The #BringBackOurGirls movement has responded to a recent letter by Nigeria’s Defence Spokesman ,Major General Chris Olukolade. Leader of the group,Dr Oby Ezekwesili who wrote the reply on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls noted the series of issues raised by the general.She however demanded pointedly, an update on plans by the military to rescue the missing #ChibokGirls
“We demand that the Military urgently presents a mission update to the parents, our Movement and the wider public on the current plans for the rescue of our #ChibokGirls”,Ezekwesili wrote.
“Like you, we in #BringBackOurGirls are open to revisiting the idea of a mutually productive interface between our Movement and the military/ security establishments/government so as to collaborate on the counter- insurgency war going forward. Please let us know how soon you are available for the commencement of the kind of “robust engagement and interaction” conveyed in your letter and we will assuredly participate”, the reply also said.
A copy of the letter was released to the press Wednesday along with a statement signed by Sesugh Akume of strategic communication,#BringBackOurGirls.The statement said ,“We received a correspondence from Major-General Chris Olukolade, the Defence spokesman dated 14 May 2015 and have replied to same dated 19 May 2015.
“In response we deny in the strongest terms that our Movement has any ulterior motive other than our well-known cause; nor are we “influenced” by anyone as averred by him.
“For us as a Movement, everything we do is driven by, and hinged on our core values which define us. The information we deploy is accessed from credible and open media sources available to everyone, including releases by the military.
“It may be of interest to know that all our statements and posts on social media undergo stringent, rigorous in-house quality control measures, and are released with all sense of responsibility. We stand by each of them.
The movement said “Contrary to what was averred in the letter, we hold our military in the highest esteem; have expressed and demonstrated same repeatedly as evidenced in our statements and activities, all documented.
“Unfortunately, the repeated falsehoods and inconsistencies emanating from our military have tended to dim this noble image. We refer you to:
“Chronicles of false narratives and inconsistencies by the Nigerian government over the rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls”:
“We are saddened that our Movement received a 4-page correspondence from the Director, Defence Information but not one sentence acknowledging our anxiety to receive an update on the rescue of our #ChibokGirls; missing today for 400 days, with not one rescued. We wonder when we shall be getting concrete responses to our enquiries and concerns?
“As usual, we are willing to engage with the military high-command like we did on 6 May 2014 to discuss these concerns better.
See a copy of the response to the General below:
May 19, 2015
Major-General Chris Olukolade
Director, Defence Information
RE: I SPEAK AS A VICTIM OF YOUR MEMBER’S MALICIOUS CAMPAIGN THROUGH [THE] BBOG PLATFORM
We acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 14 May 2015 and noted your concerns about our advocacy movement #BringBackOurGirls which has since April 30, 2014 been advocating for rescue of the 219 #ChibokGirls abducted 400 days ago at their school on April 14, 2014.
We especially noted the following four key messages in your letter to our Movement:
- That you believe that a “certain gentleman” whom you did not name but who has had a history of animosity toward you may be using our #BringBackOurGirls platform to antagonize you and the military. You inferred therefore that the Bring-Back-Our-Girls advocacy group has been “influenced” by this “unnamed man” to conclude plans to destroy the careers and reputation of especially yourself and a selected group of military officers in the country.
- That you consider our monitoring and reporting on the counter-insurgency efforts of our military unfair. You also faulted our assessment that the military has been opaque in communicating the counter- insurgency war thereby making their activities lacking in transparency and credibility.
- That you recalled how our Movement had reached out to the Defense Headquarters and held a meeting with the Defense Headquarters team on May 6, 2014. You recalled that we deliberated with civility on the issue of our singular advocacy- the rescue of our 219 #ChibokGirls within the military’s broader approach to tackling the terrorist assault of the North East zone.
- That you indicated the readiness of the military and security establishments to reengage with us and that “there is still room for more merciful and robust engagement or interface between you and the government and security agencies in the drive to secure the return of our girls”.
We wish to respond to the four key issues raised in your letter as follows:
- Our #BringBackOurGirls movement is a Citizens- led movement with open membership of all citizens who choose to identify with the cause of our 219 #ChibokGirls. No one individual or group of persons within the Movement can determine the direction or position of our Movement on the issues we advocate. This is because, the basis of all our decisions is Collectivism. Moreover, both our Movement and our members are guided by a set of Core Values of Hope, Unity, Motivation, Affability, Nationalism, Integrity, Transparency, Empathy, Equity, Discipline and Sacrifice (HUMANITEEDS) in our advocacy.
In our public and private communication, we are also guided by our rule of highest respect for adherence to the sanctity of facts or empirical evidence rather than anecdotes. Our communications- statements, briefs, member representations – all pass through one of the strongest internal quality control process to ensure accuracy in our messages.
Therefore, we wish to strongly assure you that #BringBackOurGirls has never and will never be susceptible to the kind of influence of any one or group of individual(s) engaging in a “hate campaign against you or our military”. Such act would contradict our Core Values and our strictly empirical advocacy for the Government and military to deliver on their duty. Thus, our singularity of purpose remains the rescue of our #ChibokGirls and all other abducted victims of the North East terrorist scourge. We shall continue to be civil and professional in our advocacy as we have widely been acclaimed to be since it commenced more than a year ago.
