The story of almost 300 of our girls being abducted by a bloodthirsty and diabolical bunch of criminals has gripped the Nigerian public and the world at large for the past couple of weeks. From Nigerians in the country and all over the world to global heads of states, celebrities, citizens of every nation and every station, there has been one collective echo and that echo screams a demand to #BringBackOurGirls.
When we embarked on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in the streets, in our media and online some weeks ago, many of us didn’t anticipate the kind of emotions it was going to enkindle: the local and international awareness and outrage it is generating and the offer of assistance from the international community. We just acted out of a sheer desperation and frustration.
It’s been a long time since we have been overwhelmed or seen anything like this before, as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign had even eclipsed the World Economic Forum which was held in Nigeria. The “Occupy Nigeria” protest came close, but it was not the magnitude of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. With various peaceful protest marches nationwide and in different countries around the world, demanding the rescue of the 276 abducted Chibok girls, the persistence, optimism, resilience and never-say-die stance in generating awareness and seeking to compel the government to make decisive efforts in rescuing and bringing back our girls home, safe and sound, does not seem to be waning.
It was the initial long-winded and offhand reaction of the authorities that gave way to a wave of press and online coverage — a combination of anguish, empathy and criticism of the government’s response. The result was…; “a result!” At last, there was global pressure for our authorities to act accordingly and direct international assistance to enable them to do so. As all the international forces began to assemble in order to commence the rescue mission for our girls, something unprecedented happened: the ghastly group got nervous and presented the government with a proposition, “your girls in exchange for our incarcerated brethren…!”
Even though the audacity and effrontery of such a brazen suggestion from a marauding, murdering, piece of dung lunatic beggars belief, every single spectator was relieved to see that our girls were together and were possibly a step closer to returning home safely.
While there have been various commentaries, press conferences, media and online reports of conspiracy theories concerning the abduction of the girls, trivializing, ethicizing and politicizing the Chibok tragedy, all discerning Nigerians must not lose focus on the crux of the Chibok tragedy, which is the irrefutable fact that about 276 teenage girls were kidnapped and are still missing from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State.
When I think about my daughters and how much I adore them and put their wellbeing and safety ahead of mine, I cannot imagine the devastating and shattering agony the parents of these young girls are going through. To have a child that one has loved and nurtured as a baby up to the point where they are about to sit their final exams of Secondary School, abducted, stolen and yanked by crazy, misguided, drug addicted, no good, lower than low delinquents must be nothing short of torture. Honestly, with the depth of uselessness and impunity that we have witnessed in this nation, the abduction of these girls marks a new low… even for us.
The display of some of our girls on the video footage released earlier this week left a bitter-sweet feeling for many. Bitter- because our girls are still not back home and we don’t know when and in what circumstance they will be brought back. Sweet- because, for the first time since this terror started, we saw the vast majority of them intact in one location.
These young ladies have become an extension of each and every one of us that has grown to regard, love and care for them over the last several weeks. And even though it took a while for us to lend ourselves to the shocking reality of their abduction, as their names, then their faces eventually became revealed, any degree of separation that existed for any reasonable and right minded person has now been inextricably fused.
As one looks at their faces in the eerie video release and looks past the fear and sadness in their eyes, one can only contemplate the day they will be back home. The connection one has formed with these girls is undisputable. We have prayed for them and struggled for them, cared and adored them like our very own daughters.
To us, they were once just ‘our girls.’ Then we were given their names. Now we can see some of their faces. And even with their names and their faces, they still remain ‘our girls.’ Each one of our girls has her individual dreams, desires and ambitions. It was their commitment to the pursuit of those dreams that led them to a place and time where they would be so atrociously violated by being abducted in such a brutal manner.
Each one of our girls must be given an opportunity to be our future, to be our hope and to be our aspirations. Amongst them is Safiya Abdu. Perhaps she has a dream of becoming like one of her role models, Joyce Banda (president of Malawi), Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (president of Liberia), or the late Magaret Thatcher (former prime minister of the UK).
Also abducted is Esther Usman. She may possibly be nursing the dream of becoming an environmental conservationist and women’s rights activist like the late Kenyan and Nobel Peace prize winner, Wangari Maathai, or the Grammy Award–winning Beninise songwriter and activist, Angelique Kidjo, or Fatou Bensouda, the Gambian lawyer and International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor.
Maryamu Yakubu is also one of our girls. Perhaps she has a dream of becoming or even surpassing the likes of the renowned Nigerian female author, Chimamanda Adichie, or the brilliant, kind hearted and genius chattered accountant, Obiageli Ezekwesili (co-founder of Transparency International, former VP of the World Bank’s Africa Division), or Justice Aloma Mukhtar, first female chief justice of Nigeria.
Hauwa Balti is also one of our abducted daughters. Perchance, her dream is to become a doctor, a lawyer or an entrepreneur, a fashion designer or a nurse. Then there’s Blessing Abana who is also another of our daughters. Possibly, her dream is to become a teacher, a lecturer or a professor. Perhaps her dream is to become a parliamentarian, a musician or an academic.
What about Zara Ishaku, who can go ahead and fulfil the dream of becoming the best wife and best mother she can be. She could possibly be the mother of a future Nigerian President or Secretary General of OPEC, the United Nations or President of the World Bank. Perhaps she will be the strong woman to stand behind a husband who will unite and bring peace and harmony to the shores of Africa.
Then, there’s a possibility of Rahila Yahanna growing into a fine scientist and finding the cure of cancer, hepatitis and other diseases if only she’s given the chance to learn.
And there is my very own name sake, Hanatu Musa, who, like me, may one day become a lawyer, writer and mother. She may one day hear and head the call for help of young girls that may come after her in the same way that I hear her call now.
