NEW YORK - The April kidnapping in northern Nigeria of hundreds of girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram is still an everyday cause for rage, concern and, increasingly, grief. Nigerians living in New York and their sympathizers have been holding regular street demonstrations in front of the Nigerian Consulate.
The 100 or so demonstrators representing the Bring Back Our Girls U.S. Coalition were trying to keep the fate of more than 200 women on people's minds Friday in New York.
Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome was one of the leaders who spoke. He said, “Nigerian government. This is a disgrace. So I am calling on the Nigerian government. I am still a citizen of Nigeria. I want to be proud of Nigeria. I want Nigeria to claim the mantle of ‘Giant of Africa.’ The only way its going to do that is if it secures its people. The only way its going to do that is if it educates all its children. The only way its going to do that is if every child in Nigeria is as valued as the child of our president.”
But Okome also wanted everyday passersby to take heed.
“Think about it, that this is your relative or this is your sister or this is your daughter or this is your friend or this is someone who comes to your mosque," he said. "How would you feel? The same way that you feel if this is someone you know personally is how you should feel if any of God’s children is in the situation of these girls. It breaks my heart.”
Nigerian-American Ronka Olawale attended a school much like those the abducted girls were attending. She wants them to have the same opportunities she was given.
She said, “Girls deserve education. Girls deserve to go to school. Girls have rights. They are children. They are being denied their childhood. They are being abused. They are being molested. They are being forced to take up a religion they ordinarily would not take up. It is an abuse of their personhood. It is a demeaning of their personality. I feel traumatized for these girls. I can only imagine what they are going through.”
Ronka’s daughter, 12 year old Daniella, nodded sadly at her mother’s words. “Those girls are crying,” she said. “They want their families back.”