- As a Citizens’ movement, #BringBackOurGirls is a demand for accountability from especially our Federal Government which has the constitutional duty for security of all citizens. In shaping our demand, we rely on publicly available news from your Directorate as well as all known credible media platforms. In furtherance of our civic duty to be eternally vigilant we launched our Accountability Tools for rigorously monitoring, organizing and analyzing all news reports on the counter insurgency war in order to draw out key issues on which we could engage as citizens with our Government to help improve the prospects of success of the military efforts. As earlier stated be reassured that all our statements and posts on social media conveying the results of our Monitoring/Accountability Initiatives have to undergo stringent quality control processes. It is after these that they are released with utmost sense of responsibility and a readiness to defend our position with evidence.
We therefore stand by all our analyses and assessments as conveyed in our statements. This explains why, so far, we have never had to recant, deny, or apologize for any statements we have made in the more than one year of our advocacy.
Nevertheless, we are open to receiving any specific instances or episodes of factual inaccuracy resulting from our monitoring, analysis, assessment, questions, scrutiny and statements. We are ready to debate any of our specific statements that you consider to be an “unfair” assessment of the progress report we received from your Directorate or the news media on the tragedies of the terrorist onslaught against the North East. We maintain that the Military has not communicated the prosecution of the anti terror war within minimum standards of transparency required to gain public confidence. #BringBackOurGirls as a Citizens’ movement, responsibly took on the role of “asking for accountability” from our government/military and we shall remain committed to that task.
We have never failed to appreciate the efforts of our military; especially our gallant soldiers in the frontline of battle. That is why at the same time as we demand for accountability; we have also persistently advocated for the equipping, retooling, retraining, welfare, safety and recognition of our soldiers. We have been adamant in demanding for value-for-money through an expenditure review of how the several trillions of Naira budgeted over the at least four years of scaled up financing of the anti- terror war were utilized. We are balanced in this advocacy, well aware that good governance of the security budgetary resources is the best way to champion the cause of our military and security establishments.
Everyone who has followed our public statements will confirm that we have never failed to acknowledge and commend our military; especially our ground troops at all times that they have achieved success. We were very public with our commendations of the military at various times for reclaiming our territories occupied by insurgent. We were overjoyed and commended the military for the recent rescue of nearly 1000 of our fellow citizens previously in terrorist captivity. You may recall our numerous statements seeking clarification from the Military/Security establishments on the news of several abductions at different times in the last twelve months. That such massive scale of citizens who were never confirmed abducted by our military/security have now been declared rescued should certainly validate our worries about the absence of information transparency in the execution of the counter insurgency efforts of our military.
We do all these in demonstration of the democratic principle that citizens’ demand for accountability from their government should never preclude their support for state institutions and functions. We shall therefore not cease to express our dissatisfaction with any actions of the military that our Movement factually assesses to contradict its obligation to our nation and people. We encourage you and the military to see our role as critical for forging public trust in the military and security establishments and rebuilding our social capital.
- We also recall our meeting of the 6th May 2014 with you and the Chief of Defense Staff team at the Defense Head Quarters. We had at that meeting agreed that the military will act in ways consistent with civil-military relations and democratic accountability by hosting us to a regular meetings to discuss the progress of your rescue mission for our girls and more broadly, the prosecution of the counter-insurgency war. It is regrettable that subsequently following that agreement, none of such meetings ever happened again and that instead, our attempt to participate in your National Information Center briefings was frustrated and then prohibited.
However, as you can see, we remain engaged and determined to receive progress reports from our military on their effort to bring back our girls. We were in fact hoping that part of your letter would have provided a progress update on the state of the military mission to rescue our girls. So we use this opportunity of our reply to once more ask; “Where exactly are our 219 #ChibokGirls?” . “Is there no military or human intelligence to enable us at least locate the whereabout of all or some of them?” “Is the raid on Sambisa now completed and if so, what news do we have on the whereabout of our 219 girls who both the military, the National Security Advisor and the President had at various times promised would be rescued from captivity before May 29th?”.
We demand that the Military urgently presents a mission update to the parents, our Movement and the wider public on the current plans for the rescue of our #ChibokGirls.
- Like you, we in #BringBackOurGirls are open to revisiting the idea of a mutually productive interface between our Movement and the military/ security establishments/government so as to collaborate on the counter- insurgency war going forward. Please let us know how soon you are available for the commencement of the kind of “robust engagement and interaction” conveyed in your letter and we will assuredly participate.
Once again, we thank you for writing. We hope we have convincingly persuaded you that our Movement is strictly engaged in empathy centered advocacy for our 219 #ChibokGirls who must be given the JUSTICE of successful rescue after 400 days in terrorist captivity. Their continued captivity traumatizes our Movement and every one in our nation and all over the world who share the bond of humanity with our 219 #ChibokGirls. Our ChibokGirls are victims of the failure of our government to rescue them and others we may still not know were abducted so far. That is why we as a Movement shall not stop advocating for them. That is also why we are open to working with our Military and Government until our nation succeeds in this important endeavor of bringing back our ChibokGirls and all other abducted citizens of Nigeria.
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili