Sunday, August 17, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls at AGOA conference in Washington, DC August

It's important to keep our girls on the agenda.  Lacking huge resources and robust participation by people who are still sitting on the fence on this issue, I believe it's important to stand up and be counted.  The US-Africa Summit brought most of Africa's heads of state to the US to discuss US-Africa trade.

The Young African Leaders Initiative was also combined with the events for the trade talks.  I have no doubt that the trade will benefit the US and will have underwhelming impact on Africa.  It is also most unfortunate that the neoliberal model of trade is being pursued.  This means that in the US, the trade will benefit the large corporations like Bloomberg, Monsanto, Dow, General Electric and the like, to the detriment of small and medium scale enterprises.

It is also curious that African American businesses are not privileged in these deliberations.  Neither are businesses owned by new African immigrants to the US, who could be a bridge between American businesses and African customers.  It is mighty curious that African heads of state are figuratively selling their heritage for the proverbial and Biblical "mess of pottage".  What is in this trade arrangement for Africa?  How is it better than what obtains before?  What does it mean to be a sovereign state?  Why should you all be called here to the US like a headmaster calling school children?  Why do the first ladies participate in a public forum where they are lectured at by people whom even I could "school"?  Is there any recognition that there are African immigrants right here in the US who are experts on all the issues being discussed?  To what extent were they meaningfully and comprehensively consulted by either the Obama administration, the First Lady of the US, or the African governments of the countries from which they originate?

My observations on the Obama administration and its dismissive attitude toward Africa is found in the following article by the Voice of America:  "African Experts Expected More from Obama Administration"

I went primarily to protest.  I also attended the AGOA conference organized by Congress Member Karen Bass, the Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health & Human Rights.  Below are pictures from Hon. Karen Bass' site.  I was waiting to ask a question.  Just so happened it was the first question.

https://www.flickr.com//photos/repkarenbass/show/


The context: I was at the AGOA conference referenced below.



Here's the panel line-up:

Panel One
9:00 – 10:30 am
Moderator: Dr. Monde Muyangwa
Africa Program Director, Woodrow Wilson Center

H.E. Erastus Mwencha
Deputy Chair, African Union Commission

H.E. Sindiso Ngwenya
Secretary General
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

H.E. Amb. Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo
President of Commission
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
Next Generation African Leaders: Discussion with a YALI Fellow
10:30 – 11:00 am
Moderator: Bernadette Paolo
President, The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa

Hon. Sheryl Vangadasamy
Elected Representative, Seychelles National Assembly
Young African Leaders Initiative Fellow
Panel Two
11:00 – 12:30 pm
Moderator: Dr. Sharon T. Freeman
President & CEO, All American Small Business Exporters Association

H.E. Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping
Economic Affairs Commissioner, African Union

H.E. Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera
Secretary General, East African Community
Thank you for signing up to participate in this forum during the historic U.S.-Africa Summit. I look forward to seeing you next week.

Sincerely,
Congressmember Karen Bass
Growth and Opportunity in Africa Forum
Hosted by Congressmember Karen Bass
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM (EDT)
Cannon Caucus Room (345 Cannon House Office Building), US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20540  |  Directions


During the Q.& A, After the first panel, I was able to ask the panelists on "Africa's regional economic priorities", each of whom spoke about the linkage b/w peace and security plus economic development and good governance plus democracy the questions:  If peace and security are as important as you have assured us, why did it take the President of France to convene a meeting of the Presidents of West African countries to discuss joint approaches and strategies to combat the Boko Haram threat?  Why also have our Chibok girls not been rescued?  What are you doing to respond to the massive humanitarian crisis that is unfolding?  How can African governments guarantee the peace and security of all their people no matter how remote their location?

After that first panel was concluded, I began lobbying the Members of Congress at the meeting.

I began by having a brief one on one conversation about our girls with Leader Nancy Pelosi.  One of her aides already followed up.  After the Congressional recess, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC intends to work on this matter until our girls are released, reunited with their families, and given the psychosocial support they need to resume their lives with a semblance of normalcy. 





And my Sister Friend, Prof. Olivia Cousins, (who took all the pictures at the AGOA Conference, as well as at the protest on August 6, and was a tremendous support all through the process of planning, navigating the DC transit system, and generally getting things done), is here below with me and Leader Pelosi.




I also spoke with Congress Member Karen Bass, and will follow up with her on the matter of our girls.  So will #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. 


I spoke as well with Congress Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (who apparently presented President Goodluck Jonathan an award at the Nigerian Heritage on Monday night).  She promised to look into our concerns.





I told Congressman Gregory Meeks, who said Diasporan Africans are Africans without concern for geographical divisions, that he is now my adopted Brother.  I will follow up with him on the matter of our girls.  So will #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. 





I also spoke with almost all panelist at the conference.  There is much work to be done on the Africa end if any of this neoliberal trade is to be beneficial to any African. You can find some of my thoughts on trade and Africa online.  I've been most vocal about Africa, gender and international trade.  In  Addis Ababa, at a conference from 21- 22 April 2009, I presented a paper at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, AFRICAN TRADE POLICY CENTRE's Inception Workshop on Mainstreaming Gender into Trade Policy.  The draft of the paper: Active Participation, Insignificant Gains: The Elusiveness of 
Gender Equality for African Women in the Liberal Global Economy" is found here 

Back to the AGOA conference, I guess since I was on the listserv, I was invited to a Congressional hearing on Ebola on Thursday, August 7, by a staffer of Congresswoman Bass, but the event was over-subscribed. I got there on time but there were already so many people on the line for the overflow room that I realized I should have been there about 2 hours ahead of time.  

All members of Congress promised to sit down and have a conversation with me on our girls.  All in all, it was a fruitful foray into Washington.  Now I need those clones yesterday (:  

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC press release to protest dinner in honor of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by Corporate Council for Africa on Wednesday, 8/6/2014

I know some people would wonder why a press release meant for August 6 is now just making its way online.  I need a clone!  Too much work, too little time, and a full life, with its ancillary responsibilities are my only excuses.  Regardless, I hope that you give this a careful read and also disseminate widely because until our girls are found, we should not relax.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



Contact: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
bringbackourgirlsNYC2@gmail.com
#BBOG_NYC

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC invites you to the protest at the U.S.-Africa Summit dinner in honor of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Washington, DC
— On Wednesday August 6, 2014, over three months after the Chibok abductions, with heavy hearts, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC invites the public to a protest in solidarity with the families and communities of more than 200 girls abducted by the terrorist militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria.  The protest is at Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, District of Columbia starting at 6:30pm.  The protest is to express outrage and disappointment that most of our girls remain in captivity over 3 months after their abductions, and after multiple appeals to the Federal Government of Nigeria by #BringBackOurGirlsNYC and all people of good conscience in solidarity for the girls’ safe return to their families. 
“We call on the Nigerian government to rescue these girls and reunite them with their families. We believe that this issue belongs to the Nigerian government, which should take primary responsibility and lead the effort to bring back our girls.  The problem of human security is an urgent and ongoing matter in Nigeria. It is the fundamental duty of the government of any country to provide security for its citizens. The Nigerian government should harness the skills, experience and knowledge base of all Nigerians at home and abroad to solve these problems.  #BringBackOurGirlsNYC thanks the US government, local NYC community groups, leaders and activists worldwide for their support and efforts to reunite these Nigerian girls with their families.” - Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies (#BringBackOurGirlsNYC)

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC believes that partnering with Nigerian women’s groups, NYC local organizations, activists and leaders; will bring the much needed attention to this urgent and heartrending matter. We remain optimistic that our girls will be rescued and reunited with their families and hope that this happens sooner rather than later under the leadership of the Federal government of Nigeria, assisted by the government of the US and the international community.


About #BringBackOurGirlsNYC

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC is a coalition of Nigerians, Nigerian Americans, Africans, Diasporan Africans and friends of Nigeria resident in New York City. We intend to redouble our efforts and continue to protest until these girls are brought back to their families. We will also work to better strengthen the dialogue concerning the #BringBackOurGirls initiative, and we encourage you to join and support us to urge the Nigerian government to rescue, re-unite the girls with their families, and provide them future support.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and the Hydra-headed monster in Nigerian Politics

I haven't written for a long time.  The reason: distress writ large about Nigeria and our girls who have now been in captivity for well over 3 months.  There's nothing less desirable for me than writing this.  The piece I'd rather write is that which leads the crowing and jubilation about Nigeria's newfound stature as the largest economy in Africa. Alternately, I’d rather write one that points out some glorious achievement or another that my country of origin or its intrepid people have accomplished.  So for many days I've put this onerous assignment on my back burner. I also felt conflicted.  At one point I just hadn't done enough in my estimation to deserve the luxury of armchair pontificating.  I also had my constant need to study more. Perhaps there was something about the Boko Haram situation that I didn't know or understand; perhaps there's some stellar analysis out there; perhaps.... Now that I'm professor #BringBackOurGirlsNYC, I have earned the right to give what I hope is enlightened, thoughtful and well-reasoned response to this horrific situation, this unfolding tragedy, this cataclysmic rending of the social and political fabric of Nigeria. 

