The Bring Back Our Girls movement gained international recognition on April 23, 2014, when Nigerians tweeted the hashtag, “BringBackOurGirls” to worldwide trending status. By April 30, 3014, Nigerian women and men, young and old, took to the streets, demanding the release of the girls and an adequate response from the government. Over a year and a half since initial protests were staged, these same men and women continue to demand for the release of the girls and for relief efforts for internally displaced persons and victims of extreme violent attacks. These relentless efforts have sparked a new socio-political awakening, particularly for Nigeria’s youth, who have had no experience with war or with protracted violence. This interview is the first in a series of exclusive interviews with the front-runners of the daily demand for a safer society. These campaigners highlight a shift in the expectations of citizens—they simply mirror the desires of the everyday citizen—the demand for accountability, security and, as the group puts it, “a fight for the soul of Nigeria.”
In the capital city, Abuja, WRN sat with Mr. Daniel Seun Olatunde, who has been active with the group since its inception. In the backdrop of a week-long series of campaigns Mr. Olatunde took time off work to talk to us.
WRN: The #BringBackOurGirls movement has been the most adamant movement of its kind in the history of Nigeria's young generation. There have been many attacks on Nigerians before and after the abduction of the Chibok girls. What particularly about this incident triggered this persistent response to the kidnapping?
OLATUNDE: BBOG is an off shoot of displeased Nigerians about the happening in the nation, a situation where the empathy in so many Nigerians have been dead for so long and BBOG became a springboard for the correction of anomalies that had bedeviled the nation.
Sometime in February 2014, 57 students were slaughtered in Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in the Northeastern part of Nigeria and the government did nothing about it and the sad news we got was that most times before this ragtag called boko haram attack, security personnel withdraw from their beats which is unacceptable.
April 14, 2014 we then woke up to the news of the abduction of over 270 students from Chibok, which became the breaking point for like minds and people were determined to fight for the enthronement of equity in the land. If the abduction had happened in the school where the high and mighty, who have stolen the wealth of the nation attend, their children would have been rescued. Everyone is equal in the face of the law, the President haven sworn an oath to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the government is duty bond to protect the lives and properties of any Nigerian therefore our resilience is to fight for the downtrodden in the society and to amplify the voice of the voiceless and to hold the government accountable for her citizens.
Please note that the Chibok girls abduction gave us the platform to come together to ensure that the government perform their duties on the citizens. However, we are not only fighting for the girls but every person that had been abducted, displaced, unfairly treated, simply put we became the advocate for the masses and to fight for the soul of Nigeria that every anomalies in the land get corrected.
WRN: Why are you so vested in the movement?
OLATUNDE: I am so vested in this because I am a civil rights activist and I fight for the right of the less privilege and those that have no voice to speak out for them, to hold the government accountable for the citizen. I am a fighter for justice and I will not stop until we have a better society where the right of every person is protected and not trampled upon.
WRN: Years ago, Nigerians claimed that no terrorist movement could have developed in their country. As a Nigerian citizen, how do you think Nigeria become breeding ground for violent, extremist terrorism?
OLATUNDE: Nigeria became a breeding ground for terrorist as a result of inequality, corruption, poverty in the land, which brought about the ideology of Boko Haram, which had brainwashed their captives and turned them against the state and the people. This is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable. At the moment we have a monster in our hands and MUST be address. The nations wealth that was looted by corrupt officials, which would have been used to create wealth for the people, was stolen, looted and same were used to oppress the people.
WRN: So what made you get involved in the movement against terrorism?
OLATUNDE: My joining the movement to fight against the terrorist is to have a sovereign nation where every Nigeria will have genuine smiles on their faces, assured of 3 square meals daily, shelter, security, healthcare, improved life and have a happiness. This is not too much for a Nigerian citizen to have. It is a right for citizens to enjoy the above benefits and not a privilege.
WRN: It's been over 500 days. What do you make of the progress or change so far with the situation of the missing Chibok girls? Has the Nigerian attitude changed? Has the international posture changed?
OLATUNDE: Yes, 500 days and counting it is very sad but we are seeing improvement as the military presently are routing the rag tag Boko Haram and the government has assured that the girls will be back as the governor of Borno State, visited about 90 parents of the abducted girls which never happened in the last dispensation.
Yes I do not just notice but witness the positive change of the present Nigerian government's reception towards BBOG.
WRN: Do you notice any change with the Nigerian government's reception of the BBOG group? Has there been a noticeable difference between the Jonathan and Buhari administrations? Or has the response been all the same?
OLATUNDE: Definitely, the differences between Jonathan’s government and Buhari’s government have a very wide margin like the distance of the sun to the earth. Jonathan's government was very hostile to the movement BBOG and used government’s security agencies against us but because we are resolute to fight a just cause we are still standing. Buhari's government has been very receptive.
WRN: Some individuals currently claim that the use of social media made o difference to the situation of the girls, as they are still missing. As a front liner in the fight to return the girls back, what is your take on that?
OLATUNDE: Social media so far has been the tool that spread the news of the outcry of our movement, which in turn has yielded result and created the awareness. Of course without the social media, we would not have been able to communicate with the same people who says the platform made no difference. I am so sure is the social media that publicize the abduction that is why those critics were informed. My own submission is that social media made a lot of difference in the anticipation of the return of our girls.
WRN: What would you like Nigerians and the Nigerian government to know about what BBOG stands for? How about international interest groups & individuals?
OLATUNDE: I would like Nigerians, government, international community and individuals to know that the BBOG stand to fight for the soul of Nigeria because the fight for the Chibok girls revealed everything that is wrong with Nigeria as a nation.
By Zirra B.
Brave men and women from around Nigeria and beyond have spearheaded the BBOG movement. The movement, although initiated by women, was swiftly supported by men, including bright young men like Mr. Elvis Iyorngurum, who recently passed away. Mr. Iyorngurum was an intelligent, spirited fellow and an avid supporter of freedom and positive change in Nigeria. He was to be interviewed in this series. This series is dedicated to him and all men and women like him, who continue to fight for peace in their society. May their efforts not be in vain.