'My two request for Nigeria’s president elect are simple: that every woman and girl is assured equal opportunities as men and, that the protection and safety of every women and girl is guaranteed each and every time.’
Exactly one year ago today, 276 pupils of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, headquarters of Chibok local government area, Bornu, a state in North Eastern Nigeria, were abducted from their school dormitory in Chibok.
The despicable act by the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, sparked local and international outrage, with civil society groups, celebrities and organizations calling in the strongest of terms for the safe return of the girls and the safety of women and girls in the country.
Despite his assurances and promises, the incumbent president of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has so far failed to deliver on his words of bringing the girls back to civilization and safety. President Jonathan has equally failed the escapees of the kidnap and so far proven incapable of protecting the lives of others living in the North Eastern parts of the country where Boko Haram has laid waste to lives and properties.
The total number of women and girls so far abducted by the terrorist group, since it began it’s insurgency is unknown. However, it is safe to say that the true figure is underplayed and grossly underreported as an Amnesty International report and an exclusive interview I had with six Chibok girls who escaped from Sambisa forest, where Boko Haram held them captive, suggests.
While the world commends Nigeria’s budding democracy, it must be noted that a true democracy is one where the lives and inalienable rights of every citizen – irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, disability and/or factor is assured and protected.
If any of the above parameters is missing, life and living will be brutish and short. Given that the girls’ inalienable rights have been denied for a year, Nigeria has failed them – and – by extension, women and girls.
If these girls were the daughters of the elite – politicians, religious leaders or influential business persons- their safe return would have been expedited. But, not in this present case; the girls are nobodies and, the elite does not recognise nobodies.
Instead of the girls being rescued, the kidnap lingered and was lately used as a political campaign tool.
The sad reality is, the children of the aforementioned groups are safely tucked away in first world countries, enjoying the freedoms and basic necessities which many consider luxuries here that their parents, through their action -or lack thereof- have robbed the common Nigerian of.
“Education is an equalizing factor that all women and girls must take advantage of.”
‘My requests for Nigeria’s new president are simple, that every woman and girl is assured equal opportunities as men, that the protection and safety of every women and girl is assured every time, all the time.’ That the morbid fear of reprisals and recrimination is never allowed to fester in the minds of women and girls seeking education, irrespective of their location. That they are actively encouraged to seek and pursue education at all levels – their safety and security guaranteed while doing same. Education is an equalizing factor that all women and girls should be enabled to take advantage of.
As the initiator of Nigeria’s infamous ‘sanitation day’ and ‘war against indiscipline’, much is expected of and from the reformed democrat. He must hit the ground running.
“No doubt, the Chibok Girls abduction and the manner in which his administration approached it would be a sour footnote in his memoirs.”
Nigeria’s outgoing President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, may be remembered in the annals of history for many things - as the president who, during his tenure, appointed more women to key positions, compared to his predecessors; as a man who conceded defeat in the interest of peace and national unity, in one of the most highly contested elections in Nigeria’s history, but no doubt, what women and girls would remember about him; what I will remember most about him most may be that it was in his watch that almost 300 Nigerian school girls pursuing education in Chibok were abducted, and, one year on, he hasn’t been able to deliver on his promise to bring them back safely.
No doubt, the Chibok Girls abduction and the manner in which his administration approached it would be a sour footnote in his memoirs.
“…let us remember the Chibok girls and vow, Never Again!”
As we commemorate this dark day in world’s history and in the history of women and girls globally, let us remember that reprisals is a real threat to women and girls seeking education; more so, are those whose quest for personal and professional development knows no bounds.
Let us remember the rage and pain we felt when we first heard of this inhumane act, let us remember the Chibok girls and vow, Never Again!