chips in Ini A., as we both exchanged updates on the issue of the missing girls, and the current spate of bombings and insecurity bedeviling our beloved country.

The next day, May 22nd 2014, I headed for the venue of the 350.org Global Power Shift (GPS) Nigeria Team's first face to face meeting with identified partners. The meeting which was my primary purpose for being in Abuja, at the time, brought together young passionate 'climate change' activists of Nigerian descent; to form an alliance towards the hosting of a Global Power Shift Summit and associated activities in Nigeria.

At the end of the meeting, Esther M, a bright and lively young lady walked up to Tosin A. and I to ask if "we would like to attend that day's 'BringBackOurGirls Abuja rally". I did not have to give a second thought to her question before opting in. Of course, it was already in my plan for the day. We were joined by Emmanuel A. and Atayi Y. (two male associates) who also participated in the 350. org GPS meeting. Within a jiffy, we walked towards a highway and flagged down a regular green colored cab, hoarded ourselves into it and took a solidarity ride to the Millennium Park.

As we alighted from the cab and made it across the road, I was not left in doubt that we were in for serious business. A teeming crowd was already building up, many of whom adorned items that projected the theme color of the #BringbackOUrGirls campaigns happening across the world- 'RED'. There were splashes of red all around: scarves, face caps, hats, berets, t-shirts, dresses, skirts, hand and head bands, banners etc. To ensure that no one was left out of the red frenzy, the organizers were also very much prepared as they had loads of red print T-shirts to give out. People jostled to get on rows of long human lines formed to make it easy to dole out the T-shirts. #BringbackOurGirls Abuja and www.bringbackourgirls.ng was clearly imprinted in white on the front and back sides of the T-shirts, respectively. I got my self one and immediately wore it over my long flowing brown mixed with purple and cream dress made from local ankara print material.

We were well armed with #BringbackOurGirls Abuja T-shirts, posters, banners and placards which accompanied our highly determined voices which echoes the heart cries of the abducted girls, their families and communities in particular. The spirit of oneness swept through the air and we collectively did our best to adhere to the instructions reeled out by Mrs. Obiageli Ezenkwesili, a former Minister of Education who lead the rally. I have great respect for this woman of impeccable character who has over time earned herself very inspiring and laudable track record. Little wonder that she championed the now institutionalized due process in the Nigerian government's contracting system.

Before the human train finally commenced the distant walk to the Presidential Villa, Mrs. Ezenkwesili did not mince words in reminding the procession not to undermine, misrepresent or abuse the focus and aim of the protest. "Together we will make impact and all win. A journey of a thousand miles begins with short steps" she assures all present. Her resounding and untiring voice adds " Where are we all from?". "CHIBOK" responds the all too eager crowd.

There was no single moment of silence as the crowd gathered momentum. Solidarity songs, questions and responses continued to flow as we marched on. "What do you want?" Mrs. Ezenkwesili asks the crowd of protesters again. Echoes of "Bring back our girls now and alive" follows again, and again. By now, the usual vehicle laden lane we walked had been taken over by human traffic. The procession completely took over one lane of the very wide dual carriage access way which stretches on, and intersects with an entrance route to the Presidential Villa. Consequently, Vehicular traffic gave way on the side of the road which we occupied, and had to compete for whatever little space was available on the unoccupied portion of the parallel lane.

Energy reverberated within the movement all through the walk. Our voices must have been really loud and clear as heads continued to peer out of the windows of towering office buildings that lined the street. Several people even stepped out on verandas just to catch a good glimpse. With outstretched hands that held different types of digital devices; they made frantic attempts to capture live recordings of all that was unfolding before them. Most of us on the rally also did likewise and it was very much understandable and appreciated that many of such capture footage were instantaneously uploaded and circulated on the internet. I did my bit too. Is that not what citizen journalism is all about?

As we inched in on the last few meters of our walk, well stationed uniform-clad security personnel comprising of both men and women did not leave anyone in doubt that we had eventually reached our destination. Without them having to utter a word, we knew too well that the limits had been set in terms of how close we could get to the Villa. Very well so, a Presidential delegation made up of a team of Ministers lead by Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, the secretary to the Federal government were also already waiting at the limit point to receive the group. Others on the Presidential entourage includes Chief Jumoke Akinjide (State of the FCT), Maina (Women Affairs and Social Development), and Labaran Maku (Information and National Orientation) among others. The delegation also displayed their solidarity as each one of them adorned a red colored ornament/ware at least.

While Mrs. Oby drove home a point on why the rally train chose to formally bring the #BringBackOurGirls message to the President, we all sat down on the bare streets; thus becoming sandwiched between the overheated ground and the overlying scorching sun. Chief Akinjide, who delivered the president's address, did her best to reassure their August visitors, that the government was doing all within it's power to ensure the quick return of the girls to safety. At the end of her speech, representative voices drawn from among the among the campaign team posed 10 comments/questions to Dr. Ebele goodluck Jonathan; the President of the most populous black nation in the world. Among those who raised the comments/questions was Hadiza Bala Usman, Coordinator of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign in Nigeria. She asks, "What is the President doing to secure schools?".

