This Movement initiated by the brave people of Chibok and amplified by concerned voices round the world is creating a new path for ordinary citizens and civil society activists to create a new Nigeria. As the World joins Nigerians in making accountability demands on our government, we thank them for the solidarity and reaffirm our struggle for democracy and the rule of law.

Since the abduction of the Chibok girls, the BringBackOurGirls Movement, Nigerians, Nigeriens, Cameroonians and Chadians as direct victims and survivors, but also the whole world, have been in angst at this terrible act. Even more important, the struggle has been on to get freedom for them and all others who have been in bondage. I checked my file and wept when I saw the report below which I wrote three days after the abduction.

Day Three and the Need to End Slavery

The #BringBackOurGirls rally in Abuja this afternoon was exceptional. The former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Aliyu Modobbo, in his solidarity message, articulated a point that is in many people’s mind clearly. There is a concerted attempt to re-introduce slavery into Nigeria and we must all come out and struggle against this.

The most poignant message was from the senator for Borno South, Mohammed Ali Ndume. He explained that he had been falsely accused of being a financer of Boko Haram. He came with two of his immediate junior sisters, both of who are Christians. He added that their mother died as the regional women’s leader of the COCIN Church. His family is equally divided between Christians and Muslims, so how could he sponsor a group that is trying to kill his own mother and sisters. He also came with his wife, whose senior brother had been killed by the terrorists. Terrorism, he explained has no religion or tribe, they are criminals out to kill.

He congratulated the organisers of the rally for giving hope, not only to his senatorial district which has been suffering so much from terrorism but to all Nigerians – that terrorism can be combated. Precisely because of this, we must resist the trivialisation and tribalisation of the phenomenon by certain forces. He added that in his area, the civilian JTF has been more effective that the security agencies in resisting the insurgency. Finally, he informed the rally that as at today, the census has been done, 276 girls remain missing, while 53 have escaped from their captors and returned.

The rally took the following decisions today:

1) On Tuesday, the Movement will march to the office of the minister of defence and that of the chief of defence staff to brief them on our concerns and seek a detailed briefing on the state of field operations;
2) The Movement noted the decision of government to close schools and government officers next week and concluded that the move should be understood as the creation of an opportunity for students and workers to be free from normal duties to join the #BringBackOurGirls rallies and marches. All are invited to take this opportunity offered by government to join the Movement;
3) The four task forces established by the Movement – mobilisation and outreach, resources, media and communications, and legal, met and drew up their detailed plans of action to achieve the set objectives;
4) Finally, the Movement leaders and volunteers called on all workers and students in the FCT to accept government closure of schools and offices so that they could come out and join the struggle. The Movement reconvenes tomorrow, 3 p.m. at Unity Fountain, Abuja. DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN. COME ONE, COME ALL.

And the struggle continued. Thirty days after the abduction, I wrote the following report of the 30th Day Rally held at ThisDay Dome on May 15, 2014:

The Abuja #BringBackOurGirls Movement concluded its rally on the 30th day after the abduction of the Chibok girls at 12:30 a.m. this morning. We are now in the second month and our government and armed forces have still not brought our girls back. And this is the point about our movement; as citizens we demand that our government carries out its constitutional responsibility of providing for the welfare and security of Nigerians. We now know they are not doing that and we have decided they must become accountable and carry out their constitutional tasks. We the citizens of this country have resolved that we will not allow them to do nothing. WITH CHIBOK, THE EPOCH OF CIVIC CONSCIOUSNESS HAS COMMENCED.

In our review of the Movement, two things stood out. The Movement emerged and grew into a world movement because people learnt through the social media that 273 Nigerian girls were abducted by armed terrorists for the purpose of turning them into slaves and for weeks the Nigerian government did nothing. The social media buzz grew into a movement when the members of this small, hitherto unknown community marched on the National Assembly demanding that competent Nigerian authorities #BringBackOurGirls now and alive. And then, a young Nigerian woman, Hadiza Bala Usman organised a march the following day to say the same thing, all Nigerian women, and even men, want these girls back and alive now.

The message most participants repeated again and again is that we are all united – across ethnic, religious and political divides – with one message; our state exists to provide for our security so it should do its work and rescue the girls immediately. It was befitting that members of the Chibok community participating in the rally all concurred that following the emergence of the movement, they now all have confidence that the Nigerian people, expressing themselves through the movement have created hope and a unity of purpose that in the emerging Nigeria, we can all have confidence in our adage of unity in diversity. They pointed out that leading members of the Nigerian ruling class told the world that the abduction was a false story but the Movement believed their story was indeed true and today, the whole world has seen photos of some of the girls.

The rally commended the brave citizens of Chibok who were intimidated by the Nigerian State to shut up on the tragedy that befell them so as not to embarrass the president but they stood up to say we must demand for the State to #BringBackOurGirls. When therefore the armed forces declared, a day after the abduction, that the girls had been found, it was the Chibok community that came out to say it was a lie, and immediately after, the security agencies confessed that it was indeed a lie that they told the world. When the First Lady of the country harassed and got a member of the community arrested for telling the world their story, the community defended her and the truth, in spite of threats. The Chibok community has taught Nigeria a lesson on the importance of civic consciousness and telling the truth to power. We salute their courage and civic consciousness.

The rally expressed its commendations to the Chibok community for their civic consciousness, which awoke the world. Their story has so far elicited three million tweets and has trended in fifty cities around the world. In so doing, the elements of civic consciousness awoken among Nigerians are as follows:

1) If the State does not carry out its constitutional responsibilities, citizens must come out and make demands and force it to act;
2) Citizens must always monitor what the State is doing or not doing and commend or reprimand it as the case may be;
3) Democratic accountability mechanisms only work if citizens make demands and monitor and react to responses to their demands.
4) The #BringBackOurGirms Movement is growing into a mass movement that is uniting Nigeria on the basis of citizens compelling government to carry out its responsibility;
5) Let’s all work harder to make the Movement stronger and more accountable.

This Movement initiated by the brave people of Chibok and amplified by concerned voices round the world is creating a new path for ordinary citizens and civil society activists to create a new Nigeria. As the World joins Nigerians in making accountability demands on our government, we thank them for the solidarity and reaffirm our struggle for democracy and the rule of law. Long-live Nigeria as it strives for democratic accountability.

Today, five years later, many of the girls remain in bondage. What else can I say but – THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.