Ever since the abduction of 287 schoolgirls from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok in April 2014, the group Bring Back Our Girls has emerged as a pressure group to sustain pressure on the Federal Government to not relent in efforts to rescue the girls.
The constant embarrassment they caused the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan created more than a few enemies among members and supporters of the administration. At the same time, it endeared them to those who were not enamored with the administration and opposition politicians – so much that the then opposition All Progressives’ Congress (APC) gaffed in calling it its appendage.
Now the tables have turned – the APC is now the party at the centre and those formerly in government are now in the opposition, but BBOG has not relented in pressuring the Federal Government and keeping the issue of the Chibok girls.
However, the APC-led Federal Government and its supporters have not learnt from the mistakes of its predecessors – rather than seek ways to interact better with the group, it has resorted to name-calling, such as this one calling the group “socio-advocacy terrorists” or this run-in with the same group at a protest march.
It has become common to see protests held in support of the government and condemning the group, and some of their previous biggest cheerleaders on social media have turned around to criticize or even attack the group. These are tactics very reminiscent of the previous administration and how it related to the group.
Although the government continues to insist that they are on the same side as the group and they have smartly stayed away from making negative statements about the group, it is evident that they have proxies acting for them.
The government needs to be reminded that the BBOG group is acting within its constitutional rights to protest and to demand that the government lives up to its responsibility and mandate to protect lives and properties of Nigerians and people resident in the country.
It should also be reminded that nowhere has a government taken on a group of unarmed, law-abiding citizens and not be seen as a bully. The former administration tried that and it did not augur well for it and that should be lesson enough for this present administration.
Like the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed admitted, there are glaring information gaps between the government and the citizens, which members of the BBOG group are. These gaps need urgent bridging.
Even if the government does not agree with the criticisms of the group or it believes they are unwarranted, it should still make a genuine effort to engage with them and inform them of the progress they have made in rescuing the missing girls.
Lastly, the government must call off all its proxy attacks on the groups, whether by the police or by sycophantic political support groups. It must allow the BBOG to exercise its constitutional right to freedom of expression and of lawful assembly. Any other attempt to not do so amounts to bullying and should not be seen in a democratic country.
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