The #BringBackOurGirls campaign is one that I never came out against even though I could clearly see how it was hurting a government I support. My main reason for never coming out against the movement was that I felt and still feel that anything done with the aim of saving those Chibok girls is worthy, even if it embarrasses the government in the process, so long as the goal is clear.
This of course means that I do believe some girls were kidnapped and I believe that government at both the federal and state levels failed them. The response of the government to the kidnap was lethargic until a group of people came out and made their demands, not that the Boko Haram terrorists should return the girls but that the government should #BringBackOurGirls. Though the message was a little off in my opinion, I did not come out against it so long as the goal remained that the girls be brought back.
When the BBOG started tying the kidnap of the girls to the elections thereby making it an overtly political issue, I was again miffed and I tweeted about it. Holding up placards that say “155 Days Since the Chibok Girls Have Been Missing and 32 Days to the Elections” was a little bit too overt in showing their political hand. Then at a rally, APC chieftain Audu Ogbeh asserted that BBOG was led by APC members which prompted denials by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and Ogbeh apologised for his comments.
BBOG bled out international and national sympathy in the course of raising consciousness on the issue of the kidnapped girls. Nothing was spared: tears, anguish, symbolic colours – all calculated to prove that the kidnappers and the government are immoral. Some spoke of how deep the disturbance of the parents are, of how the girls must have been raped or turned into sex slaves, even the most callous of all of us at some point or the other must have been taken on this emotional trip by BBOG which is why when I met a potential voter at a Lagos joint called Bar Enclave, he told me that the single reason he would not vote Goodluck Jonathan was the matter of the Chibok girls. I called him a single-issue voter but I understood where he was coming from. Not only did the Chibok issue hurt the President by his own inaction on the matter but the BBOG amplified and expanded the matter – all to one end, I assumed: bring the girls back.
But alas, with the appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman into the transition committee by Pa Muhammadu Buhari, I cannot shake the feeling I had all along that BBOG was an orchestrated emotional campaign with the undertone of a political goal. I do believe that many members of BBOG including Dr. Ezekwesili embarked on it out of a clear conscience and probably with no aim of political gain but one like Hadiza Bala Usman, a CPC member who had contested for office on its political platform, now an APC member but hitherto widely unknown rode into national public consciousness strictly on the back of this vehicle called BBOG.
Hadiza Bala Usman is the daughter of late activist Dr. Bala Usman, an associate of Balarabe Musa and Aminu Kano at some point in his life, a contemporary of many activists like Tai Solarin and others who served in government at some point – which brings us to the question: can activists be appointed into government without calling into question their activism credentials?
The first ground is this: BBOG campaigners are no activists. They are concerned people, non-governmental Persons, a pressure group but clearly not activists who pick a matter of concern and drive home the point over a lengthy period of time.
BBOG is a group of emergency activists some of whom had a clear goal to force government to do more in rescuing the Chibok girls but some of whom only used BBOG to attain political ends and find the reward of political office in the process.
Secondly, BBOG is not like any other campaign. It is not like the anti-Abacha campaign or the several anti-military campaigns. BBOG was an emotional campaign that milked public sympathy on a Chibok tragedy – this cannot, must not be converted into political gain… especially as the girls are yet to be brought back! BBOG was not just ‘another campaign for good governance’, no. It was a campaign that saw the deliberate bleeding of public sympathy. It was emotional.
I will have no issues with a Seun Odewale or Kayode Ogundamisi in government and I would welcome their opinion on this, hoping that both of them still believe in what activism means. If the likes of Babagana Kingibe, Olu Onagoruwa and Lateef Jakande (all politicians) were flayed for joining the military government while MKO Abiola languished in jail, I fail to see how we can excuse an activist this time around except we choose to be parochial.
Hadiza Bala Usman as a politician interested in the removal of President Goodluck Jonathan from office and a card-carrying member of APC should have restricted her role in the BBOG rather than being in the forefront of it. Having chosen to be in the forefront of BBOG, she should further ensure that she is not seen as a beneficiary of it. If only for moral justification, she should have rejected this appointment into the transition committee of General Buhari. Some have said the appointment is trivial; to which I say: it is an appointment nonetheless and one that says that this Hadiza Bala Usman enjoys the trust of Pa Buhari (perhaps even the entire APC hierarchy?).
Hadiza Bala Usman became an emergency activist on this Chibok matter. She claimed she was doing this as a human being, as a woman, as a mother and as a Nigerian. But she makes no bones about receiving political gain for it since afterall, she is an APC member.
I am aware she did not fall from heaven. Some may have known her before now. But she is certainly different from an Oby Ezekwesili who is more known than her. I cannot say that Madam Oby used BBOG to get into office if she is appointed – that would be unfair considering her well-known pedigree before the Chibok issue. But Hadiza Bala Usman is a different kettle of fish and her acceptance of this ‘call to service’ calls into question her motives the entire time moreso as the Chibok girls are yet to be brought back.
In the very first line of this piece, I did what Hadiza Bala Usman did not do – I declared my political interest.
In conclusion, let me explain: I was a students’ union activist for several years as an undergraduate. I saw too often how mercenaries came into a ‘struggle’ and ruined it. Mercenaries cash in on a popular struggle to attain fame or wealth. I therefore say with every sense of responsibility: that any frontline member of the BBOG campaign who picks up political appointment under the government of Pa Muhammadu Buhari is a beneficiary of the kidnap of the Chibok girls and is as guilty as the Boko Haram that kidnapped the girls, the government that failed to rescue the girls.
You do not make political gain out of a popular cause. You do not make political gain while the mission is yet unachieved (the girls are not yet brought back) except you never did care about the girls in the first place.
I wish Hadiza Bala Usman well in all her endeavours political or activist. I only wish for the sake of those who had said BBOG was political she would turn down the offer, at least until the Chibok girls are found. I am certain that she can defend herself and she has been doing that. I am certain that many will defend her and they have been doing that. Look at it from all angles but the verdict of history will always be that perhaps BBOG was an emotional tool of political blackmail but certainly that some were at the forefront of BBOG for political gain.
Hadiza Bala Usman just gave them one more reason to come to this conclusion but the final verdict is not mine, that verdict belongs to history.
Demola Rewaju is a super blogger and a writer who manages Demola Rewaju Daily.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.