I left the venue about the time the last question was being raised, but with a sense of responsibility and objectivity about the precarious situation we now find ourselves in as a nation. It is quite sad that while the parents of the missing girls continue to keep hope alive for the safe return of their daughters, grim predictions are emerging from some quarters. "I believe that some of them will never return. We will still be hearing about them many years from now,’ Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's former President tells the BBC's Hausa-language radio service on Thursday 12th of June 2014, in comments echoed in an interview with Nigeria's Premium Times website. According to him, "If the administration had acted quickly, we could have rescued them".

If we must gain grounds and overcome such societal ills like abduction and terrorism; we must eschew sentiments, trade blaming as well as the breeding of bitterness and distrust; and forge a common front against those common enemies. We owe it to the abducted girls and ourselves to stay united and continue displaying a sense of patriotism and solidarity for efforts that can lead to the rescue of the girls; and also forestall further acts of terrorism. I look forward to the day when the message conveyed to the world by the #bringbackourgirls online and real time campaigns will translate into freedom for the abducted girls, and signal an end to terror, conflicts and fear. I hope to keep inspiring others; especially women and girls to maximize the use of digital resources in educating and informing themselves about security and safety; and also calling for an end to acts of terrorism, so that our world would become and remain a safe place for everyone.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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Comments

erincriley's picture

Wow! Thank you, greengirl!

Hi Greengirl,

Thank you for writing such an inspiration post about the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. I haven't seen it in the headlines for a few weeks now and I want to thank you for the reminder of the importance of this campaign. I am a journalist, so I completely understand where you are coming from. I started to cry reading your post because you are so passionate about the cause and to keep the awareness alive of the girls who have yet to be returned. It's going on two months that happened and they are still out there. Thank you for sharing all of your experiences and your photos. Keep fighting!

Love,

Erin

Greengirl's picture

Love you too Erin!

Truth is that I am still at a loss as too why it is taking so long to rescue the girls or even get any encouraging information about their where about. I don't even want to begin to imagine the state of mind of their parents, siblings and relatives. The situation as it is, is really pathetic and worrisome! The tears you shed could only come from someone who is very much concerned about the plight of the girls and equally passionate about the cause of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Hope must be kept alive for the girls!

I sincerely appreciate you for your encouraging feedback and cannot but thank you for finding time to read the post.

Blessings,Love and Respect,
Greengirl

Nabiye Tal's picture

Well Written

Dear Greengirl,
My dear sister, it is quite disheartening that till now the girls are not found and there is no news about them. Lately I read in the news former president Obasanjo saying he visited the insurgents and that he thinks some of the girls may never come back. It is sad how our leaders are not ready to do anything good in the interest of the common citizen but for their selfish reasons alone. Well, we shall keep talking and hoping for the best, to see our girls come back.

Nabiye Tal,
Founder/CEO- IEVAWC.
@nabiye, @ievawc

Greengirl's picture

Hello dearie!

It's always a pleasure to communicate with you, and loads of thanks to you for joining in the conversation. It is sure sad that we live in a country where supposed leaders put/push their personal interest above common good. It really hurts that the issue of the girls has become so politicized that these leaders continue to expend their wit and energy on lack luster arguments and accusations; instead of unifying to find a way to safely rescue the girls. Let's keep hope alive amid all the odds.

Let's keep walking the talk and talking the walk!

Hugs,
Greengirl

SaritaMat's picture

Outstanding person you are

I feel so proud to know you and your great contribution to work towards the abducted Nigerian girls.Truly,you are an inspiration for millions.People will fear to take such steps against women if we all gather on one platform to form strong women.
Keep it up.

Regards,
Sarita salian

Greengirl's picture

I feel honored!

Your kind words are very motivating and empowering. I believe it makes a whole lot of sense to do out bits that is possible than do nothing at all. I am completely in agreement with you about how power women can become when we pull our strength together, such as on a platform that lifts and unifies women's voices. That is exactly what world Pulse offers women, and I am glad to a part of it all.

I am really glad that you reached out.

Greengirl

Lea's picture

Beautifully written,

Beautifully written, Greengirl! The abduction of these girls is a tragedy beyond words. Sadly, as you said, this is not a new phenonemon, but one that has been going on for a while. It's so disheartening that the government has done very little to find them. I feel for the families who are waiting, desperate, for any sign of the girls' return. One feels really helpless when reading about stories like those.
Your account of your participation in the BringBackOur Girls protest was truly wonderful and really showed your determination and dedication to finding them. Even in moments like those when it's so easy to lose hope, reading stories like yours are so inspiring as they depict ordinary people doing extraordinary things, taking a risk and speaking out, demanding greater accountability and justice. We need more people like you who believe in girls' and women's future and who are committed to make changes in their communities.
You're really an inspiration!

