For a woman who has been front and center of the agitation to bring back the Chibok girls, it is ironic that the biggest breakthrough in that agitation so far happened when she was in far away California. It was 4am there when news of the release of 21 out of 218 girls got to her, and her joy was infectious even from all thousands of miles away.
Along with hundreds of others for 913 days, Obiageli Ezekwesili continued to put pressure on the Buhari administration to secure the release of the girls. The Bring Back Our Girls movement did not pay attention to those who either thought their demands were politically motivated or that the issue of the missing girls was a ‘scam’ altogether.
Those are the two groups of people most dramatically put to shame by the events of yesterday, but there is a third group, the most visible member of which is Olusegun Obasanjo.
This group believed that while the abduction really happened, and was unfortunate, they had given up hope that the Chibok Girls would ever return.
Back in February, Obasanjo said:
“The search for the abducted Chibok girls may not be fruitful. Nobody can bring back the girls because they are nowhere to be found.”
He rightly criticised the Jonathan administration for their slow response, but his view that the girls could not be located, and thus could not be brought back, was very wrong indeed.
Obasanjo implied that all the campaigning was for nothing, that everyone should pack up and go home. The BBOG and their supporters all around the country and the world refused to give up hope. They continued to demand and to insist that the government do all it can.
Not everyone has forgotten about his comments then, either.
While the celebrations about the return of the first batch of girls were ongoing, Femi Falana and Yinka Odumakin put OBJ ‘on blast’ yesterday. Odumakin said:
“Does anybody take Obasanjo serious again? It is clear that he goofed that time. He is not somebody to be trusted on his comment over the girls’ condition.”
Femi Falana also stuck the boot in as always:
“When the former President made that statement, I reacted by saying that all hope was not lost. I said that from all indications those girls are still alive. And that the government should intensify efforts to look for them,”
“We must commend the BBOG that have for the past three years staged daily protests to remind the government, even when the government believed that that organisation had become an embarrassment”.
“This is the greatest sacrifice that Nigerians have made in terms of reminding the government on a daily basis that these girls have to be brought back. The Bring Back Our Girls and other people were interested in the freedom of these girls and never lost interest at any time”
We are glad that the comrades of #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) did not allow the arrogant and flippant comments of Obasanjo and others to deter them. Because of them, we now have parents reunited with their children, and the Nigerian government that has been made to fulfill its mandate to those it leads, kicking and screaming.
No doubt about it: The BBOG movement have served as the conscience of Nigeria for the past 914 days, in a way no other group, before or since, has been able to. By speaking up for distraught and despairing parents, they have reminded us of our collective humanity, one we have sacrificed too often on the altar of either cold political calculation, or the sheer brutality that comes with living daily in a country like Nigeria.
The BBOG have broken through all that. Without violence and with the full force of moral authority, children who would have been deemed mere casualties of war, left to brutal terrorists, have been made a priority by their government.
In the process, they have shamed people like Olusegun Obasanjo.
There is hope for Nigeria yet.