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Toyin Olaleye: My Take on the #BringBackOurGirls DC Protests

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It’s not often that you see Nigerians gathering together for a major cause. Weddings, 50th birthday celebrations, party party party, and more weddings are usually the types of occasion that bring different types of Nigerians together. Unity is one of the major things that made this protest special. But would I call it a protest? Not at all! When I decided to go to this event, I personally just felt like I was going to a social gathering where I would be raising awareness about the missing Chibok girls. Because up until yesterday, I had colleagues who didn’t know that some girls were missing, but knew about that missing MH370 Flight.

Knowing so much about my fellow Nigerians and our desire to always “show out” wherever we go, it wasn’t an epic shock to see heavy makeup, lashes, wigs, and sew-ings at this “rally.” From university students to grown mamas, we had everything from midriffs showing to big and bulky box braids, to the torn jeans (yes! from the mamas as also) at this event. The weather was beautiful, damned near perfect. I was somewhat disappointed that some were not as conservative as could be, knowing what this cause was about.

One thing that I wish was stronger were the speakers. Where was Chimamanda? Not that she had to be there, but what this event really lacked was a strong voice. Granted, there were one or two speakers who incited some loud cheering within the audience and also some “preach girl.” We also had a few mothers who spoke to audiences and though they had much to say. I was expecting them to appeal more to our emotions than they did.

There was even one mother who came up and at the end said a prayer that sounded something like this “let every terrorist be hit with tranquilizer of heaven..” or something like that (please feel free to correct me if you were there). That was when I covered my face and was like ‘oh lawd, really?’ What a typical naija prayer.

There was one Ethopian woman who came out as a mother who basically said that one African country’s burden is all our burdens. There was also a non Nigerian Muslim woman who offered a prayer in Arabic showing everyone that Muslims and Christians can unite and do unite on a regular basis despite religious differences.

The rally continued with students from Howard University and George Washington University coming out and speaking their minds. There was a sense that some people weren’t as prepared as they should have and that the organizers were winging things as the event went along. But, on the other side, it helped the speakers come out from their hearts without having sat by their desk the night before concocting some over the top speech.

Speaking of speeches, there was an adorable 10- year old girl who gave a short and powerful speech to audiences. She was born in northern Nigeria before her family migrated to the U.S.  “It could have been me”, she shouted out. I was moved her speech as it echoed behind the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Then our local musicians came out and blessed the stage with renditions of popular songs that they had made to tailor to this event. Jay Cube particularly brought the stage down, making audiences sing along with him as he delivered his own version of Michael Jackson’s ‘We Are The World.” I almost cried here. It was moving.

At the end, all the ladies stood on a number that had been written on the ground in chalk, as photographers took a very unique photo of all the DMV ladies who had come out in unison to commiserate with the 234 Chibok girls and their families. Then the men also did the same thing. Then there was a moment of a silence which turned awry. I argued with a lady who insisted that the moment of silence must not hold – saying that the girls are not dead. And you know how argumentative I am. I said well a moment of silence does not always mean someone is dead. A moment of silence can be a time of reflection as well. But correct me if I’m wrong. The moment of silence or “reflection” still held. Afterwards everyone dispersed back to where ever they came from or were going after this rally.

At the end of this event, an overcast of sadness came upon me because the realest part of me felt like there would be no hope for the 234 or however many missing girls there are. It has been too many days. There has been too much waiting on the government’s part. There is too much corruption in Nigeria. Our military is too weak; even though Boko Haram is mainly comprised of untrained inactive young boys with no particular aim in life. They are fighting for nothing but with all of their might. Can our voices be a weapon? Yeah we’re here, creating awareness and stopping every non-Nigerian in the DC. vicinity and begging them to care. “I can’t keep calm. 234 girls are missing,” We shouted as beads of sweats streamed down our moist armpits – having held the placards one minute too long.

When it’s all said and done though, I couldn’t be more proud of everyone young man and old woman who came out to this event to lend their voices. We stood in solidarity and in joint pain for what the families of these missing girls are feeling. A part of me wanted to address the people saying that we all should move back to Nigeria if we can. ‘The nation needs us, ” I would have shouted. “Nigeria needs us home. Nigeria needs our skills, our learned talents from a nation that works.” But I’m glad I didn’t.

Not everyone is strong enough to move back. Not everyone is well equipped to move back. Not everyone can give up their secured life with monthly bills in exchange for car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, and the most basic electricity insurance. Where we lag, the government is meant to endorse us. Where we are weak, they are meant to be strong. How else do we commiserate with those who have moved back and have spent their sweat and savings trying to make Nigeria work… but have been met with every form of frustration there is for one individual to bear.
“I didn’t destroy Nigeria, so why should I care anymore. I’ve kuku tried my best.” Well you didn’t help build Nigeria in the first place. So can you honestly and truthfully say you’ve done enough. No! Neither can I. It will never be enough. Lagos and Abuja cannot be the only two states where children can safely go to school. They cannot be the only states where over 168 million Nigerians want to live. What about the other 34 states? We have so much work to do as a nation. But we can only do it in Unity.

If you live in Nigeria, don’t be upset that we’re protesting with smiles, when you weren’t there to see the moments of tears and anger. Don’t say, “everything is okay for them in the U.S so they cannot possibly understand.” We do understand, and everything is not okay. Many of us, including myself cannot afford to buy a ticket every single time there is a catastrophic event to protest in Nigeria. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care.

Many of us would rather be living in Nigeria but were opportune to live a different kind of life. Just join your hearts with ours because we are the the same Nigerians and we are all mothers, sisters, cousins, friends of peace and enemies of evil. It will be calm one day, but there is still much storm we must pass through and the only survivors of the storm and those who unite and I’ve got your back my brother.
Do you have my back?

Photo Credit: demotix.com

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Toyin Olaleye is a writer pursuing a Masters degree at the Johns Hopkins University, USA. She’s the unpublished author of “Oh! So You Are From Africa, How Come You Speak English”  and is extremely passionate about Nigeria.

Toyin Olaleye is a writer, editor and presenter pursuing a Masters degree at Johns Hopkins University, USA. You Follow her on twitter and instagram @olaleye1

16 Comments

  1. From Cambridgeshire

    May 13, 2014 at 10:05 am

    God bless the organizers. For the sincere participants of the protests – God bless you all.

    There is still hope as the girls’ footage was released yesterday. Please lets continue with the protests, and the #Bringbackthegirls campaign on Twitter. The girls are alive, lets pray they get reunited with their families.

    mormusicgroup.blogspot.co.uk

  2. dontstopnow

    May 13, 2014 at 10:38 am

    There is only one take on this thing: let us all pull together e.g using social media etc to bring more awareness and curb this menace. I live in the U.K and the indigenes are talking about sending the SAS going to rescue this girls, because they do not want this to spread to their country!

  3. Iyke

    May 13, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Your article is neither here nor there. What exactly is your point?
    Well done for participating at the #Bringbackourgirls peaceful protest.It’s honestly the least you could do at this moment.
    Personally, I suffer no illusions about what is wrong with the world today, Nigeria as a case study…..but I have chosen to live through the weight of it’s embrace…..to fight and reach the waiting side of life that breaths….cradles the wealth of gifted promise.!
    Your rant about ‘Moving Back’ seems misplaced.What was that all about? Nobody is asking you to come back and protest? However, your excuses arose out of FEAR. America is what it is today because of the sweat/blood of heroes who fought and died so that you would enjoy the freedom that you have today. That is what we are doing here in Nigeria …. fighting for a better future we may not live to see but a future that our kids yet unborn would be proud to embrace. So, Fuck fear Toyin Olaleye…fear is not your life…it is a negative fungus that attaches itself to your promise…aspirations…well being…exhausting your efforts…pretending to have your back while destroying your seeded potential. Fear is a parasite you insist on carrying from “pillow to post”…everyday the same old bull on your back…making choices for you…living center stage in your promise…a weighted burden eating away at your future… Fear is not your friend…it is the uninvited guest that never left… Fear holds you hostage…has its way with you…leaving you afraid to live a life that truly matters…a life you deserve… Don’t let fear become the whole of you my dear…rob you of the best of all that you are…
    We are warriors here in Naija and we will keep fighting until the future we desire for our nation is achieved.
    Fear sucks!

