Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and respected boardroom guru and diplomat, Ambassador Christoper Kolade have commended the #BringBackOurGirls group over the role it has played in putting the abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State at the forefront of national discourse and ensuring that it remained there.
The Abuja, Ibadan and Lagos families of the group which has been pressuring government to rescue the Chibok girls had Tuesday embarked on an advocacy visit to the three elder statesmen. In a statement signed by Obiageli Ezekwesili, Ayo One and Betty Akeredolu for the Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan Chapters of the group respectively and released to the media Wednesday, the group said the campaign received overwhelming support and endorsement for the role that it has played in placing the 14 April 2014 abduction at the front of national discourse and keeping it there at the three separate meetings it held with the statesmen in Abeokuta, Ogun State and Lagos.
The group stated that the elder statesmen all expressed worry at the gravity of the situation in the country especially the insurgency in the North-east, the abduction of children, damage to education, and the increasing numbers of Internally Displaced Nigerians.
"They provided wise counsel and welcome encouragement to the #BringBackOurGirls family on some important responsibilities central to and associated with the Chibok Girls in particular, and the insurgency in general", the group added. “If there is a sad episode in the history of Nigeria, the abduction of the Chibok Girls is one of the gravest. The reason we must continue to sing this is because today it is Chibok, tomorrow it could be my village", the group quoted former President Obasanjo as saying during its meeting with him in the statement.
“If Chibok Girls are in captivity, only someone with no imagination can be comfortable. What haunts me every day is that anyone who has children or grandchildren has a natural desire to ensure that their future will be one they will enjoy," Ambassador Kolade was quoted as saying. “We can never really have closure, because of the weight of guilt we should feel towards the Chibok Girls. In this war the entire nation must be mobilised because we are facing enemies of humanity whose only mission is to destroy," Professor Soyinka was also quoted as saying.
“Remember that a white President mobilised the National Guard to escort one small black girl to school in a deeply racist United States. So why can’t we mobilise the Army to ensure that no educational institution in Nigeria is closed?,” the Nobel laureate added. The group said in the statement that the elder statesmen counseled that the campaign should and must be sustained, and that the #BringBackOurGirls family should continue to advocate for the rescue of all abducted persons in Nigeria.
In addition, the elder statesmen also asked #BringBackOurGirls campaign to continue to mobilise and educate Nigerians, and to provide direct testimony on the impact of the insurgency in the North-east. They also asked the BringBackOurGirls to join with other concerned Nigerians to raise awareness and provide humanitarian support for the displaced communities of North-eastern Nigeria.
On their part, the elder statesmen agreed to be a consistent voice for the Chibok Girls and for the communities of North-eastern Nigeria which have been ravaged by the insurgency. The trio also agreed to be part of an initiative to mobilise Nigeria’s other elder statesmen in a non-partisan forum to proffer practical solutions and to be a collective voice of reason on issues of national importance, most especially on the insurgency and the rescue of the 219 Chibok girls.
"They also praised the role of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign as a “source of hope” for standing up on behalf of the vulnerable in our community and for exemplifying new norms of selflessness, sacrifice and spirit of nationalism. "They emphasised that the #BringBackOurGirls campaign had provided a voice for millions of Nigerians, parents, youths, children and others who had been unable to speak out or voice their concerns The campaign said it is committed to making similar advocacy visits to other elder statesmen and women in other regions of Nigeria in the coming days and sustain its campaign until a desired end is achieved.