13 Oct 2014


When over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in the town of Chibok, Maiduguri, North East Nigeria by Islamist militants Boko Haram on April 14, Nigeria and the entire world was thrown into a state of shock and confusion.   

One can only begin to imagine the fear, trauma and emotional ordeal not to talk of the physical assault that these young schoolgirls are facing from the hands of their abductors. As a matter of urgency, it became a trending topic on social network. Nigerians went to their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts making popular the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

These hashtag brought international notice to Nigeria as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign had the whole world joining in the demand for the Boko Haram sect to release the about 276 schoolgirls abducted. Celebrities, politicians, prominent personalities, groups and even the ordinary man across the globe joined in holding up placards and taking pictures for upload on their social media accounts to show their support for the missing girls.

With the passage of time however with no fruitful results, this grave matter became the butt of jokes and became just another social issue poked fun at. The main intent wasn't for the missing girls but rather for self glorification and cheap publicity. Take situations where pictures and hash tags such as #TakeOurRunsGirl and #BringBackBackOurGirls exist, #TakeTheSuperEagles and #BringBackOurGirls I doubt the parent of a missing child is concerned about a placard carrying person facing another placard carrying individual to demand the return of the girl; all these mothers are concerned are about the return of their girls. Does Boko Haram own Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to go check that people are demanding the return of the girls? Or do I, the facebook or twitter user who sees these photos being posted online daily have the time and resources needed to bring back the girls?

The truth about hash tag activism is that it leads to public fatigue and overuse. It doesn't in itself really solve the issue at hand. Take for example when the Michelle Obama the first lady of America joined the #BringBackOurGirls, it got over two million retweets but I ask the questions, is Boko Haram shaking? Did we really expect them to go?

“Oh Michelle is not happy with us, the whole world wants the girls back, we have to return them.”       

I have come to believe some of the celebrities who advocate so strongly online for this issue do so just so they can get popular and I think the rest of us do it to assuage our own conscience. Rather than sit there posting pictures on your Instagram pages, Twitter accounts or Facebook, you could join the protest on the streets calling for the government to take necessary action. But as usual the trend is slowly being usurped by more current tragedies, we were all agog with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign at the beginning of this debacle but most of the world has moved on to other newer controversies. The new trend is #BringBackOurJournalists, three journalists affiliated to the Al-Jazeera News Network that were sentenced to prison in Egypt. The world believes their incarceration is abominable just the same way they think the kidnap of the schoolgirls is.

Boko Haram didn’t bring back our girls so what are we going to do? Truth is social media focus changes easily and that is why a trying to use a social media campaign to battle Boko Haram to bring back our girls won’t work. To like a Facebook page or picture takes but a click of a button and the same goes to retweet a picture or tweet on Twitter. Are we really taking a part in the struggle to bring back the abducted girls or just merely passing time in front of our computer screens or having fun on our mobile phones with these hash tags?

I believe to be genuinely committed to this struggle is to take an active part of mind, action and thought. Boko Haram has only responded to our criticisms of them on the social media as good, not only do we bring their activities to global attention, we are in short publicizing their brand. What have we gotten, more bomb blasts, raids on more villages and we record more deaths daily. Just two months after the first abduction, REPORTS have it that they attacked a series of villages in northern Nigeria for three days before taking 60 women and girls and 31 young men hostage. That is all the more reason why I agree with the FOX NEWS PANEL that slams the #BringBackOurGirls activism. The #BringBackOurGirls is a futile attempt and action should be the fighting weapon against the menace of Boko Haram.     

Akinwale Akinyoade
University of Lagos, Department of English
Yaba College of Technology, Department of Mass Communication

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