Alkasim Abdulkadir: Nigerian Women, From Fault Lines To Front-Lines

Nigeria’s history is replete with examples of women of valour. There’s Queen Amina of Zaria, the Aba Women’s Riot of 1929, the Egba Women led by Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Gambo Sawaba and Kudirat Abiola amongst so many others.

Today, we find Nigerian women are at the fore-front of humanising Nigeria, spurred by maternal instincts they have started a movement that has traversed the world in search of empathy, hope and intervention. From the glitzy red carpet of Cannes to the dusty distraught refugee camps of Syria; from public school kids in Europe to America’s Michele Obama and the thousands of the women of Mexico and women all over Nigeria they are all saying one thing: #BringBackOurGirls. The message has been loud and thunderous. This no doubt prompted world leaders from China, to the US, UK, France and Israel to offer varying degrees of help in spatial surveillance.

Dr. Fatima Zannah’s voice quivers through the mega phone, strong and unambiguous. It is the voice of someone that has seen it all. She recounts the loved ones that she has lost and why the Chibok incident must serve as a turning point. At last she declares -I am not afraid to die. Dr. Zannah is from Maiduguri, she has become one of the regular and passionate faces at the Bring Back Our Girls sit out at Unity Fountain in Abuja. The passion here is infectious and at the same time inspiring as it also breaks the box of stereotype associated with the women of the North. But, as mothers they have had enough, they have had enough of the carnage of Buni Yadi the gruesome murder of secondary schools students whose only crime was to seek an education; they were tired of the mass slaughter in Gujba, in Kodunga, in Baga, Bama, in Beni Sheikh and the tens of other villages under the State of Emergency.

Others under this renewed vanguard is Lesly Agams lawyer and anti-domestic violence advocate who is spearheading the Nigeria 1414 Support Group, bringing succour to the survivors of Nyaya bomb blast. This intervention the group hopes to replicate across the country, a herculean task with the increasing spate of attacks and survivors. However, it is through citizen actions of the likes of Agams that Nigerians are not only humanising the events but are showing that they are indeed their brothers keepers. “This is like the Aba’s women…It’s about time that the Nigeria women came out, historical and traditional women were always the checks and balance when men got very extreme” Lesley Agams said on why she was part of this citizen initiative.

For Priscila Achakpa her involvement is more personal. Her motivation was spurred by a personal tragedy of losing her son -a student at American University in Yola to unknown gunmen. She had finished speaking with her son amidst love and banters on the 4th of September, 2011, she ended the call by telling him to be careful, he responded by saying I am invisible Mum. Alas, for Charles his invisibility, amiable disposition and dreams were shattered and thus Achakpa lost one of her two children. Today, she is stronger and more determined to help end violence and the cycle of strife in Nigeria with the Women Uniting for Peace organisation. On May Day, with women from 8 states they marched in black to the Eagle Square were they displayed banners asking for peace and proactive measures in ending violence in Nigeria.

There also plans to ask communities in Nigeria to sign peace accords to guarantee peace in their communities. So also Maryam Augie’s Ayahay foundation has also initiated the Gift Basket project to help raise awareness and relief materials to the multitude of internally displaced persons under the state of emergency states. These women trudge on beyond their social media presence, with an inspiring common purpose of bring back the girls of Chibok and ensuring peace in the land. From the courage of the likes of Bukki Shonibare and Rinsola Abiola, to the uncommon support of Dorothy Njemanze, the edifying presence of  Maryam Uwais, the empathy of Fantis Mo and the resilience of Maureen Kabrik. Both offline and online Victoria Ibezim Ohaeri of Spaces for Change and Amy Oyekunle, Hafsat Abiola, Amy Oyekunle, Pamela Braide of KIND have continued to do more than ponder and ask why things are so wrong. Chibok has become the chain of solidarity that links several women across Nigeria and beyond. These are women that have crossed the fault lines of religion, class and ethnicity. Easily barriers that have held Nigeria back in its march to greatness.

Hadiza Bala Usman, continues to provide the nudge and rally the group together every day, she has remain steadfast in this yet unfolding trauma. Pundits have been asking -how far can she go, how far can they go? Then she thunders “We won’t stop!” A reassuring statement in the face of somewhat indifferent official and public empathy.

Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has provided the elusive leadership, needed in such times of national crisis. Her rousing speeches of call to action continue to ring all over the world; posterity will remember her for stepping up to unite the country for a common cause. Her revolutionary zeal continues to inspire a generation of Nigerians not only to act, but to teach them that in changing Nigeria a basic modicum of leadership, emotional intelligence and love is needed. In the end, thousands of these women all over Nigeria by their actions have re-awakened a need to halt our slide into dehumanising vortex. Beneath the rallying cry of asking us to bring back our girls, Nigerian women are asking us all to bring back our country.

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