The power of a hashtag to go global on a very local issue is very inspiring to me. That said, global narratives can be for good, as in #BringBackOurGirls or disastrous, as in the case of #Kony2012. What I like about the former is that it was a collective effort by Nigerians and Africans calling on the Nigerian government to do something, anything. It is growing into a global cry for somebody to do something. The issue is very raw and present, unlike #kony2012 which was an effort nearly 20 years too late attempting to do something about an issue we as Ugandans no longer deemed a threat. #kony2012 stabbed at a national wound that was trying to heal, #BringBackOurGirls is a national, continental, and global teachable moment that all human life is precious, not just the lives of the privileged.
I am disappointed but not surprised that CNN decided to trot out Nicholas Kristof and Invisible Children to try and draw some kind of parallel between the two. I am, however, elated that there was a public beat down of California filmmaker Ramaa Mosley after her attempt to insert herself as the creator of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Co-opting African agency is no longer going tolerable. Offering help where help is requested and warranted should be the standard norm, not the exception.
Global campaigns like this one are great reminder that agency matters. The person advocating for change doesn’t have to be an wide-eyed clueless “do-gooding” outsider or a celebrity in order for an issue to gain global awareness. #BringBackOurGirls shows that we can do that ourselves. The fact that even Michelle Obama joined the conversation means that with enough effort, our collective voices as Africans have reach. That’s the power of #BringBackOurGirls. Now we just have to wait for the outcome and hope that it is a good one.
What I hadn’t considered about the power of the #BrickBackOurGirls grassroots campaign, was what it is doing in terms of raising the consciousness of Nigerians about the responsibility the sitting government has to protect its own. In as much as the campaign raised the agency of Nigerians, the most powerful outcome though, is yet to be seen – Nigerians not forgetting the failure of their president to protect them and subsequently voting him out of power. Nigeria’s elections campaign social media chatter is decidedly against the president. But will that chatter and general loss of confidence in their leader translate to tangible change at the ballot box? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.