By now everyone must have seen or read what happened to us, members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Movement as we tried exercising our constitutional rights, as citizens of Nigeria to protest the lackadaisical attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, to rescue 218 Chibok girls abducted over 2 years ago by Boko Haram. They were prevented from doing what the constitution empowered them to do. They were harassed in both words and actions, by same people in uniform whose only job is to protect them irrespective of who occupies the seat of the president.
I saw guns of all sizes and shapes pointing downwards but ready to be raised and have its direction switched. I saw stern faces of our mobile police men and women displaying readiness to attack us. I saw a complete preparedness to disregard the law and send people to their early graves. I saw overzealousness written all over the faces and actions of superior officers of the “law”. The last I saw this sort of impunity was during the military regime when people were forbidden from forming an assembly, when people were beaten blue-black just for attempting to protest against the ruler in power.
It is important to have it on record that the BBOG Group since its emergence and struggle for the rescue of the Chibok Girls, never marched without duly notifying the police and if the march is to the presidency, a letter is sent 72 hours earlier. This has always been the practice and same was done for yesterday’s march. A letter was sent to the Villa which an acknowledgement was issued, and another to the Nigerian police in notification. So it is strange, obnoxious and very absurd when on the scheduled day, for same Nigerian police who prior to that engagement received a notification, to form a barricade and prevent a Group from exercising their fundamental human rights as given by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
The reason given by Anjuguri Manzah, FCT Police Spokesman, for the reckless and shameful position the Nigerian police took, was that BBOG in recent times created tension among “law-abiding citizens”, how? Is it by non-violently marching on the street of the federal capital that tension was created? Did Manzah or any police officer saw us with guns, machetes, or clubs hunting down people and causing mayhem in the society? Did we not prove that due process was followed before embarking on the protest, yet DCP M.D. Garba insisted we couldn’t proceed? So you can see how unfounded, cheap, ridiculous and disparaging the allegation of Manzah was? Contrary to the statement of DCP Garba that we are in military rule and therefore he has over-ruled whatever permit we had to march, we are not in military regime, we are in a democracy. The 1999 Constitution as amended and the Court of the land upholds the BBOG’s right to march.
A question that one is pushed to ask is, did the so-called “Buhari Supporters Group” presented to the Police, a permit that allowed them to stage a protest march of any kind, as did by the BBOG Group? Your guess is as good as mine. So here is what I know, I know that we are back from where we thought we’ve left. I know that President Muhammadu Buhari have no rescue operation for our Chibok Girls and that he has taken the “riskiest option” as regards the “Plea for Rescue” video, which is option DO NOTHING. I know for a fact that President Buhari-led government have marked the BBOG Group as the greatest irritants of all and so doing all in its power to silence them and have the issue of the Chibok Girls swept under the carpet as usual.
As far as I am concerned, President Buhari have made his vision of a new Nigeria a mere change of acronym and the voices of BBOG members serve as the bullet in the hearts of those who want us to go away. It sears their conscience. What is it they say about second marriages? The triumph of optimism over experience?! Its the same with new presidents.
This struggle for you may be a moral one, a physical one or both moral and physical but it must be a struggle. The limit of tyrants are described by the endurance of those whom they oppress. We have made a vow to show those who oppress us that there’s no limit to our endurance. They cannot break us. We won’t allow them. The demand remains, Bring Back Our Girls Now and Alive.
Jeff Okoroafor is the Founder and President of Opinion Nigeria, and a Strategic Team Member for the Bring Back Our Girls Movement.