There's a pervasive tendency toward uni-dimensional analysis by many who have commented on the Boko Haram issue.  Some see this as an issue concerning inequitable denial of girls' access to education.  Others see human trafficking looming large.  For yet others, this is a Muslim attack on Christians.  Some consider it a case of humanitarian crisis.  Many in Southern Nigeria see it as a Northern problem.  I see the problem as hydra-headed since it has elements of each dimension enumerated immediately above. And yet it's more. The problem is structural, historical, political and economic, and it has extraordinary and profound ramifications. 

Boko Haram is widely perceived as the source of the problems of insecurity that currently beset Nigeria.  But it is not.  What it has successfully done is to exploit the weaknesses in the body politic to push its agenda of forcing its own warped perspective of what the proper observance of Islam should be on all the people it encounters.  It does not brook resistance, and disagreement with it is met with overwhelming force that aims to destroy, even obliterate opposition.  It challenges traditional as well as post-colonial state, as witnessed by its destruction of state-owned infrastructure, battles where it increasingly deploys superior firepower against state security forces; foiled abduction and assassination attempts on Muslim traditional rulers, including the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, in February 2013; the assassination of the Emir of of Gwoza in May 2014, the attacks against a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, and the moderate Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi on July 28.  UN House in Abuja was bombed as were numerous churches, markets, and countless public gathering places.  The terror and mayhem inflicted on the Nigerian people by Boko Haram are unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian history. 

Boko Haram is not the source of insecurity.  The structural problems that were set in motion by the establishment of the modern Nigerian state under the tutelage of the British colonizers are responsible for the emergence of Boko Haram. The most serious aspect of those problems include the weakness of the state and the inability or unwillingness of its custodians to prioritize the security of Nigerians.  This enabled not only Boko Haram, but other militia groups to thrive and permitted them to act with impunity.  It is the absence of the state and its lack of awareness of its most fundamental reason for being that allows an insurgent militia to strike at will, mostly unchallenged to wreak havoc and mayhem in a region of the territory under its sovereign control that the state itself says is “very remote”.  Sovereignty over an area means that it can never be too far to be availed of the same basic protections as the capital, otherwise, the state might as well pack up shop. 
Structurally, there is a North-South divide that drives ongoing struggles for access to political goods, including the proceeds from the natural resources produced by Nigeria.  Complicating that struggle is the Christian-Muslim divide, the sectarian divides among Muslims, the rampant and grinding poverty of the masses of Nigerians, which is more extreme in the North, the mass unemployment of even educated youth, inadequate and atrociously barren educational opportunities of the children of the poor, lack of social welfare for the teeming masses, and increasingly, a refusal to accept this as a perpetual fate of the poor who bow and kow tow to the wealthy, who are indifferent to their plight.  The indifference of the wealthy is a key part of the resentment and anger that gives Boko Haram a ready army of footsoldiers to carry out its horrendous agenda. 

The incapacity of the state to challenge Boko Haram and bring it to heel is another key element.  A third element is the embrace by even those who barely managed to claw their way into middle class status, of the gross inequities and stark inequality that is writ large in Nigeria.  These are people who have escaped poverty and never want to see it again.  They thus distance themselves from the plight of the poor.  Many only get passionate when they are consuming the exploitative and manipulative interpretations of their chosen religion’s tenets by their favorite "Man or Woman of God”/clergy.  The wealthy spend their sometimes ill-gotten resources with wanton disregard for the plight of the struggling masses.  The state elite is part of this nouveau riche, and it is also blatantly uncaring about the poor and oblivious to their needs.  It was caught unawares when Boko Haram came calling.  It still refuses to go beyond its very limited comfort level because it would rather see the problem as one caused by its political enemies who would rather not have a replay of a Jonathan administration.  One wonders who is advising the Federal Government of Nigeria and why it continues to embrace policies that don’t work.

