It has taken 913 days, countless protests and sit-outs at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, several marches to the gates of Aso Villa, a vast number of tweets, uncountable tears, lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth, confrontation with government officials online and offline; scolding, berating, exhorting, and vowing never to give up.
But it has happened. We finally have a significant number of Chibok Girls going back to their families, with 21 released out of 218. Final confirmation is required from the BBOG movement before celebrations commence, because the Nigerian Army is not an institution that has covered itself in glory in recent times. During the Jonathan administration, there were reports that the girls had been released, but those reports proved false.
Now, every single parent of a Chibok Girl will pray it is their child that is being released. For those who will be disappointed, they must now draw hope from the joy of the others, and stand strong in the belief that soon, they will also be reunited with their children again.
Once confirmed, it is obvious that the 21 girls returning to their parents are not the same girls they were 913 days ago, and neither are their parents. Those 21 parents and families will feel like they have won the lottery. There will be no words to describe the emotions. What the girls have gone through in captivity is indescribable, especially at such a young age. They have been exposed to the activities of brutal terrorists, and seen things they can never erase from their minds.
What must happen now is for the process of their rehabilitation to begin in earnest, and for them to work with qualified psychologists who can assess the extent of psychic damage to the girls, and advise their parents on the steps to take going forward. It is vitally important that the Chibok Girls are not failed in freedom the way they were failed in captivity.
And we must not forget – even though with the BBOG movement, we are certain no one will, ever – 197 girls remain to be released. It is expected that the BBOG movement, having seen their efforts over the last 913 days finally bear fruit, will draw even more strength to see it through to the end. They have endured scorn from more than a few people, been told their movement is a ‘scam’, that their motives are political.
They have gotten the cold shoulder from an administration that made an explicit promise to see the girls returned. None of that matters now. All of that will fade away, for the moment, and the tears will flow when families are reunited.
For a short time, they will accept the accolades of many for staying true to their position. All of those accolades will be richly deserved.
Shortly after, they will wipe the tears of joy, and again assume the toga of agitation for the release of the remaining 197 girls. Their cry will be the same: ‘Bring Back Our Girls, Now and Alive!’.