Dozens of BringBackOurGirls NYC members together with community leaders and concerned citizens staged a peaceful protest in New York on Monday to petition the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Nigerian government and its armed forces to do more to rescue over 200 abducted schoolgirls and to stop the killings and abduction of Nigerians.
“We will continue to rally to bring attention to this matter until our girls are brought back and reunited with their families,” said Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, PhD, organizer of Monday’s rally and Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY) and Editor of Irinkerindo: a Journal of African Migration.
In an interview, Professor Okome begs to differ with the Nigerian government’s decision not to swap Boko Haram prisoners for the abducted girls. She unequivocally took to task former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for making what she calls inappropriate comments that some of the abducted girls may never come home.
Excerpt of the interview follows.
What do you hope to accomplish with Monday's rally?
We want to have all abducted girls, women and other Nigerians rescued by the Federal Government of Nigeria, and reunited with their families. As expressed in today’s press release: We want to continue to raise awareness on what can only be termed an atrocity of epic proportions. We petition the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Nigerian government and its armed forces and the International Community to take additional action to BringBackOurGirls.
We also call on the Nigerian government to keep Nigerian girls safe in their respective schools across the country. We joined the rallies underway worldwide, to commemorate the International Day of the African Child. We stand in solidarity with our missing girls. We asked all attendees to wear RED, as a symbol of the bloodshed and abduction of children throughout the northern region of Nigeria.
Boko Haram kidnapped the Chibok schoolgirls because they are against western education of women and girls. What are the ramifications of the kidnapping on education and development in the region?
There is understandably great fear in the affected communities. Media reports also tell us that many schools have been closed due to fears about security. Many parents may not want to risk sending their children to school for fear that they may be abducted. The consequence of this response to the terrible situation of insecurity is that there will be increased gap between the few wealthy and the masses of the poor. The already existent concentration of wealth will be ramified and the economic, social and political consequences would be to further marginalize the masses of the poor and privilege the few rich.
Education For All (EFA) is a global initiative that affirms the right to education asserted by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to education is being denied the children who now cannot go to school due to fear of abduction.
Education is also globally recognized as a key part of human development. It creates opportunities, opens up new vistas, and enables individuals to free themselves from oppression. According to the UN, education “contributes to fostering peace, democracy and economic growth as well as improving health and reducing poverty. The ultimate aim of Education for All (EFA) is sustainable development.”
The kidnapping will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on education and the development of Northern Nigeria specifically, and Nigeria as a whole.
In May, the Nigeria government refused to trade the abducted girls for Boko Haram prisoners. Do you think that the Nigerian government should follow the example of the U.S. prisoner swap of five Taliban detainees for a captured American soldier?
I think the Nigerian government should have swapped the kidnapped schoolgirls for Boko Haram prisoners. #BringBackOurGirlsNYC is a coalition of Nigerians, Nigerian Americans, Africans, Diasporan Africans and friends of Nigeria resident in New York City. We intend to redouble our efforts and continue to protest until these girls are brought back to their families. We also will work to better strengthen the dialogue concerning the #BringBackOurGirls initiative, and we encourage you to join and support us to urge the Nigerian government to rescue, re-unite the girls with their families, and provide them future support.
Recently, former President Obasanjo told BBC that he believes some of the girls may never return home and “If the administration had acted quickly, we could have rescued them.” President Obasanjo joined families and supporters of the abducted girls who have been critical of Nigerian President Jonathan. Do you agree that he was slow to react and indifferent to the plight of the schoolgirls?
The second part to that question is what are your thoughts on the progress made or lack thereof by the Nigerian security forces including assistance by the U.K., China and the U.S. to rescue the abducted schoolgirls?
I find President Obasanjo's statement abhorrent and most inappropriate given that I believe all people of good conscience should be hopeful that the girls will be recovered soon and reunited with their families. I am disappointed with the Nigerian security forces and the foreign countries, including the US. They do not appear to be making any kind of progress whatsoever. Thus far, the girls that have been reunited with their families were the ones that escaped from Boko Haram by themselves. It makes me wonder why these brave girls were able to escape and the world's most powerful forces are utterly incapable of rescuing even one girl so far. I am saddened, heartbroken and baffled by the incongruity and absurdity of it all. And yet, I remain hopeful that we will have all the girls recovered and reunited with their families. After that the struggle to make some genuine democracy emerge out of Nigeria begins. As well, there must be drastic overhaul of the institutions to increase their efficiency and responsiveness to the needs of the populace. This is a long-term struggle.