The state governments in the Northeast of Nigeria where Boko Haram has been most destructive have also succumbed to imposing “easy” solutions, such as the establishment of vigilante groups to battle Boko Haram.  Regardless of the success of the vigilantes, it is difficult to see the groups as advantageous to the corporate integrity of the state.  Vigilantes are not legally constituted entities.  They may be seen by pragmatic people as a stop-gap but they challenge the very existence of the state because they are in essence an admission that the state has failed.  

Boko Haram’s violent reign of terror has not been checked in any appreciable way by the Nigerian government and this has caused a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions.  3 million people have been displaced by this violence.  Millions have also escaped from affected areas to neighboring countries.  They are in dire straits and there’s no meaningful response by NEMA and the various SEMAs.  The inability of the Nigerian state to check Boko Haram, (which by the way, is not the first insurgent movement in the area, having been preceded most recently by the Maitatsine millenarian movement in the 1980s), is at the heart of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, there is devastating disruption of everyday life and the tendency of the wealthy to distance themselves from the plight of the poor means that many in close proximity to the affected areas also do not see this crisis as their problem. It is the problem of the vulnerable poor.  The farther the distance of the wealthy to the epicenter of the Boko Haram controlled zone, the more their blasé attitude and determination to carry on business as usual.  Nigerians should be ashamed!  Even so, there is a possibility of redemption if we all gird our loins and engage the struggle of making sure that we rescue those beset by Boko Haram predators, and by so doing, begin to rescue Nigeria from its serious structural flaws that are most damaging to the body politic. 

Being the largest economy in Africa is well and good, but it means nothing if there is no peace and security, if majority of Nigerians are still scrabbling in the dirt for their day to day sustenance, if our communications infrastructure is at best inadequate, at worst, decrepit and decayed; if our educational system is full of substandard institutions that are poorly funded and neglected because the children of the wealthy and upper middle class have alternatives.  It is most unseemly that the majority of the citizens of a country as wealthy as Nigeria are in the dire straits that have become their norm.  Growing into the true manifestation of the largest economy in Africa means Nigeria begins to take care of ALL its people.  Since there’s no existing culture of doing this in a serious way, doing it well will be challenging, but it’s not impossible. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 2 Rally at Nigeria House, NYC by The Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria

Do you know there is a Brooklyn College TV?  I had a vague idea, but since I'm not much of a TV person, I never really consumed any of the products of that fine establishment.  However, I am happy to say that Tiy Hampton's coverage of some of my #BringBackOurGirlsNYC activism has almost made a convert out of me.  Tiy Hampton is a student in the TV Broadcasting program at Brooklyn College.  She was at the rally organized by The Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria at Nigeria House 828 Second Avenue at East 44th Street, NYC on June 2, 2014.  Here is a clip of her coverage: bring back our girls.  For more of her work, see Tiy Hampton's wordpress page.

Here below is the press release by the rally organizers: The Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria. Kudos to Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry and the other members of the group, which includes but is not limited to:  Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Dr. Karen S. Daughtry, Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman, Archbishop Dr. Joseph A. Alexander, Bishop Jr. Jonathan Owhe, Rev. Dr. Allen Martin, Dr. Joseph Chucku, Bishop Dr. Julius Abiola, Rev. Bruce Grodner, Dr. Babajide Olagbaiye, Bishop Lubin Moise, Dr. Emeka Nwigwe, Dr. Enobong Branch, Rev. Sunday Igbinosa, Rev. Allen Hand, Rev. James Osei-Kofi, Rev. Johnson Olatunde, Chaplain Loretta Hand, Zahara Cato, Rev. Dalton Bolden, Rabbi Eliyahu Ras Yehudah, Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid and Motasim Adam.

PRESS RELEASE
CONTACT:
Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry
(718) 5961991

Brooklyn, NY May 31, 2014.  Over 40 days ago, the terrorist group, Boko Haram abducted more than 300 girls from a boarding school in the Northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok.  Thus far, approximately 56 girls have escaped but majority are still in captivity.  Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is an abomination” has targeted schools, churches, mosques, marketplaces, bus terminals and other public spaces in its terror campaign.  It has killed more than 1,500 people this year.  The insurgent group wants to impose its own distorted version of Islam on Nigeria through the use of terror.  In a video circulated by Associated Press, Boko Haram leader, Ibrahim Shekau has threatened to sell the girls into slavery if President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria does not free detained Boko Haram members. There is no indication that the Federal Government of Nigeria will comply.

