Metropole Magazine

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22 Oct

I have watched, with keen interest, recent attempts by some principal officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria to discredit me and the #BringBackOurGirls group. This is not new. It has been the case since we commenced our citizens-driven advocacy movement. My initial reaction was to ignore the chatter and concentrate on the noble work of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Unfortunately, my humble silence is being taken as license to further dissuade and divide the populace by spreading inaccurate information, through advertorials, thereby tagging the #BringBackOurGirls group as an affiliate of the APC.

I am a card holding member of the APC, and there has been no time I have hidden this fact or tried to mask it. But let’s be very clear, when I worked to mobilize women, men, and Nigerians at large to come out on April 30th to protest that the Government should intensify efforts to #BringBackOurGirls, I did so not as an APC member, but first as a HUMAN BEING, as a WOMAN, a MOTHER, and as a NIGERIAN.

 It was never about politics or political affiliations; it was rather about our shared humanity as human beings. As a mother, I have experienced the trauma of not knowing where my child is for few minutes; does it then surprise many why I would be moved to act on behalf of mothers who are yet to see their daughters for 2 weeks (at the first instance) and now over 190 days after?

I came out as a concerned citizen of Nigeria, one that is very interested in the unity, growth, and development of this nation; one that knows the important role an educated girl-child would play in contributing to the success we all anticipate for our dear country. That these girls dared education in the face of terrorism, insecurity, and other life-threatening circumstances, is a rare display of courage, doggedness, and hope. This is why I, alongside other #BringBackOurGirls campaigners, have been advocating daily for 175 days today to make sure that these girls are not forgotten, but that they are rescued and returned home to contribute their quota to national development.

I came out as someone who, from a very young age, watched my (late) father always advocating and standing up for what is right, no matter the cost. These are values he passed down to me and there was no way I was going to sit down, keep quiet and get on with my live while 276 girls are abducted and held in captivity by a terrorist group. If my father was alive today he would have lent his voice to the Chibok girls.

No one should be denied the right and opportunity to express their natural sense of empathy because of interests and political affiliations. When we allow such divisive narratives as that being peddled by people paid with taxpayers’ money to fester in our national discourse, we must see that rather than gain, we lose instead. Rather than come united, we become disunited.

This moment offers for us a rare opportunity to stand united as a nation, whether you are in PDP, APC, or any political party; Christian or Muslim; from the North or the South. The issue of the abducted Chibok girls is an opportunity to UNITE and not DIVIDE - to stand against insurgency, terrorism, and every common enemy that seeks to divide us as a people. We must unite to ensure that every girl and boy in Nigeria has equal access to education. We must unite to change the narrative that no matter one’s tribe, gender, religion, social strata, interests, and political affiliations, we can all come together as one to build beloved nation.

I, Hadiza Bala Usman, choose to tow the path of UNITY; I will not be intimidated by anyone and I will continue to stand for the Chibok girls regardless of my tribe, religion and political affiliation.

*Statement Issued By Hadiza Bala Usman - 21st October 2014

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16 Jul

The initiator of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Abuja draws inspiration from her parents and the potential for a united Nigeria, writes Chika Oduah 

She’s the mother of two young boys, a wife to an economic analyst, and they all live together in a delightful home tucked away in one of Maitaima’s quiet, tree-lined streets near Ministers’ Hill. She works in her home office surrounded by a massive bookshelf with books organized into categories likes “development” and “autobiographies.” Rachel, the cook, manages the family’s meals. Juma, the nanny, watches the boys and the driver tends to the luxury cars parked out front. 

Everything in her life seemed relatively fine, routine and normal, until Boko Haram kidnapped almost 300 female students in Chibok in April.

Hadiza Bala Usman’s comfortable life was jolted.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Hadiza says. “I couldn’t sit back in my world to say it doesn’t affect me.” That’s when she contacted her older friend, the renowned barrister Mrs. Maryam Uwais, and together, they decided to start a chain of emails to mobilize others, mainly women, to get on the streets to pressurise the government to bring the girls back. She says she was shocked about how nothing had been done, weeks after the abduction and about how Abuja residents seemed to carry on with life as usual.

What began as a collection of emails has evolved into a street campaign taken around the world, empowered with a heavy social media presence – #BringBackOurGirls has been tweeted more than two million times. 

Hadiza says she chose red to embody the campaign, describing the colour as a sign for “alarm, danger, a warning.”

“This was just me randomly concerned, gathering other people,” she says.

But a closer look at Hadiza’s life reveals her concern is not as “random” as one may imagine. Hadiza’s concern reflects a larger perspective shared by many who call themselves active citizens, thinkers and activists. Born in Zaria in 1976 and raised on the campus of the supposedly left-winged Ahmadu Bello University with her three sisters and three brothers, Hadiza is the daughter of the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, who was a passionate and respected lecturer of history at the university. She grew up surrounded by intellectuals and her father was especially inspiring.

“I grew up listening to my father challenging the government and questioning the status quo,” she remarks.

She remembers when her father was fired when she was about twelve years old. She says the government had become concerned about his public views. Her father took the case to court and he eventually got his job back.

The Emir of Kano is Hadiza’s grandmother’s brother and the Emir of Katsina is related to her father. Despite his royal lineage, Hadiza’s father regularly confronted realities that he disagreed with – poverty, corruption and weak leadership.

It’s these sorts of experiences, with an outspoken father and strong-willed mother and her life in Zaria, that defined Hadiza’s scope as a Nigerian. She says what is happening today, with terrorists rampaging uncontrollably in northeastern Nigeria and the government’s failure to return any of the abducted students, “exposes the intellectual deficit of the leadership in this country.”

And the activism runs through the family. Two of her sisters—a pharmacist and the other, an accountant—have joined #BringBackOurGirls. Her mother also marched to the National Assembly, participated in the night vigil and attended two of the sit-ins.

 “I would not be doing what I am doing without her,” Hadiza says of her mother, a prudent woman who Hadiza says maintained the family home with grace.

But the activism comes at a price. Hadiza says she is being followed by strange cars throughout the day and her phones – along with some of the other women of #BringBackOurGirls – are tapped.

“There is a lag time in my conversations on the phone and I see my text messages being directed to strange numbers.” But she says she is not intimidated.

Nor is she intimidated by the President’s disapproval of #BringBackOurGirls campaigners telling the government what to do. She disapproves of the President’s recommendation for Nigerians to direct their protests to Boko Haram and not to the government.

“When a thief comes to your house to steal something, you’re telling me I can’t go to the police, but I should go to the thief to get back what was stolen from me?” she asks incredulously.

She’s not alone in her questions. #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral. She believes it’s an ample opportunity for Nigerians to collectively rise for a single cause and with Hadiza and the other campaign organizers, Nigerians have united, irrespective of age, creed and ethnicity.

“Maybe the abduction of the Chibok girls is the beginning of an end,” Hadiza says. “We stand united.”

For breaking news out of Abuja, follow us on Twitter: @MetropoleMag


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