Surely, you know this, that as you celebrated Christmas on the 25th of December this year, perhaps safely with friends and family, a crew of citizens like you, and like us, gathered yet again on the streets of Abuja, under the aegis of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, to continue daily sit outs that have been holding for more than 200 days now.
They also marched the streets of Abuja, distributing fliers, making the same request they have made since May, while making the same simple request they started since April, irrespective of their religions, ethnicities or social status: they were demanding for the return of at least 219 girls, abducted by the evil Boko Haram sect from a federal government college in Chibok, Borno.
The Christmas day march was almost interrupted by policemen who tried to block access to certain city areas, but the group soldiered on purposefully. Even though their numbers had depleted considerably since the period when the #BringBackOurGirls movement was loudest and trendiest, the die-hard members who continued to show up for the daily sit outs are no strangers to hostile law officers, even though they have done no wrong.
Leading the charge, keeping her eyes on the ball, and refusing to give in to distractions including the most virulent and dishonest attacks, has been Obiagaeli Ezekwesili, a national coordinator of the movement.
This uncompromising willingness to speak for the voiceless and truth to power has made Ezekwesili, 51 a natural fit for the leadership of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, where her considerable clout has helped put the missing girls on the top of the agenda for both Nigerians, our federal government whose tardiness in acknowledging the plight of the Chibok girls caused a very costly delay.
What started out as another terrorist attack by a devious group-and Nigeria has seen its fair share- soon snowballed into a global storm with serious international consequences, largely because of Ezekwesili’s drive and determination to put herself in the line of fire.
Ezekwesili will certainly be loath to take this credit, but it is hers nonetheless for giving hope, and strength and clarity to an army of young Nigerians without whom many of us would have long forgotten those children.
She has shunned politics, been quick to dismiss those who would seek partisan profit from a national tragedy and in displaying an inspiring discipline has kept this single issue alive as Nigeria’s longest, and most resilient public advocacy intervention.
It continues a trend that has been her life’s work, galvanising citizens in the public and private sectors as well as civil society to demand better, to step up to the plate, to sieve the moment. In so doing, she has easily become the nation’s Citizen-in-Chief, standing firm as its moral centre; standing sure as its stubborn conscience.
Not since the late and rare Gani Fawehinmi has the nation’s most powerless had a defender most relentless.
For her incredible risk in putting her life’s work, goodwill and influence on the line to speak out for a vulnerable population that is often ignored, for her refusal to maintain the status quo and become part of a complicit elite, for her passion, drive, and love for a nation that is still unable to live up to its full potential, for her anger- because sometimes it is the first element for creating change, for staking life and limb for a country that has not always appreciated her efforts and for the ability to fire up and sustain a cause even when it seems that no one is listening.
For reminding Nigerians that the value of a single life is priceless, for proving that all it truly takes to make change is one woman, and for standing tall as a model of what the Nigerian citizen – without billions of dollars or a government office – can and should be, we unreservedly, and proudly, announce Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili as the Y!/YNaija Person of the Year 2014.
And may her fight to the finish yet bring our girls home.