Lea

Greengirl's picture

Thank you a great deal Lea

Hello Lea, your words of acknowledgement are so powerful that it uplifted my spirit! Thank you, thank you and thank you for reaching out to me with such powerful words of encouragement. Like I mentioned in one of my journal posts wrtten on the same issue, the pains and anxiety stirred by the horrenduos occurence is one that cannot be wished away. Pray we must, as we continue to cry out for the rescue of the girls and for peace to prevail in Nigerian and across the world.

The issue of the girls must remain on the front burner until they are rescued, which I hope will be soon.

Together we can keep drumming up the message of accountability, justice and peace; so the world can become safe and secure for everyone.

Very warm regards to you,
Greengirl

Thank you for sharing with us the solution happens in Nigeria, a situation that is not good, that hurts so much at Heart, I wonder why such a thing. Just a word my sister is a strong continuous fight is not loose

sylvie

Greengirl's picture

You are highly appreciated, Kika.

Dear Kika, I want you to know that you are highly appreciated. Yes, the situation the girls found themselves in is not good at all; and it very much hurts the heart. I borrowed the exact words you used because it portrays in very clear terms, what we all feel about the sad occurence. I strongly desire that those girls regain their freedom.

Many thanks to you for your motivating words of encouragement.

Best wishes,
Greengirl

This is what I also like my sister, I pray for them that they found freedom

sylvie

amymorros's picture

Hope

Thank you for writing so well about such an important topic and your experience as an activist and citizen journalist. It is true that here in the US the reports have trickled down to almost nothing as people's attention spans get shorter and shorter.
You are in Nigeria and your perspective is essential to understanding this situation and what is being done to get these girls back. I know that you and your colleagues will keep working for justice and accountability.

Amy
@amyinstl

Greengirl's picture

Hope must be kept alive!

Hello Amy, thank you so much for reading my written piece on the missing girls. I am glad that you consider it as an important topic, and one that is well written.

I must say that the outcry for the safe rescue of the girls has aso trickled down in Nigeria, and that leavesa much to be desired as regards the safe rescue of the girls. The world needs to stay united and determined to end acts that continue to threaten the safety and security of life and property.

I pray that all efforts targeted at rescuing the girls will not be in vain. We shall keep hope alive and continue to work for peace, justice, equity and accountability.

Thanks a great deal for reading and also reaching out with your empowering feed back.

Warm regards,
Greengirl

gracest's picture

Greengirl, I still remember

Greengirl,

I still remember your kind greeting to me when I first joined the World Pulse community last year. What a pleasure to revisit your own journal again.
Thank you for your extremely candid testimony-- you offer an inside account that is largely missing from the press. It serves as both a reminder that this is still an extremely urgent issue, and a reassurance that they are motivated, observant people locally who are continuing to speak out. Wishing you all my best in this effort, and in the justice of the universe to provide safety to these girls.

Your sister,
Grace

Greengirl's picture

Hugs to you Gracest!

I count it a privilege to have had the rare opportunity of welcoming you when you first joined the World Pulse community. I am delighted to read your words of support and encouragement. Thanks for navigating your way to my journal page. Aha! I sincerely appropriate you.

I am so glad to know that you read my piece and also found new information in it. Time and time again I am confronted with a realization that the situation cannot be wished away; and the earlier all affected, concerned and interested parties work out a timely solution to the tragedy, the better. Hope must be kept alive for the unfortunate girls, even as I dream of and hold unto my vision of a world that is safe and just for everyone.

Let's keep walking and talking and belive in the positive change we desire for our communities and the world at large.

Hugs,
Greeengirl

Tam's picture

We Continue to Watch

Dear Greengirl,

Thank you so much for continuing to keep us informed. We are all able to to continue to be vocal more strongly, being able to check for news from those of you who are right there. Your information is keeping global attention focussed. To know that such demonstrations continue to spring up is heartening. Many of us continue to light candles...and to speak up where we are.

A Big Hug,
Tam

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Tam!

It's nice to hear from you once again my senior friend. Your feed back is highly appreciated as it lends much support to the message projected in the post. I feel very privileged to have you listening and also encouraging me with your very kind words. Well, demonstrations over the issue of the missing girls has now been banned but we just must keep hope alive. it's now over hundred days since the very pathetic incidence of kidnap occurred and the whereabouts of the girls remains unknown.

As we all "continue to light candles and speak up where we are", my deepest prayer is that humanity comes to the place of embracing respect for human lives and peace.

Much love and respect,
Greengirl

Greengirl's picture

Thank you, Tam!

It's nice to hear from you once again my senior friend. Your feed back is highly appreciated as it lends much support to the message projected in the post. I feel very privileged to have you listening and also encouraging me with your very kind words. Well, demonstrations over the issue of the missing girls has now been banned but we just must keep hope alive. it's now over hundred days since the very pathetic incidence of kidnap occurred and the whereabouts of the girls remains unknown.

As we all "continue to light candles and speak up where we are", my deepest prayer is that humanity comes to the place of embracing respect for human lives and peace.

Much love and respect,
Greengirl

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