When Bukky Shonibare, the Group CEO for the 555 Group, heard that the Chibok girls have been abducted, she could have decided to move on with her life and mind her own business; instead she decided to be part of those championing “Bring Back Our Girls Campaign”. It’s been emotionally and psychologically zapping for her, but instead of just ranting, she has dedicated every day since the abduction of these girls to advocating, writing articles, tweeting about the abducted girls, patiently waiting for their return. What makes this amazon remarkable is the fact that she has dedicated her time, money and resources to lend a voice to the plight of the victims of terrorism.
I was scrolling through my timeline on social media when I saw that girls had been abducted in North East, Nigeria. I didn’t know a place called ‘Chibok’ existed until the news started unfolding. For Bukky, the task of bringing back our girls is non negotiable and has to be done no matter the cost.
Identifying with the Chibok Girls
The first march of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, held on April 30th 2014, was one that gathered all agitators on this issue, of which I was one. We marched in the rain to the National Assembly to table our grievances. For me, joining the march on that day was my way of identifying with every girl that was abducted in and outside Chibok. I am a mother – what could the mothers be possibly going through? Fathers can be close to their daughters – what could these men be going through? Besides, I can relate with abuse and molestation, and how it can possibly turn one’s life around. So, the knowledge that they are with heartless miscreants with capacity to perpetrate just any inhumane act, including sexual exploitation and senseless killings, made my resilience stronger. I just want the relevant authorities to keep prioritizing the issue so as to ensure prompt action and result. Bottom line, that sheer sense of empathy that made me go out the first time still fuels me, and other campaigners, till date.”
Giving up on the cause? Never!
While my optimism was somewhat legitimately threatened in view of a protracted period of silence and inaction, giving up has never, and will never be, an option. I believe in the power of consistency. The same motive for continuing the day after the march (May 1, 2014), is the same that has kept me coming out; after all, it’s yet another day. Or how’s that day different from now if truly the motive is to have our girls back? Undeniably, hope has been severally dashed, with numerous failed expectations, but for me – and other campaigners, who know that for us to record a closure that is not only logical, but also worthy of a writable history, we must push and drive ourselves until a sensible outcome is reached. The numerous botched phantom ceasefire agreements, the ‘we-know-where-the-girls-are’ hype without actual rescue, the dashed hope that ensues after excitedly hearing or reading that another western government has pledged support, etc, are all sufficient reasons to think it is not worth it; but when I consider what is at stake if I give up; I realize that I would rather stay on the path of continuity and doggedness.
500 days without the Chibok girls
The sad reality that we hit 500 days without the girls returning was a very harsh one. I recall when we commemorated 30 days of abduction and then 100 days. That reality is rude! It slaps the very essence of humanity. How did we get to the point where young, innocent, and naïve girls – who have become a symbol of Nigeria’s systemic and institutional failure, would be abducted for months! I mean, it’s so sad. And now, we have had to experience those 100 days for 5 times. How long do we still have to wait? How much can a heart take?
Some Nigerians believe abduction never took place
The inability of several Nigerians to be empathetic in such a critical matter that bothers on our shared humanity is one that still beats me. To excuse or validate that sense of dismissiveness, several Nigerians have tried to interpret and box this abduction into a narrative that fits their stance. Unfortunately, that one thinks in such manner, and finds one or two more to think same, does not necessarily make that skewed narrative the truth. Till date, several Nigerians believe that abduction never took place. I find that heartbreaking because the more a large percentage of us denial or dismiss the possibility or the actual abduction, our ability to rally round – with one voice, one mind, for one cause, is eroded. And that is what happened to us. Several narratives in this direction emanated from blinded loyalists to the then ruling party and immediate past President. The abduction was, and still is, seen as politically and financially motivated. Some say we do this for political positions. At what expense? Lives of innocent girls? How cheap and sad! This same understanding caused slowness in taking relevant actions that requires urgency. Experts say that the action or inaction of the first 24 to 48 hours after abductionis a major determinant of the eventual outcome, positive or negative.
I understand the power of focus! One reality I had to come to terms with is that not everyone is on the same page with us, and that alone is sufficient reasons to ensure adequate room for their opposing tantrums, lopsided interpretations, and baseless narratives. So, I have had to adjust expectations. However, as time goes by, my emotional immunity quotient is increased with the frequency and strength of these attacks. Truth is, it can sometimes get at me, but the picture of the anticipated future is worth bearing anything for. Besides, there is absolutely no mud thrown at us that can match what we have, by our dismissiveness and denial, caused the Chibok girls. No price, if any, is too much for this cause. Any of the Chibok girls – Hauwa, Kauna, Deborah, Amina, could have been my daughter, sister, niece, or cousin. If it were so, I would still be standing and waiting in anticipation for their return just as I do with the Chibok girls.
I have always been drawn to the plight of others. 10 years ago, I started an NGO – The Light Foundation as a platform to cater for the plight of the downtrodden, based on different categories. Now, the campaign for the Chibok girls led to my desire to assist other victims of insurgency, especially the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). As a vehicle to drive support interventions, I conceptualized and birthed ‘Adopt-A-Camp’ (www.adoptacamp.org.ng).
Being a Woman of rubies
According to the mandate of the ‘Woman of Rubies’, three things are critical – virtue, value, and verve. I try to combine these three, even though I am not yet there. I am, like we all are, a work-in-progress. I am an imperfect being. However, I believe that exhibiting vigor in the face of the challenging advocacy for the Chibok girls is one that makes me a ‘Woman of Rubies.’ At some point, to guide what we do and don’t do, we developed a set of core values, which we all try to live by, consistently and unwaveringly. So, I am a ‘Woman of Rubies’ because I am consciously grooming myself to be virtuous, one that holds on to guiding principles, and one with vigor and a deep sense of enthusiasm.