'What if it were my younger sister’s things in the photo?' I asked as I saw photos of personal effects belonging to the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped from government secondary school Chibok on the 15th of April. The touching photos were compiled by a young American artist, Glenna Gordon with an aim to show the nature of these girls: their very delicate, easily impressionable frame of mind, and how they are at the mostly confusing phase just before the transition to adulthood.
The events that immediately followed the abductions should give everyone some insight as to the insincere rescue mission going on and is perhaps what informed the formation of the #BringBackOurGirls movement.
First, there was the miserable attempt by the Nigerian military to sell its citizens a false story as regards the immediate rescue of a majority of the Chibok girls, it did not take long for the people to uncover this story as the lie it was and that all girls were still in captivity but for about 50 who escaped by their own efforts. The military in swift response through one of its major generals in a press conference said that it acted on the information available to it at the time and apologized for deliberately misleading a grieving public.
With the presidency, it was silence. As is the strategy with ineffective governments, the Presidency in all its wisdom allowed rumors suggesting that the abductions were politically motivated circulate. Cleverly ignoring the fact that if it sincerely carried out its core function of ensuring security and fighting insurgency, the Boko haram insurgency might not have escalated to its current level. It is as though with these people who occupy high levels of governance, there is no sense of right and wrong, it is all about selfish interests and what spoils one man can gain from war.
It is in midst of all these confusion that the #BBOG movement was birthed by Hadiza Bala Usman and a crop of her influential friends with the single focus of sustaining pressure on the government till it rescues the Chibok girls. With this, they did not demand anything out of the ordinary: they simply asked that government fulfills the most basic of its responsibilities of providing security for its citizens, going on rescue missions and bringing back all who have been abducted. This as it turns out is both the blessing of this advocacy group and its curse: the grouse was first why a single focus campaign when numerous ills take place in Nigeria daily, many wondered why this platform could not spread its tentacles, tackle more issues, be more inclusive of other peoples grievances. What happens to this platform when these girls are brought back? Will it fold? Its leaders, were they being sincere in fighting for the return of these girls or championing some political agenda? When all that proved unsuccessful as a strategy for bringing down the group, an attack at the integrity of its leaders commenced. So far, that too has not stopped the group.
One thing certain of the #BBOG and the good people who participate in the advocacy is that they are all courageous, patriotic Nigerians who tragically might not achieve their aim of pressurizing the government till it rescues the abducted girls. On the other hand, one thing they have succeeded at though is keeping the issue on the fore front of discourse and they might have to accept this as far as their success can go.
I have always found consolation in the truth of these words and they are apt with the Bring Back Our Girls movement: it is true that sometimes we ask and we do not get the appropriate response, but it is also true that if we do not ask, we certainly do not get any sort of response. This is why I am a #BBOG member: this is why I will stay with the cause until the platform ceases to exist, because it really is about asking the right set of questions. It is about a group of people asking a relatively passive government to rise to its responsibilities of protecting a citizenry and ultimately #BringBackOurGirls. It is about a group of concerned citizens demanding #ResultsFromTheRescueOperation and one pledging not to stop #UntilOurGirlsAreBackAndAlive, a pledge that with time has proved much more of a commitment than we all bargained for.