Metropole’s Alkasim Abdulkadir unveils Ibrahim Abdullahi, the Abuja-based lawyer who first tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls
On 23rd April 2014, Abuja-based lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi was in his hotel room in Port Harcourt getting ready to leave for Abuja after attending to a matter in court. On the screen, an event designating Port Harcourt the book capital of the world was being relayed live by Channels Television. Former World Bank Vice President, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili was delivering a speech and at a point she drew the attention of the audience to the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls. She then proceeded to ask them to stand up and add their voices to the call for the rescue of the schoolgirls.
Specifically, she asked the participants to demand the government to ‘Bring Back Our Daughters’. In the audience were personalities like former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and Governor Rotimi Amaechi all demanding for the release of the girls. He tweeted what Ezekwesili just did and put the hashtag #BringBackOurDaughters. Then he added #BringBackOurGirls.
On the second hashtag, Abdullahi who has a son said: “why I coined BringBackOurGirls is because not all of us have daughters, but each one of us has a certain girl in his life– a sister, cousin, niece or daughter.”
The following day, Abdullahi resumed work at Path Solicitors, the corporate law firm where he is a partner. Little did he know he know that the tweet he sent out the day before had started a earth-shattering chain reaction on Twitter that will lead to events that will eventually morph into a phenomenon that will be far larger than the innocuous tweet he sent out from his Twitter handle @Abu_Aaid.
Little did he also realize that the catch-phrase #BringBackOurGirls will grace the face of signs held by the likes of Michele Obama, UK’s David Cameron, the cast of X-men at the Cannes Film Festival, public school students all over the world, Hollywood Stars Salma Hayek and Anne Hathaway who even led street protests in Los Angeles. All over Africa too there has been Bring Back Our Girl solidarity from Nairobi to Soweto while several Nigerian cities continue to hold periodic protests. By the end of May 2014, the Hashtag had been tweeted more than Three Million Times, and the story had dominated global news headlines for more than two weeks at a stretch.
Abdullahi originally hails from Tsafe in Zamfara State. He grew up in Jos, Plateau State. He then studied law at Bayero University Kano and graduated in 2002. In 2004 he was called to the Nigerian Bar and after that he relocated to Cross Rivers State for his Nation Youth Service.
Unlike other high-watt social media users and scathing social critics, Abdullahi’s social media usage was limited to networking and especially for keeping in touch with his friends and colleagues. However recently, he found himself increasingly using online platforms, especially twitter, to express opinions on issues of governance, politics, civil rights, religion and local and international sports.
When the Chibok story broke, he had wondered how it was possible to steal 200 girls when they weren’t cattle but human beings –this fact made it appalling to him. He tweeted about it denouncing the action and began calling on the government to intervene in his own modest way. He was worried that it could go the way of the Buni Yadi schoolboys who were massacred in their hostels and hundreds of others before then. At that time, he tweeted his views without any hashtags initially, then later under hashtags like #ChibokGirls, BornoAbductedGirls, #BornoGirls etc.
He has also developed a tremendous respect for others who have taken the rallying cry offline. “Ezekwesili is an asset to this country,” he said. “I have always admired her and I pray that she plays more significant role in our country’s march towards greatness.
Her leadership role to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has so far put the government on its edge.
“I also hold Hadiza Bala Usman in high esteem because it is her NGO that called us out to march on the streets of Abuja and all over the country to demand from government to #BringBackOurGirls. Also, I salute the courage and doggedness of all other ladies who have held forth to the campaign. They are actually the backbone of the campaign”.
On what the government should do, Abdullahi said “I think it’s still not too late for the government to give the #BringBackOurGirls campaign all the attention it deserves”.
On the recurrent matter of supporting Nigerian troops at the frontline, he opines that there should be an improvement in the welfare of Nigerian soldiers. Increasing number of troops in troubled areas and visits by the President to boost the morale of the soldiers are some of his suggestions, as exemplified by President Obama’s recent to Bagram in Afganistan to thank the US troops and boost their morale.
“The President should personally be giving us updates on the rescue mission just like President Uhuru Kenyatta was doing during the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya,” he added. “The President should eschew politics for now and collaborate fully with the North Eastern states to rescue the abducted girls and defeat the insurgents permanently.”
Abdullahi also opined that the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls was a great opportunity for the government to end the insurgency. Especially with foreign technical assistance that has arrived in the area of surveillance and intelligence gathering. Nigerian soldiers, he added, have what it takes to confront the terrorists and defeat them if given the necessary tools. “We don’t need any foreign boot in this fight,” he said. “We only need political will and support from the federal government and the affected states to end the atrocities of the insurgents”.
“I am an optimist,” he stated when asked about his expectation for the abducted girls. “I believe the girls will be back and reunite with their loved ones. I always pray for this and I’ll continue to pray till they are safely back with their families.”
*This profile is part of the comprehensive package on the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls campaign in the next edition of Abuja-based Metropole magazine