Boko Haram has staged many attacks in Northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt of the country over the years, using bombings, massacres and wanton destruction of life and property to promote its reign of terror.  A state of emergency has been declared in three Northeastern Nigerian states wracked by Boko Haram violence.  However, heavy military presence has not prevented the escalation and deadliness of Boko Haram inflicted violence.  
Approximately half of Nigeria’s 170 million population is Christian.  On Christmas Eve in 2010, bombs allegedly planted by Boko Haram exploded in Jos, killing as many as 80 people.  More than 300 people have been killed in assaults on Northeastern Nigerian towns and villages in recent weeks.  Boko Haram is also blamed for an attack on a Chinese camp in neighboring Cameroon, where on Cameroonian soldier was killed and 10 Chinese workers abducted.  Many of the victims of Boko Haram terror attacks are Muslims, the most prominent being the Emir of Gwoza who was assassinated by Boko Haram on May 30, 2014. 

Boko Haram has destroyed infrastructure, including a strategic bridge linking the town of Gamboru to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.  It also attacked the main market, where at least 50 bodies have since been discovered in the debris of burned shops.  The overall death toll ranges from an estimated 100 to 300. 
Boko Haram must be apprehended and brought to justice.  We applaud the world’s response and the governments that have contributed assistance to Nigeria, including the United States of America.   However, this is a long-term struggle to stamp out Boko Haram induced social deprivation, denial of religious freedom and its constant threat to peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.  Boko Haram has demonstrated that it has the will to impose its sinister agenda on Nigeria and neighboring countries. 

We the Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria condemn Boko Haram’s destructive and violent acts as repugnant, nefarious and reprehensible.  We will never let evil win over good. We will continue our protest until Boko Haram is brought to justice. Further, we decry, abhor, detest, condemn, denounce and protest the evil campaign of terror by Boko Haram. We call upon the United Nations, United States, African Union and the Federal Government of Nigeria to join us and do the same. 
We ask that all people of good conscience join us in our June 2, 2014 rally at 12 noon in front of the United Nations.
The Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria, New York, USA


Inspired by their steadfast stand, I have joined the Interfaith Religious Leaders of African Ancestry to Save the Children of Nigeria.  The group has held a daily prayer vigil at the UN for the past month.  The vigils are now twice a week. However, I have not been able to participate in this admirable action that is worth emulating.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Professor #BringBackOurGirlsNYC: It's more than Hacktivism

Read Jamilah Simmons' hot off the press article about Professor #BringBackOurGirls: Call Her Professor #BringBackOurGirls

Jamilah has been most kind.  Her article on the Brooklyn College website does a good job of presenting why I'm doing what I'm doing concerning #BringBackOurGirls.  It's a pity some people want to reduce this to Hackvitism and portray the thoughtful and most meaningful responses of Nigerian citizens to the injustices and inequities in our political system as empty hashtag symbolism.  While I am gearing up to write my own essay, I encourage you to read:

You could also follow me on Facebook

You can read some of my writings that are posted online.

You can see the journal I edit Ìrìnkèrindò: a Journal of African Migration

You can see one or two of my recent presentations on my Youtube Channel

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC is also gearing up for another rally at the UN on June 16, 2014, International Day of the African Child, from 12 noon to 2 pm at Ralph Bunche Park, 1st Avenue & 42nd Street, opposite the United Nations.  Please join us.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nigerian Police Force Bans all protests in Abuja???

It's now 50 days after the Chibok abductions.  Instead of demonstrating through compassionate, well organized, concerted action that it is not only concerned about the abducted girls and their heartbroken families, yesterday, June 2, 2014, 49 days after the abduction, the response of the Federal Government of Nigeria, via the Nigerian Police Force, was to ban all protests in Abuja.  Chibok Schoolgirls: Nigerian Police ban all protests in Abuja

And it's curious that the Doyin Okupe, an advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan could go on international media to say with a straight face, that Nigeria is winning the battle against Boko Haram.
Nigeria 'not losing Boko Haram battle,' says president's adviser

If so, where are our girls?

The #BringBackOurGirls Abuja family is taking the right step by bringing a lawsuit that challenges this infringement on the democratic rights of these noble citizens of Nigeria.

Here is a statement from the group:

In light of the ban of all Chibok Girls protest issued by CP Mbu, we wish to inform you that our lawyers, Femi Falana SAN of Falana Chambers will be filling a suit today to challenge the legality of the action.

