Somewhere in the jungles of Sambissa over 200 girls have remained hostages to a violent Islamist group, forcefully converted to Islam and awaiting their end which could be freedom, or life as a slave wife to a radical insurgent. Somewhere else, in heart of Abuja, a growing group of Nigerian teenagers have become excited at the increased levels of interaction a united cause has inspired in them.
Reporters, journalists, bloggers, artists, writers, photojournalists, IT and media junkies have met, exchanged ideas, and communicated to the world a true picture of the horrors associated with living in present day Nigeria.
Their cause, the safe return of 234 Nigerian girls abducted from a remote village known as Chibok in the Northern-eastern region of Nigeria, their weapon, Social Media platforms. This new generation of Nigerians have not just stunned the world by creating global awareness over some social injustice. Going a little beyond that, they have also managed to change the dynamics of political interaction at the local level.
Powered by the almost never ending energy of a female leader, Obiageli Ezekwesili who has served as a Federal Minister of Solid Minerals and Education and is also a co-founder of Transparency International, this group has chanted solidarity songs dressed in red t-shirts and marched to the workplaces and houses of senior government officials demanding answers, and demanding change.
The response by the government has largely remained denial, neglect and at some lengths intimidation. Some senior government officials have worked hard to brand these change agents as members of the opposition group, if it wasn’t for the goal-driven, organized and ethical approach the group has maintained others would clearly prefer selective arrests and the use of force.
Unlike the use of forced rhetoric by visiting political office holders who come to the Unity fountain occasionally when the need arrives for some publicity, this group has maintained an open platform that allows for discussion at every level. The debates pitch angles against angles and counter points for points and in over 30days since it has begun its sitting at the Unity Fountain in the heart of Abuja, no other voice has taken a louder position than its regular mandate, to #BringBackOurGirls.
Do you think that this group is an opposition movement? Do you think it is an elaborate façade for foreign invasion? Do you have doubts about the intentions of those spearheading the movement? If you do, come around, speak to a Chibok mother, have a conversation with a Chibok child, contribute your ideas and know with a certainty what the group stands for.
For me, the #BringBackOurGirls movement has embraced and brought together people from different walks of life, professionals and public officers, civilians and security operatives, the young, the old, Christians as well as Muslims. It is a reflection of the image that will become Nigeria.
It is a long trip from Maiduguri to Abuja, and a longer journey from where we are in Nigeria and were we can exist comfortably. Nonetheless, the #BringBackOurGirls movement is the beginning of what will no doubt become a movement for a better life for Nigerians, a template for future engagements and most importantly, a catalyst for change.