Kwana Simon. Fibi Haruna. Esther Usman. Saratu Ayua. These are some of the young women who were recently released by Boko Haram in exchange for prisoners, according to the Nigerian presidency. Eighty-two of the young women known as the Chibok Girls gained their freedom last weekend. It’s been three long years for the Chibok Girls and throughout it all social media campaigners have kept pressure on the Nigerian government to recover the girls.
“The state failure created a situation where those girls were abducted from school,” says Emman Shehu, a member of the Bring Back Our Girls group in Abuja.
The campaign is arguably the most successful grassroots citizens movement in Nigeria’s recent history. For three years, members have gathered across the Nigerian capital of Abuja and the city of Lagos, carrying banners and marching the streets.
But the Bring Back Our Girls group has made its loudest mark on social media. Like the other members, Shehu campaigns on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp. The Bring Back Our Girls Whatsapp group has more than 100 participants, including journalists, elected officials and concerned citizens. Thousands of followers get alerts from the group’s Twitter feed.
When dozens of Chibok parents were blocked by police from entering the state house last month, it was the Bring Back Our Girls group who published pictures of the botched rally on their social media channels. It’s on social media that the group’s slogans have become known. Slogans like “Bring Back Our Girls Now And Alive ” and “We Are Fighting For The Soul Of Nigeria” have all been popularized on social media.
“As it has turned out when we first started saying it in our slogan without really thinking much about it that the fight for the Chibok Girls is a fight for the soul of Nigeria, it has truly become evident that we’re actually fighting,” Shehu says. “For those of us in the movement this has become the basis to continue. ”
Nigerian officials have made repeated references to the social media campaign of Bring Back Our Girls. A tweet from BBOG activist Oby Ezekwesili can be re-tweeted thousands of times.
The group released a statement commending Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on recovering the 82 girls. But the group is back on social media, pressuring on behalf of the 113 who are still missing. No one knows where they are or if they are even still alive. But the Nigerian president has vowed to ensure that all the Chibok Girls return to their families.