Our sit -out for today shall not hold as we shall all convey at the court to accompany our lawyer to file the suit.

Below is our press statement issued out this morning on the purported ban.

Kind regards,

Hadiza

And since Nigeria is 6 hours ahead of EST, the lawsuit should now be ongoing.  Members of the #BringBackOurGirls are asked to converge @ FCT High Court, Maitama #BringBackOurGirls

Dear Wonderful People,

We would be converging at the FCT High Court, Maitama for the filling of a suit to challenge the legality of the action of Police ban of protests in Abuja [#BringBackOurGirls campaign].

Time: 12 noon

Dress Code: Red T-Shirt with #BringBackOurGirls Now and Alive inscription, OR any Red apparel.

Hence, the visit to the court would now serve as our sit-out.

The Chibok Girls deserved all the legitimate sacrifice we can muster at this time.

We refused to be distracted from our singular demand: #BringBackOurGirls - Now and Alive!

We shall not fail Our Girls in ensuring that they are brought back home to their families- Now & Alive!

Please inform others.

Thank you.

Joel
www.bringbackourgirls.ng

 Here below is the PRESS RELEASE by the group.

Re: Purported Ban on All Protests on the Chibok Girls in FCT by Police Commissioner

We are members of the #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Family, a citizens movement advocating for the speedy rescue of the over 200 girls abducted from Chibok Secondary School, Borno state. Ours has been a single-issue campaign for the safe return of the abducted girls. In the last 34 days we have done so through peaceful daily sit-outs, and some marches to key governmental actors urging them to act swiftly to rescue the girls from the terrorists.

Earlier today we received with shock the statement credited to the FCT Commissioner of Police Joseph Mbu that "...All Protests on the Chibok Girls is hereby banned with immediate effect…"

We wish to remind the Commissioner of Police Mbu that he cannot take any action that violates our Constitutionally guaranteed rights as citizens, particularly our rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, amongst others as enshrined in Chapter Four (Section 40) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).

We are puzzled about the inconsistencies in the communication emanating from the Nigerian Police. We recall that on 12th May, 2014, the Nigeria Police Force on its website published a news item with the title: "Police Not Against Peaceful Assemblies" in which the Inspector-General of Police, M.D. Abubakar restated the commitment of the Nigeria Police Force to the protection and enforcement of the fundamental rights of citizens.

Over the last 34 days, we have been widely acknowledged, including by the Police and the Federal Government delegation, which represented President Jonathan at one of our meetings for the peaceful, disciplined, and decorous manner we have always conducted the activities of our movement. In consonance with our approach, we shall tomorrow be in court with our lawyers, Femi Falana SAN to file a suit challenging this purported ban by C.P. Mbu.

In the interim, we shall not hold our sit-out tomorrow 3rd June, because we shall be accompanying our lawyers to the Court where we hope to obtain an immediate restraint on this unconstitutional, undemocratic and repressive act. Our Movement is legitimate and lawful and cannot be arrested by the police whose responsibility is to enforce, not betray the law.

We, the members of the #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Family, remain   resolute and will persist in using all lawful means to sustain our peaceful advocacy for the safe rescue of the Chibok Girls. We therefore encourage all those in Nigeria and other Nations that have similarly taken a stand for the cause of the girls to continue to do so with the clarion call: BRING BACK OUR GIRLS, NOW AND ALIVE!!!

Signed

Oby Ezekwesili and Hadiza Bala Usman

For the #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Family


And here below is a piece done by Maryam Uwais


Chibok, the Coalition and the Federal Government of Nigeria


When, on the morning of 15th of April 2014, an obviously very distressed guard from Chibok approached me, to inform me of the abduction of almost 300 girls from the Government Secondary School in his hometown, I looked at him in utter disbelief. How do almost 300 girls get carted into trucks and taken away, in one fell swoop?

Over the next few days, however, my dread and apprehension slowly manifested into inescapable reality. To this date, our girls still remain in captivity, almost two months after that awful morning. In the period, the BringBackOurGirls Coalition, beginning with one tweet and several protest marches in many State capitals of Nigeria, has succeeded in drawing the attention of the entire world to the plight of these 273 Nigerian girls, who were driven away into the Sambisa forest, without a trace. As a consequence, several countries have offered to support Nigeria in it’s efforts at rescuing them, while protests continue and prayers are being offered, all over the world, for their safety and swift return.

