A few weeks back I was speaking at a conference in Denmark. I asked the audience whether anyone had heard about the girls that were kidnapped in Northern Nigeria. Only one person put up his hand. If I went back there today and asked the same question I believe every single person in the room would put up their hand. In fact I believe that the same would apply to an audience anywhere in the world
I believe that the current awareness is largely due to the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag activism; the rallies; and the resultant global media focus and coverage of the abomination that took place on the night of the 14th of April when well over 200 girls were kidnapped by the militant group – Boko Haram.
So now the world has heard and people on a global basis from school children to celebrities, politicians, business people and just general everyday people are saying – “Bring Back Our Girls” This has worked to the extent that it has brought global attention to the situation. It led the global media to focus in on the situation, to go to Nigeria ask questions of the previously silent Nigerian government. It has led foreign governments to openly offer support and follow up by providing some support (even though I’m not really clear on what the support is and the impact that it is having). I believe it led Boko Haram to release a video showing girls believed to be the girls captured. It has led to meetings of interested parties, inclusive of meeting of Nigerian officials and neighbouring countries in France.
However, at this point I find myself asking where are we now and what happens next? I believe that John Simpson of the BBC provided a good analysis of the situation on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the 18th May. Ref: http://youtu.be/u8H96KCn32A (from 9.20 minutes). He concludes his analysis by saying that the best thing is to negotiate for the girls’ release.
I tend to agree with him, especially when cognisance is given to the fact that within the last week and in spite of all the attention there have been bombings in two major cities (Kano and Jos) leading to the killing 100s of people. This to me clearly demonstrates that the Nigerian government no longer has an effective military; is not effectively deploying the military and/or has no control over the military.
Furthermore, when President Goodluck Jonathan went to France for talks, all I heard was what sounded like medium term plans. What about the immediate issue of the girls? Now I’ll also add, what about something to at least try and ensure the more immediate security of the people within the country. In addition to the further bombings that I’ve mentioned, I understand that Boko Haram are threatening to kidnap more girls.
I’m not really hearing the government addressing these issues. You may say suggest that perhaps this is because I don’t live in Nigeria – this is true, however, no one that I know based in Nigeria is talking about the governments plans or actions.
It also seems to me that the global media presence in Nigeria is understandably dwindling – there are other events and areas of the world that they need to cover. They are therefore not present to raise the questions with the Government, as they were a couple of weeks back. I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes, however the only people that I see still asking direct questions are Women’s leaders such as Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin of Campaign for Democracy of Women Arise that plan to go round the country over a 14 day period holding rallies ending up in Chibok. Whilst doing this they are demanding that the Government answers questions and acts to get the girls released. Campaign for Democracy is Nigeria’s first human rights organization which was formed way back in the early 1990s. I believe that it is credible and well intentioned. (Read Dr Joe’s full profile on facebook as per the link)
I also believe that if the Bring Back Our Girls campaign – hash tag and rallies are to continue and have any real impact going forward they work in conjunction with Campaign for Democracy and/or any other such well established group asking questions and demanding answers.
I’m conscious that a key #BringBackOurGirl campaigner, Oby Ezekwesili continues to lead rallies in the capital Abuja. I’ve noticed that Dr Joe (@DrJoeOdumakin) and Oby (@obyezeks) follow each other on twitter – I hope they are or can begin to work together in solidarity. The Nigerian Union of Teachers has also held at least one demonstration. I also hope that they can/are working together with the key campaigners.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of their approaches or what they say, but it’s not about that. When I was a School Governor we at times had long debates on issues, then would stop us with remarks – how does what we are discussing affect the students? What is in their best interest? As we all had the students’ best interest at heart we would ultimately be able to come to some agreement. I believe the same applies even more under these circumstances – if everything who declares an interest truly has the best interest of the girls at heart, then they must be a way of uniting for the best possible outcome.
You see it’s no longer about awareness, we are all now aware. At this stage it’s only a united effort behind such campaigners that can bring about results. If the campaign is not taken to a more strategic level, Boko Haram will go ahead with their threat to kidnap more girls as the Nigerian government and the rest of us watch in horror. The world has said Bring Back Our Girls – not the Girls or the Nigerians girls, but our girls. If we truly believe that they are ours – then I believe this is a must.
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