    • Jo!

      May 13, 2014 at 11:33 am

      I think people just get pissed of at something and then think “where can I go to go vent… OH BN is always there, oya let me write”, I mean, this article, apart from being totally pointless, as in ZERO points, had no direction, no sense, no nothing, just all over the place. I’m just angry abeg

    • Confuzzled

      May 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Well said sir. I completely agree!!

    • Thatgidigirl

      May 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Thank you Iyke, neither here nor there…tip toeing on egg shells. The writer comes across like she’s trying not to offend anybody. who asked anybody to move back anyway? like the country is not over populated enough as it is? I’m sorry but I couldn’t deduce anything from this write up, totally pointless.

    • toyin olaleye

      May 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Hey Iyke and others.. thanks for your comments.. this article was written almost three weeks ago the day after one of the first protests was held for #bringbackourgirls ..It was meant to be a summary of what happened that day for those who werent there..it probably should have been titled ‘Summary…. your comments are neither here or there either and u can choose to read again and try to get it or not..

  4. mujer

    May 13, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Ms Olaleye, initially I ghought your article was about the lack of seriousness at the rally but then you migrated into the concept of going home and other things. Unfocused for a writer, I’d say . Dulling though, did you expect the Naija women to remove the weave they’ve had on for say 2 weeks for reasons other than the protest because they want to “look” Solemn? You want people who always fix their Lashes that got the Protest notice that morning to first go to the Salon to remove the falsies because they want to meet your standards? Too Critical and unappreciative of our lifestyle choices as a flamboyant people. finally what is wrong with God sedating terrorists to inaction? Sounds like a good prayer wish to me!

  5. Jo!

    May 13, 2014 at 11:21 am

    And the point of this article is??????????
    Arrrgh, I can’t, I just can’t! #zenmodeundisturbedabeg

  6. Alesha

    May 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Iyke was on the money about this article (except for the bit about fear, dont know what he was on about)…..I just didn’t get it. What exactly was your point? You started off somewhat condemning the rally and the way people turned out, then you went int0 how someone prayed a dodgy prayer and then from a performance making you cry to moving back to Nigeria? You lost me totally

  7. moi

    May 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Ain’t nobody got time to read this long article. ..

    • Thatgidigirl

      May 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      You didn’t miss anything by not reading my dear. I should have warned myself by reading the comments first #imustowrite

  8. TheresaO

    May 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Contrary to what some people are saying, your article is brilliant! I made sure I read it to the end, and I appreciated where you were coming from.
    For those of you who do not understand, she basically gave us a summary of what happened at the protest in NYC. And then went on to talk about how Nigerians in the Diaspora also feel the events in the country.
    Thanks Toyin for your article. Don’t worry too much about the idiosyncrasies of Nigerians abroad, that’s what makes us truly Nigerians 🙂

  9. @edDREAMZ

    May 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    This is not my thing….
    .
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  10. Oluwadara.

    May 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I saw passion 4 a better Nigeria,
    and a strong desire to do ur part if given d opportunity.
    Captivated by ur article. God is at work in Naija.

  11. Ifeoma

    May 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Madam Toyin “itoosabi” Last time I checked, every Nigerian is entitled to pray however they wish. If they choose to call on Jesus, they can. If they wish to call on Allah, they can. If they wish to call on Buddha or all the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses in the world, they can. Orisha, they can. Whatever that works for them. Therefore, if a mother wishes to call on God to send down heavenly tranquilizer or fire and brimstone on those terrorists, respect her prayer just like she respected the prayer of her Muslim sister.

    Nonetheless, I think the prayer my mum prayed was good enough.

    PS: your write-up was wack. You tried it sha. Lol.

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