Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday, denied any political linkage or external financial support for activities of the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG movement.Ezekwesili who led members of the movement on an advocacy visit to Vanguard, at the point of tears affirmed that life for her can never move on as usual until the 219 girls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State are safely returned.
Mrs. Ezekwesili’s points were corroborated by other members of the advocacy group including former commissioner for justice and attorney general of Lagos State, Mrs. Wonu Folami, president of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, CPN, Alhaja Sekinat Yusuf, among other professionals who affirmed that they were not layabouts but people who were moved by empathy on the fate of the girls.Speaking to Vanguard editors, Mrs. Ezekwesili said that it was regrettable that yesterday, being the 140th day after the kidnap of the girls, that no definite word could be said about the fate of the girls. Noting her earlier empathy and support for reported efforts by the security agencies in the recovery of the girls, she said she, however, felt let down when she discovered that the information and equivocations by security and administration officials were false.While lamenting the lethargy of government on the issue of the girls, Mrs. Ezekwesili said one of her worst days as a Nigerian was when the BBOG sit-in in Abuja was disrupted by hired thugs on May 28.Denying any political connection to the activities of the group, she said: “There is absolutely no political motivation in the Bring Back Our Girls movement. There was absolutely no conversation concerning politics and as many of you would know, I am not a politician. I am so politics-neutral. That has always been my premise. They called me names in the past, there is nothing different. They are calling me names again simply because I dare to challenge the prevalent orientation and attitude.“So, there is nothing that is political about this movement. It is an orchestrated attempt or perhaps an orchestrated strategy to malign what is a purely compassion driven advocacy by citizens, who are oblivious because I don’t care about political persuasion.”Political persuasion
Affirming that she is not jobless as portrayed in some quarters, Mrs. Ezekwesili said: “I know that I am prepared to pay the price for this project. I have heard some people say that I am jobless. I am not jobless, Oby Ezekwesili is not jobless because I act as an economic adviser to a number of African presidents. I go to their countries and I live in their countries on a quarterly basis. I had to put it on hold for it not to be said that over 200 girls went to school and disappeared and I just carried on as if nothing happened.“If my child was part of the girls missing, would I just move on? Not everybody can enter into this conversation the way these men and women you are posing this question to, have entered. Rather than the people who don’t care about this issue say “thank God there are some who care”, they spend their time attacking those who are showing empathy?”
Asked on the outcome of the several interventions by some foreign countries in the search effort, she said: “We have been told often by the countries that have offered to assist (US, UK, China, France, Canada, Australia and Israel) that this is a Nigerian problem. It is our government that must give the status report of the rescue operation. They only came to assist, they did not come to take over the problem. I think the only important group that needs to keep pressing this point is the media. You cannot abdicate your responsibility to another country.
“In international relationship, other countries come to support, especially on matters that have humanitarian implications. Terrorism is a global scourge, there is no border that closes against the terrorist any more, people feel that you must share in the problem. That does not mean that these countries will now take over a Nigerian problem. So, when we ask them for updates, that is the response that they give.”
On the attack on the group at its sit-in at the Unity Fountain, Abuja on May 28, she said: “The group that was asked to come and move us out of unity fountain, that was one of my saddest day in Nigeria. It was an incredible mix of people. For me, the pain was that the parents of these Chibok girls were of the same social class. They began to dance around and called us Boko Haram. And then, I saw young men who came to beat up our group, when they got close to me, there was something that restrained them. So, they could only push, took handbags and broke chairs that we used. Afterwards they started fighting because those that were supposed to come and give them money, had taken off with most of it.”
Charging the media to intensify focus on the fate of the abducted girls, she said: “We came out of compassion and that is one of the reasons why we are here. If the media performs its role in enlightenment and getting people involved, it will not be difficult because we do not have the capacity to get as many people involved as the media. We are hoping that what propelled us to come out, will propel others to come out.”
At the point of tears, Mrs. Ezekwesili described how she was moved by emotions when she described the meeting between one of the escaped girls and the Afghani girl child advocate, Malala Yousafzai. According to her the unnamed girl described how life had become painful for her on account of some of her own friends still held captive by the terrorists. The BBOG movement has had daily sit-ins in Abuja as part of a global effort to draw attention to the fate of the Chibok school girls who were abducted by elements of the Islamic Boko Haram group 141 days ago.
“Sit-ins are also held in Lagos every Saturday at the Marina in Lagos.”