Terror knows no boundaries; everyone is affected by the bombings and killings, without exception. For once, Nigerians from all walks of life, irrespective of ethnicity or faith, are united on this singular effort and message. Our citizens have risen in an unprecedented show of unity, to demand that the girls’ be rescued, while the international community has been galvanized, in an awesome demonstration of human solidarity, to join Nigerians in this quest.

For me, as each day passes, and especially when the sun begins to fade, sobriety overwhelms me. I try to imagine what it must be like for those little girls in the Sambisa forest. I think of the descending dark of night enveloping them; slithering poisonous snakes; wonder how they can keep clean, eat and drink clean water. I imagine them holding onto each other, crying and struggling earnestly to give each other courage. Then I remember those evil men, and my mind draws a blank. I cannot think any further. This must be every mother’s worst nightmare; that her child is kidnapped by armed men, to a place beyond her reach, for days unending. I shudder with the thoughts of how the parents and that community must feel; the suspense and the anguish they must be going through.

I resolve again and again that I must do all that I can to keep the issue on the front burner of the Nigerian discourse. I cannot sit at home and lament about the situation so helplessly; I must remain engaged and involved. I must find creative ways of collectively and constructively engaging our citizens on security concerns, and our leaders on how we can support them, to make our country a safer and more peaceful place to live in. We cannot allow that the girls be forgotten or sidelined by other ‘breaking news’, for that would amount to abandoning them (and their families) to a fate worse than death.

So I have committed to the BringBackOurGirls campaign. The BringBackOurGirls Coalition has become, for me, a place of solace and hope; where Nigerians from all walks of life and irrespective of religion and ethnicity, come together as one, completely shutting out the divisive cacophony of voices in our public sphere, who continue to use these superficial dissimilarities to garner selective advantage. We, as a Coalition, have tried to engage our leaders, elected and appointed, who swore on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to protect and secure our lives and our welfare. These include the leadership of the National Assembly, the Office of the National Security Advisor, The Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Governor of Borno State and finally, the President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Our meetings with the National Assembly and the Office of the National Security Advisor were constructive and reassuring, but the response from the President, as read out by the Minister of State of the Federal Capital Territory, was disappointing, as it displayed a defensiveness that was unfounded and totally unnecessary. Paradoxically, even though the content of his letter warned against politicizing the Chibok incident, the message from the Executive continues to attribute politics to the discourse, in a matter that is so plainly about safeguarding the lives of vulnerable Nigerian citizens.

The narrative that has since emerged from our engagement with the President’s representatives suggests that Nigerians should direct their message to Boko Haram, to ‘release the girls’, as the message, ‘bring back our girls’, appears to place the blame on government for the incident. As far as the Federal Government is concerned, since it is not in custody of the girls, the demand should be directed at Boko Haram. Ever since then, our peaceful protests (as a Coalition) have been characterized by intimidation. Government buses, loaded with women, have been brought to the precise location where we meet, to sing and dance around the Coalition, in an effort to drown out our voices.

Thugs have been unleashed on one of our meetings, to disrupt our peaceful discussions, snatch bags, phones and break chairs, without provocation. A Government Minister has accused us of being partisan, inferring that we are opposition. We are locked out of parks when we relocate to other public spaces. Determined to remain focused on our singular campaign to bring back our girls, however, we have not reacted or allowed ourselves to be provoked into violence. We have continued to meet wherever we can, notwithstanding these distractions. Precisely because our girls are still out there, somewhere unknown and in danger, and our purpose for meeting remains unfinished.

We are accused of being opposition, merely because we have dared to ask our elected leaders to be accountable to the people that voted them in. I, personally, have never subscribed to any political party and have striven, all my working life, to assist, wherever I can, to making my country a better place. Our 1999 Constitution guarantees me the freedom to assemble, associate and express myself. I ask myself why Government should be so nervous and react so negatively to the demand that it lives up to it’s responsibilities; why should they insist that I direct my questions to Boko Haram? I do not know what the membership of Boko Haram consists of, where they are or how they operate. But I do know my leaders and firmly believe they are in office to serve Nigerians and Nigeria. A responsible leadership should take steps to assuage and allay its citizen’s fears by being receptive and approachable. This is what we see obtains all over the world; should I not remind our own leaders that they are in office for the purpose of service? Most importantly, Government should not alienate it’s own people by intimidating and labeling us enemies of State, especially when all we seek to do is to peacefully exercise our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.

