It is now 3 weeks since hundreds of female students at the Government Girls’ Secondary School Chibok, Borno were abducted by presumed members of the Boko Haram sect. The news was met with great sadness as the nation was still recovering from mourning the Nyanya, Abuja bombing victims, just 24 hours earlier.

How it all began

However, while the news of the kidnapped girls was still breaking,  the president was in Kano leading a PDP campaign rally. Later that same day, he made a stop at the Olubadan of Ibadan’s palace, to join the monarch in marking his 100th birthday. Photos of the rally and birthday bash were posted from the Twitter account of the presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati.

Soon the photos were spreading by way of retweets and re-uploads. The general sentiment among Nigerians was that this was a serious display of insensitivity by the president.

Lies and Unanswered Questions

2 days after the kidnapping, the Nigerian military announced that the girls had been rescued.

https://twitter.com/UberNewsNG/status/456574516693434369

It turned out to be a false claim, according to the aggrieved parents and officials of the school.

Nigerians started asking even more pressing questions

Up to this point, no one knew the actual number of missing girls.

International media houses had already begun to pick up the news too

The exact number of missing girls had been put to 234 but it was still not certain.

 

People needed answers

#BringBackOurGirls

Criticism of the government’s choice of silence continued mounting on Twitter. Yet, none of it had translated to any offline activism.

On the evening of Wednesday the 23rd of April however, 2 time Federal Minister under President Obasanjo’s regime, Oby Ezekwesili, who had been quite vocal on Twitter since the news of the kidnapping broke out, led the declaration of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag

The hashtag caught on like wildfire. By the second day, over 8000 tweets had been sent using #BringBackOurGirls. By the third day, that number had almost doubled.

#bringbackourgirls

As there was now a defined focal point to it, the conversation became even louder.

[Update] – As at today, 7th of May, the hashtag alone has garnered over 1.5 million tweets.

 

Attention and awareness equally increased and the international community joined the conversation in earnest. International celebreties lent their voices too

Going offline

As the conversation continued to build on Twitter, pressure continued to mount on local authorities.

Japheth Omojuwa believes the local media houses weren’t doing enough: “really and truly, they are now getting on the issue but only because social media and the foreign media kept it on the front burner”.

But a mere feature on National dailies could only go so far. It was time to take things to the streets. And so the rallies began:

Lagos

Abuja

Kaduna

The international community was not left out

Calabar

Still there was silence from the government. And local media houses appeared to do more of reporting than leading the conversation.

This was CNN’s cue….

Finally, some reaction from the Government?

Maybe too little too late?

However President Jonathan finally broke his silence yesterday during the Presidential Media Chat, where  he entertained questions from selected members of press. While Nigerians were happy to finally hear from the president, the general opinion was that his answers were unsatisfactory.

What next?

Twitter has obviously had a huge role to play in this cause of finding the missing girls. Nigerians have been motivated to move from armchair critics to true activists. But has it been enough?

“What can be done offline is being done. All we need to do is make it more effective. While we hit the streets, we must knock on the doors of those people whose responsibility it is to keep our people safe. Whatever we do, we must be wary of the evil elements in our midst and understand that this is not just about the girls, it is about every child in Nigeria. To let them know we care as a people, that as a country we will always care about the issues that matter to them” – Japheth Omojuwa

Meanwhile, online or offline, Twitter continues to lead the conversation

 

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