#BringBackOurGirls: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As the year ends, I look back and wonder where all the time went.  I wasn't able to accomplish much work-life balance this year because I became involved in the #BringBackOurGirls movement and led the establishment of #BringBackOurGirlsNYC.  I wrote most of this blog on a sleepless night in August this year, in a long email to a friend.  It remains relevant, particularly because it reflects the issue that has embroiled my life all year long.

Nigeria is squandering her people with wanton abandonment.  Why do we not feel ashamed to say that we have the largest economy in Africa when we don't even have a decent healthcare system?  Why do our political class and elites flaunt their ability to go for medical treatment abroad and they don't realize that the lack of decent care at home reflects poorly on them, plus they are playing "Russian roulette" with their lives since they could die from very preventable and treatable conditions?  Why do we have decayed infrastructure and majority of the things that should be simple, like access to potable water, reliable electricity, good roads, excellent schools at all levels, and SAFETY AND SECURITY seem to be forever elusive, and we just mobilize imaginative coping mechanisms, and we think that some oyinbo will bring it to us because they have the magic formula? 

About our girls, I remain hopeful. Many people here in NYC also say they're not hearing anything. The problem here is that without major media coverage, it appears as though nothing's going on.  Here's some of what we in NY have been doing.

#BringBackOurGirls at AGOA conference in Washington, DC August

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

And here is my analysis of the situation, because while the problem is caused by religious factors, it's way more than that:

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

I pray constantly, as do all of us that God would intercede and rescue our girls from the depraved bunch of sinister and evil men who abducted them.  I also pray that God would save and deliver Nigeria and Nigerians from all the political, economic, social and historical forces that constrain us.  But I also must say that I'm disappointed that majority of us Nigerians choose to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. This is what makes evil thrive. Many of my religious friends tell me they're praying.  I read the Bible and the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus as well as the Apostles and Disciples of the New Testament did not only pray.  They spoke out about injustice. They challenged inequity. They were on the side of the oppressed and marginalized.  What kind of Christians are these who just pray and through their silence, let oppression, inequity, injustice and atrocity fester?

Here's what we plan to do

1.  September 12 Roundtable to do some "friend raising" and inform women's organizations, international organizations, interfaith religious organizations and university students in NYC of what we've been doing.  We will build coalitions with them that should amplify our voice.

2.  Advocacy with International organizations like UNICEF, UN Women, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNOCHA, UNDP to help keep the issue alive, plus help with immediate humanitarian response.

3.  Advocacy with US government at all levels, local, state, and federal, to live up to the promise of helping to rescue our girls.  Toward this end, we are going to a September 26 Congressional Black Caucus conference in Washington, D.C., to continue advocacy begun during the AGOA conference on August 5.  We are also reaching out to members of the NYC Council and State Legislature to keep this issue alive and put pressure on the US government to fast-track our girls' rescue.

4.  December 4 Conference "#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa".  We hope to come out with a policy paper on the matter after this conference.  We will share the paper with governments of all West African countries and the US.

Let's keep doing what we've been doing. God will honor our efforts with success. Our girls will be rescued.  We also need to attend to the psychosocial support for those who have escaped and their families because it's important to make sure that they are not allowed to continue to suffer the horror of the experiences that were imposed on them.  We also need to continue calling for genuine democracy in Nigeria.  Transparency, the rule of law, accountability, respect for human rights, economic and social justice and equity should be routine in Nigeria.  We need a country that treasures and protects all its people and one that gives people the resources to enable them reach their full potential not the bunch of confusion that we currently have.  

The situation in Nigeria's north-east is even more serious today than it was when I wrote this email. Many communities have been attacked and their people have been killed and property destroyed. Those lucky to escape have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees.  The conditions of the IDPs is heartrending, given the deep privations they are enduring and unnecessary deaths, due to the inability of our National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Services (SEMAs) to give them the services they need in an efficient manner.  I remain hopeful that our girls, boys, and women who were brutally abducted would be found and reunited with their families.  I hope that the Nigerian government recognizes that this is its job to do and we the citizens expect it to rise to the occasion.

I hope many more people join the effort to #BringBackOurGirls.  I also hope that we all think of how we might help to bring some relief to the IDPs and refugees created by Boko Haram's activities in Nigeria.  Hoping for a better year ahead.  For Nigeria, it is an election year.  February 14 is the date for the general elections.  May the best candidates for the country win.  Such candidates must realize that politics as usual is not an option.  For me, it is important to remember that February 14, the general election date, will be 10 months after the Chibok abductions.  It would be great if we do not have cause to remember that grim anniversary because our girls, boys, and women have been rescued. 

The essence of the elections for me:  Nigeria needs thoughtful, dedicated, selfless and ethical leaders.  These leaders must realize that they must be primarily committed to guaranteeing the human security of all our people.  Our economy and infrastructure, our social services and political institutions all need the kind of overhaul that would transform them so that they function optimally and efficiently for the well being of our people and nation.  We cannot afford to continue to squander the opportunities to make our nation truly great.


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