Moreover, every Nigerian has the right to demand for answers from their leadership, even if politics is our particular vocation in life. Indeed, as Nigerians, we are each, individually bigger than the components (of the identities) of the faiths we profess; greater than our vocations (as politicians), roles or professions; larger than our sundry ethnic groups. We are human beings. Is it so difficult to comprehend that when we confront our leaders with our security concerns, we do not recall what ethnic group or culture they belong to, what language they speak or faith they subscribe to? We do not remember what party platform they utilized to attain office. Can our leaders just please trust that all we want are results and an outcome that is reassuring to us, as citizens?

Yesterday evening, in an inexplicable admission of his incapacity (or unwillingness) to ‘protect citizens from terror’ (his ostensible justification) within the FCT jurisdiction, the FCT Commissioner of Police ‘banned’ the BringBackOurGirls Coalition from holding protests in public places. In a democratic dispensation! We, as law-abiding citizens, have decided to challenge this violation of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, in a court of law. Perhaps we have been under Military rule for too long, and this is why the leadership should feel a sense of outrage, that citizens should dare to remind them that they have responsibilities towards them.

I had hoped and prayed that when the girls are finally rescued, ALL Nigerians, including our President and members of the Coalition would be able to stand together, on the same platform, to welcome them, rejoicing ecstatically. Sadly, members of the Executive in our Government, by their recent tactics, demonstrate a paranoia that renders this scenario mere wishful thinking, on my part.

All we want and continue to demand for is that our girls to be brought back, safe and alive. This singular message has been consistent, loud and clear and cannot be different from what the Government would want to happen. Government just needs to accept that not everyone is the enemy. Not everyone is interested in politics or holding public office. Not everyone is out to disparage, blame or denigrate the other. On the contrary, most Nigerians are more interested in living in peace and harmony. We yearn to be assured of security and protection. We crave a leadership that is responsive, accountable, empathetic and result-oriented.

And all we are asking for now is for those in positions of leadership to ensure that our girls are brought back, now and alive!

Maryam Uwais
1st June 2014



Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 23rd, 2014 Rally at Nigeria House, NYC

There was an interfaith rally to call for the recovery of all abducted Nigerian girls and their reunification with their families on Friday, May 23, 2014 from 11 am to 3pm, at Nigeria House NYC (828 2nd Avenue, b/w East 44th & East 45th Streets).

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC joined in the rally organized by “For the Love of Africa, For the Love of Nigeria, and the Organization for the Advancement of Nigeria (OAN), Christian Association of Nigerian Americans (CANAN), the National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in the USA (NCNMO), Nigerian Lawyers Association, Nigerian Social Workers Association, Nigerian Diaspora Leadership Forum (NDLF), quite a few other concerned Diasporan Nigerians and organizations. The keynote speaker was Mr. Emmanuel Ogebe, who was invited by "For the Love of Africa, For the Love of Nigeria." Other speakers include Prince Akeem Adeyemi, who participated spontaneously, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, National Presiding Minister of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, The Legal Aid Society of America, NYC Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson and District leaders from the 16th District, NAACP Bronx Chapter leader Cohen.  Ambassador Abah of the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the United Nations made a few remarks.  He said he was speaking as a parent who is heartbroken about the abduction and hoping that the girls would be brought back to their families.  

Several members of #BringBackOurGirls participated.  There were three women from my Church, Kenilworth Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY, two of whom arrived before the rally began, and stayed to the end. Our affiliated member organization, Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families was there, as were Ernesto Mora, Media Relations Manager at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and Jamilah Simmons, Senior Writer, Brooklyn College Publications. 

A Jewish rabbi joined us spontaneously, as did other friends of Nigeria.  The spirit of solidarity was strong, palpable and encouraging.  

We want our girls to be brought back to their families.  We want it now. And we want the Federal Government of Nigeria to assure us that “never again” will any of our children be subjected to such trauma.  We also want Nigeria to understand that Education for All is part of the global agenda.  Security, well-being, and welfare of Nigerian people should be guaranteed by FGN as provided by Section 14 of the Nigerian Constitution.  The true reflection of “largest economy in Africa is one whose people can truly enjoy the life more abundant for all that our nationalist leaders promised during the anti colonial struggle.  We need a government that makes us proud.  FGN, Rise to the challenge! #BringBackOurGirls! More video, pictures, updates to come.  









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