By Joachim MacEbong
For 879 days, the Bring Back Our Girls movement has pushed and pushed and pushed for the release of the Chibok Girls. In the early days, the movement was dismissed as a scam, an attempt to rubbish the Jonathan administration, and they were treated as such.
Their daily sit-outs were disrupted by Pro-Jonathan protesters, and in June 2014 they were banned from protesting altogether by then Commissioner of Police in the FCT, Joseph Mbu.
The excuse given for the ban was this:
“Information reaching us is that too soon dangerous elements will join the groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosive aimed at embarrassing the government”.
WE CRIED #BringBackOurGirls! They sent Mbu to assault us; thugs to beat us up&an ogar to malign us. WE ENDURED 4 the sake of our 219 Girls.
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) April 25, 2015
As if it was not enough embarrassment that over 200 vulnerable children were taken away by murderous terrorists, while the Nigerian state simply folded its arms and denied their existence.
This behaviour cost the Jonathan administration a lot of goodwill, and the opposition capitalised on it, saying that the girls would be returned with a change of government.
469 days after that change of government, the girls are still missing, and the BBOG movement have refused to give up on them.
They recently ramped up the pressure with a new round of protests, and now it is clear that the tolerance of this administration for their doggedness is at an end.
This can be seen in the disposition of the police toward the protestersunder the new Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris.
I don't really understand why Police is now taking guard at the Unity Fountain where the BBOG has always met. Very very wrong move
— Abubakar Sidiq Usman (@MrAbuSidiq) September 8, 2016
samething mbu did and they called for his head.
— Olatunde (@oluwa_tunde) September 8, 2016
I just passed there. About 4 vans full of Police waiting for harmless protesters. https://t.co/jx1yDuDREU
— Ahmed Rufai Isah (@AhmedRufaii) September 8, 2016
When the National President of the National Council of Women Societies and other executive members visited him at the Force headquarters, Idris had finally had enough:
The #BringBackOurGirls protagonists must understand that in the exercise of their rights, they must not trample on other peoples’ rights through over-dramatisation of emotions, self-serving propaganda and disrespect of public (office) holders.
The police will not sit on the fence and watch such a scenario unfold. The rights of law-abiding citizens must be protected within the context of the law. Enough is enough. We however ask that they tread with caution and that their grievances be channelled within the ambit of the law.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? A citizen has the legal right to protest. The BBOG protesters ARE acting within the law when they protest peacefully demanding the return of Nigerian citizens. What would Idris’ disposition be if his own child were kidnapped? Would he want to be accused of ‘over-dramatisation’? Or would he accuse his wife of a similar ‘offence’?
Like Joseph Mbu before him, he probably thinks that what he is doing is in the best interests of the man who hired him and approved the retirement of several of his seniors in the force. He is ready to go to any length to show his gratitude.
Ironically, Mbu was one of those seniors of Ibrahim Idris who was retired to make space for the new IG, and is now used only as a reference point for how not to be a police officer. Now, Ibrahim Idris has applied himself to the very same task Mbu did: to be a willing tool in the hands of those who want to silence the peaceful protest of citizens.
Needless to say, this irony is utterly lost on the Inspector General.
Time and again, we are confronted with the Nigerian state’s casual disregard for human life. A disregard that is only interrupted by violence. That is the only thing the Nigerian government appears to understand. When faced with unarmed and defenceless men and women, however, the Nigeria state is at its brutal and callous best, standing magnificently in snarling contempt at those it is supposed to serve.
The Nigerian state is a beast that eats its young, then turns deaf ears as their mothers and fathers demand justice. Ibrahim Idris is just the latest head on this beast. A head that will be gone sooner or later, to be replaced by another. The head changes. The beast remains the same.
For 879 days, the BBOG movement has chosen to confront this beast, to unmask it and show it for what it is. Beyond the platitudes being mouthed, beyond the forced politeness, they have forced us to stare into the abyss.
Yes, Ibrahim Idris. Enough is indeed enough. Enough is enough of your callousness. Enough is enough of your brutality. No matter how long it takes, the beast you represent will be slain, and all those who do its bidding, like you, will be confined to the rubbish heap.
No matter how long it takes.