So many faces, so many dreams continue to haunt us and we can only imagine the stolen dreams of our girls. The stolen dreams of; Fatima Tabji, Eli Joseph, Hauwa Isuwa, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha Silas, Ladi Joel, Deborah Peter, Lydia Habila, Laraba Yahonna, Na’omi Bitrus, Ruth Lawan, Ladi Paul, Mary Paul, Esther Joshua, Helen Musa, Deborah Abge, Awa Abge, Hauwa Yirma, Aishatu Musa, Aishatu Grema, Hauwa Nkeki, Asabe Manu, Mwa Malam pogu, Patiant Dzakwa, Saraya Mal. Stover, Mary Dauda, Gloria Mainta, Hanatu Ishaku, Gloria Dama, Tabitha Pogu, Maifa Dama, Ruth kollo, Esther Usman, Awa James, Anthonia Yahonna, Kume Mutah, Aisha Ezekial, Nguba Buba, Kwanta Simon, Kummai Aboku, Esther Markus, Hana Stephen, Rifkatu Amos, Rebecca Mallum, Blessing Abana, Ladi Wadai, Tabitha Hyelampa, Ruth Ngladar, Safiya Abdu, Na’omi Yahonna, Solomi Titus, Rhoda John, Rebecca Kabu, Christy Yahi, Rebecca Luka, Laraba John, Saratu Markus, Mary Usman, Debora Yahonna, Naomi Zakaria, Hauwa Tella, Juliana Yakubu, Suzana Yakubu, Saraya Paul, Jummai Paul, Mary Sule, Jummai John,Yanke Shittima, Muli Waligam, Fatima Tabji, Eli Joseph, Saratu Emmanuel, Deborah Peter, Rahila Bitrus, Luggwa Sanda, Kauna Lalai, Lydia Emmar, Laraba Maman, Hauwa Isuwa, Confort Habila, Hauwa Abdu Hauwa Balti, Yana Joshua, Laraba Paul, Saraya Amos, Glory Yaga, Na’omi Bitrus, Godiya Bitrus, Awa Bitrus, Na’omi Luka, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha Silas, Mary Yahona, Ladi Joel, Rejoice Sanki, Luggwa Samuel, Comfort Amos, Saraya Samuel, Sicker Abdul, Talata Daniel, Rejoice Musa, Deborah Abari, Salomi Pogu, Mary Amor, Ruth Joshua, Esther John, Esther Ayuba, Maryamu Yakubu, Zara Ishaku, Maryamu Wavi, Lydia Habila, Laraba Yahonna, Na’omi Bitrus, Rahila Yahanna, Ruth Lawan, Ladi Paul, Mary Paul, Esther Joshua, Helen Musa, Margret Watsai, Deborah Jafaru, Filo Dauda, Febi Haruna, Ruth Ishaku, Racheal Nkeki, Rifkatu Soloman, Mairama yahaya, Saratu Dauda, Jinkai Yama, Margret Shettima, Yana yidau, Grace Paul, Amina Ali, Palmata Musa, Awagana Musa, Pindar Nuhu, Yana Pogu, Saraya Musa, Hauwa Joseph, Hauwa kwakwi, Hauwa Musa, Maryamu Musa, Maimuna Usman, Rebeca Joseph, Liyatu Habitu, Rifkatu Yakubu, Naomi Philimon, Deborah Abbas, Ladi Ibrahim, Asabe Ali, Maryamu Bulama, Ruth Amos, Mary Ali, Abigail Bukar, Deborah Amos, Hamsatu Abubakar, , Mairama Abubakar, Hauwa Wule, Ihyi Abdu, Hasana Adamu, Saraya Yanga, Kauna Luka, Christiana Bitrus, Yana Bukar, Hauwa peter, Hadiza Yakubu, Lydia Simon, Ruth Bitrus, Mary Yakubu, Lugwa Mutah, Muwa Daniel, Hanatu Nuhu, Monica Enoch, Margret Yama, Docas yakubu, Rhoda peter, Rifkatu Galang, Saratu Ayuba, Naomi Adamu, Rakiya Kwamtah, Halima Gamba, Aisha Lawan, Kabu Malla, Yayi Abana, Falta Lawan, Kwadugu Manu, Hauwa Ishaya, Rahap Ibrahim, Deborah Soloman, Hauwa Mutah, Hauwa Takai Serah Samuel. The stolen dreams of so many other children that have been abducted in the same way that our girls were.
The social media and general campaign for prompt action concerning the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls has been of immeasurable usefulness. We shouldn’t relent in our support efforts to #BringBackOurGirls alive. We each have a duty and responsibility to make sure the abducted Chibok girls are not forgotten.
Hopefully this abduction is the beginning of the end of the terror we have been threatened with in the last several years. Our collective and continuous efforts via the online, print and media campaigns and peaceful protest marches must continue in the hope that it will help give us some respite and ensure that they #BringBackOurGirls.
This case has touched Nigeria in a way that we have not experienced in this generation. It has forced us to realize the beauty of our humanity, the will for harmony and the spirit to ‘be our brother’s keeper,’ that Nnamdi Azikwe, Anthony Enahoro, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and many of their brilliant and brave colleagues once saw in this mish-mash of sorts that identifies us.
Two weeks ago, I was ashamed to call myself a Nigerian. But today as I watch Nigerians of every tribe, region, religion, generation and of all demographics on the television and online stand up and speak for our daughters with one, strong, solid voice, I stand tall and proud. And I continue to heed the clarion call and remain steadfast in shouting out… “#BRINGBACKOURGIRLS!!!!”
Ms. Musawa, an attorney and human rights advocate, writes a syndicated column for Premium Times. kindly follow her @hanneymusawa