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#Bringbackourgirls: We must stay strong and hopeful – Oby Ezekwesili

Dr Oby Ezekwesile, Co-Chairperson of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBoG), the advocacy group spearheading the release of the abducted school girls from Chibok, Borno State, speaks on their efforts, 500 days after the kidnapping allegedly by Boko Haram.
Dr Oby Ezekwesili
Dr Oby Ezekwesili
500 days after, are you satisfied with what you’re seeing on the efforts made by this administration to rescene the abducted girl?
I think thus far, especially after we had our June 8, 2015 meeting with the President and the Vice
President albeit with the old security team that the President inherited from the previous administration, one thing that was very clear to us was the genuineness of the pledge the President made.

Which pledge?
He reiterated what he had said in his inaugural speech where he stated that we would not have aid to be successful    in the war against terrorism and the acts of Boko Haram until we have rescued our Chibok girls.

What signal does such a strong statement send?
For me that was a very strong statement for the President to make. And when we met together with some of the parents of the Chibok girls and the community of Chibok, that emphasis on the necessity to BringBackOurGirls was very clear to us.
We had a set of ABC of our demands which were welcomed as being intellectually strong and practically possible to do.
For us, our follow on letter to the President emphasises the necessity for setting up the systems that we requested for.
Which systems are those?
Systems of feedback to enable the parents as well as the community and members of the interested public – particularly our group as a movement that has stood up for the last 485 days at the Unity Fountain in Lagos, Abuja, Osogbo, London, New York, Washington DC, to follow milestone progress that is being made.
One of the things that we’ve so far heard is that there is significant work in the area of intelligence gathering and tracking of the movements of these girls since they were abducted.
And so, here we are on Day 500, completely saddened by the fact that contrary to what we expected when on the 30th  of April we first advocated for our girls, we have had to count from Day 30 to 60 to 100 and now 500. It makes us so really sad.

This fresh determination by the army to win this war: Does it make any difference?
It does make some difference but as you know when hope has been deferred for long, it has a way of wearying you.
But one thing that became clear to me this morning because I was saying to myself that 500days is a long time for the poor girls to be captives of savages, and so, this morning, I was caught between the cry that followed that sense that it had taken so long and a determination to stay strong despite all of it and, you know, the spirit won over the soul which wanted to be emotional and what we’ve done is to say that genuinely, many centres around the world has been praising the new security team and the architecture of engagement of combating terrorism, those praises were not there after a while with the previous administration.

Why do you think that was so?
Because these centres know certain things that are not public previously, it is a symptom that we may actually be on the way to decimating the capacity of Boko Haram and as the President says not just being able to bring back our Chibok girls who stand as a symbol for all other abducted people.

Did the visit of UN Secretary General bring any renewed sense of hope for the possible rescue of the girls?
One thing the UN stands out as is that it is the topmost global platform through which nations of the world collaborate and solve common problems so the public good of nations believe around that table and in what we’ve seen so far as the menace of global terrorism is, many nations are learning that collaboration and synergy go a long way because terrorism is an activity across borders.    There is no way you can use national systems to solve the problem of terrorism because it is a global bad so, collaborating, reaching beyond your boundary means that some of the countries with less sophisticated systems of tracking information and, of course leverage on other members of the UN.
Sometimes it is difficult for countries to speak to countries so it becomes important to use the platform of the UN.
So, it is quite possible that the UN can facilitate some of that but bilaterally, especially during the visit of President Buhari, it registered quite well with the establishment in the United States that this is the time to re-engage – and as a matter of fact, Secretary Kerry said that much.

So, there is hope?
Of course, there is hope. We won’t give up and hold up our hands in hopelessness.    We refuse to do that.


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