Fu’ad Lawal profiles Bukky Shonibare: The placard woman who makes sure we never forget (Y!/YNaija Person of the Year 2016 Nominee)

It’s a new day. Take a deep breath. Think about the Chibok girls that have gone. Think about all those who have returned. Think about their trauma. Give it an extra moment. Let it sink in.

Now, grab your marker. Change the date on the cardboard; the one you’ve used as a counter for how long the girls have been gone. Raise the cardboard to your chest. Take a photo. Share it everywhere so no one ever forgets that some girls have been taken against their will for almost three years.

This is the Bukky Shonibare we know; the Placard Woman, who helps us remember every day, against all odds that schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from Chibok.
The girls were kidnapped from Chibok in April 2014, but it wasn’t until November 12 that Bukky made it a daily goal to make sure the girls are never forgotten.

In sickness and in health, in happiness and utter sadness, Bukky shows up every single day to remind us of them, no matter where she is.

While being a strong advocate of the BringBackOurGirls movement, she also has several humanitarian projects she works on to make sure other victims of the insurgency still have things to live for. She’s almost always working on making the life of the girl child better with her Girl Child Africa Project, or helping kids in IDP camps get an education with her Adopt-A-Camp project.

The first time I spoke to her, it was over the phone, for over an hour. That night, I met the Bukky we don’t know. It was supposed to be a Pulse.ng conversation about the Northeast and the recently released girls, but when you speak from the heart, the conversation quickly splatters to the other corners of the heart, to comb out the things it truly cares about.

You see, Bukky always wanted to be a lawyer, but being the firstborn child came with responsibilities like putting younger ones through school. That dream was put on hold. She literally had to hustle through school because her parents could barely afford it. Perhaps, this is where the empathy for the girls comes from.

She didn’t get her first BSc until 2015, but she didn’t stop there. That degree was in Business Administration, but the true dream is Law. Bukky is currently studying Law, and her strongest interest is Humanitarian Law for the obvious reasons. She has no plans of stopping till she gets that PhD in Law. That Law degree, she believes, will help her serve the humanitarian course in the distant future. It’s for this reason that she juggled a Masters in Peace and Security, while she was starting out her Law degree. Incredible accomplishments in unbelievable time.

The most amazing part is that Bukky is 35. In a country where nightmares are served for free, Bukky is fighting for her dreams at any cost. She is also dedicating her life to making sure others can dream too. She is saying with her limbs, and with her heart, that it’s never too late to be anything you want to be.

Why does Bukky deserve to be Person Of The Year? It is because she is really just an ordinary person. She’s not an entertainer who can fill out a stadium in minutes. She’s not royalty who has enough servants to make sure she never lifts a finger. With her little, she does great things. Her ordinariness tells us that yes, greatness is accessible to everyone.
It is safe to say that her reminders, along with the advocacy of her comrades are priceless.
For a nation with a culture of forgetting, she helps us remember.

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