AT the beginning of the week, Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, on Monday, April 10, embarked on a one-man march to the Presidential Villa in Abuja in solidarity with the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement.
Covered in rings and necklaces the sexagenarian grandfather who presented himself as a one –man spectacle bore a single placard reading #3yearstoolong; #nomoreexcuses #BRINGBACKOURGIRLSNOW.
He cut a lonesome picture. On account of various factors, the size of the #bringbackourgirls movement has continued to wane, until it has now become a mere trickle.
While numerous Western commentators have continued to lend their voice to the movement including A list Hollywood actors, new Daily Show host Trevor Noah and former FLOTUS Michelle Obama. It is not clear how this flurry of attention has helped in this recovery of the Chibok girls.
Fame without good fortune: Writing in PRI, Nigerian writer Tricia Nwaubani, argues that fame is now the greatest obstacle between the Chibok girls and a normal life after captivity.
“In May 2016, Amina Ali Nkeki, the first of the missing Chibok girls to be seen after over two years, was rescued by the Nigerian military. She was flown VIP-style, by helicopter, to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja. The international media was invited to the ceremony. In October, 21 Chibok girls were freed by Boko Haram in a deal brokered by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They were also feted in Abuja.
Subsequently, two more Chibok girls were found by the military. But months after the cameras were turned off and the curtains drawn, the girls remain in government custody. Thanks to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, so famous are the girls that the Nigerian military says it cannot guarantee their safety if they go home.”
A conspiracy of silence?
Back home though, the various #bringbackourgirls groups, gearing up for what is expected to be the mother of all protests Friday, decry government’s silence on the matter. Year after year, the Ministry for Women Affairs has failed to issue an official statement detailing its position on the issue. While Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo plans a visit to Borno in commemoration of April 14, the executive arm of government has been mostly quiet.
Decrying this to WO, one of the most tenacious leaders of the #bringbackourgirls movement, Buki Sonibare, bemoans the breakdown in communication. “One of the things we started asking for right from the beginning of this advocacy was that there should be open and effective communication. They should not be left guessing or imagining what is going on because when that happens it releases the laxity through peoples mind set. What they can deduce from what they are seeing around or from rumours or anything that they can pick online.
“Unfortunately with this administration, we have not had proper communication and that is rather worrisome because we should not have to wait for mans own days like this until there is a jack up or until something shakes us up or until another girl walks out of the enclave of these savages before we say something. It has been underperforming of this administration to have been quiet unnecessarily about the plight of the chibok girls, those who are missing and those who are back.
“What is going on with these girls, are they receiving psychological help? Are they back in school? Something to keep the communication lines going and not divulging sensitive information but something that does not leave the people imagining or guessing. This is really the time for us to wake up. If we look at countries that have gone through similar tragedies, there is always that constant communication, there is always that initiative that is taken by the government, communicating to people not when we have to go on the street”.
Who then is safe?
After the Chibok girls episode, kidnapping became a staunch part of the Nigerian crime vocabulary. A girls school in Ikorodu, Lagos was target of a heist that had five girls kidnapped from their hostels. In another, more recent incident in a highbrow private school, faculty and students were kidnapped for ransom. All have been recovered and perpetrators dealt with.
Speaking at the entrance of Aso Rock, Charly Boy said if those in government cannot guarantee the safety of citizens, then no one is safe? He called on the authorities to intensify efforts to bring back the Chibok girls.
“Any government that cannot protect its citizens that government is sitting on a keg of gunpowder because the protection of looters and scammers cannot be guaranteed. If our protection is no longer guaranteed, theirs cannot be guaranteed. They should bring back our girls,” he said.