“There is no national consensus in Nigeria on how to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency. What outsiders often fail to grasp is that this grim situation is merely the symptom of a deeper malaise: a breakdown of the informal consensus on power sharing between the Muslim north and the Christian south that had guided Nigerian politics for decades.”—Princeton Lyman, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria.
I agree with the ambassador’s assessment.
Friends, it seems like only yesterday that Kechie’s Project organized a rally, forum, vigil, concert and media reception in solidarity with our Chibok girls. We stood in solidarity in front of the Nigerian Consulate May 10, 2014, with the support of Harlem4 Center for Change and Street Corner Resources and demanded the return of the Chibok girls. We stood in solidarity with the Chibok girls, along with progressive Nigerians, friends of Nigeria, Christians, Jews, Catholics, secularists and Muslims and demanded the return of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram at a time when demanding action in front of our consulate was still not politically correct. We called on President Goodluck Jonathan to do all within his power to secure the release of the girls. We did that as Nigerians and friends of Nigeria looking for the new Nigerian Renaissance as Nigerians who want a better Nigeria.
On a personal note, I was doing it because I know what it means to have a loved one kidnapped. I was doing it because standing up for Chibok was a way to give a voice to my mother, who was a victim of ransom kidnapping in Nigeria, enduring eight weeks in captivity. I was standing and raising my voice because each time I see my mother, I see an old woman who was violated and who is still in pain both emotionally and physically. So when I stood up for Chibok, I was standing up for the parents and families of all who were kidnapped. We were standing up for all Nigerian girls, regardless of what part of Nigeria they are from. We were doing it for all Nigerian girls. We stood up for Chibok and spent resources, because since 2010, Kechie’s Project has been about empowerment of girls through education.
What I thought to be the new Nigerian Renaissance, unfortunately, was hijacked by a select few who continue to dwarf the progress of Nigeria. All of a sudden, the Bring Back Our Girls campaign became a movement that was commandeered and used by the opposition as a tool for political gains. The world watched as the momentum we all built to state the case for our girls got replaced by ethnic and religious rancor. Elections and real issues facing Nigerians became filtered with hatred, even among the so-called educated elites. Our girls got pushed to the sidelines, and the demonization of political opponents became the order of the day. The world turned away because Nigerians are their own worst enemies.
My trip to Nigeria last December was not only to visit our girls and spend time with my family, but also to assess things on the ground to better understand the Chibok situation. While in Nigeria, I wanted to visit Jos, one of the epicenters of conflicts in Nigeria and the city I was born in. I was advised against traveling by road from Enugu to Jos for security reasons. What one sees on the ground depends on whose side one is on. If you are supporting Muhammadu Buhari’s opposition, Jonathan is the worst thing that ever happened to Nigeria, but if you are for Jonathan, the Chibok situation is a conspiracy against his government. What one sees on the ground also depends on what part of the country you are in and whether you are Muslim or Christian.
Nigeria is a nation that remains deeply divided on every issue. We lack the maturity and civility to stand up with one voice to demand what we want from our leaders. Every Nigerian is clamoring for change, but change does not constitute recycling of old ideas. We want the world to stand with us, fight our battles for us while we blame everything on Jonathan. We want the world to help when we have not shown the world that we are a united voice.
Yes, Chibok happened on Jonathan’s watch, but the truth is, we must rally around our president while he is president, regardless of our differences to help him defeat Boko Haram and bring our girls home. The Chibok girls are still in captivity because we refuse to rise above our ethnic and religious differences for a common cause that is Nigeria. We have betrayed our girls by allowing our personal and sectional interests to come before our collective strength as one nation.
For me, as a Nigerian from the southeastern part of Nigeria whose ethnic group of 2 million people, half of them being children, were massacred and starved to death during the Nigerian Civil War, I say Nigeria can no longer afford to have a leader who will not carry the rest of the country along. Buhari is not the change we need. He has not demonstrated that he is that change we need. Nigerians need a progressive and unbiased visionary who will instill trust so that all Nigerians will see themselves as Nigerians with one common voice.
Yes, there are many reasons not to vote for Jonathan, but Buhari is not the answer for my freedom of speech and for my respect as a woman. Buhari is not the answer for the empowerment of women, both politically and socially. He is definitely not the answer for all our girls and our daughters, including those in the northern part of Nigeria who are being married off as children, or for all my fellow Nigerians.
PDP and APC are both the same. APC is an old wine in a new bottle. Both parties have offered ordinary Nigerians nothing but misery. Our focus should be on how to work together as one nation, with one voice toward finding a visionary leader who will embrace our rich diversity and enhance the quality of life for all Nigerians.
Nkechi Ogbodo is president and founder of Kechie’s Project. For more information, contact email@example.com or visit www.kechiesproject.org.