#BringBackOurGirls is part of an unfolding citizen action process given expression through hashtags, protests. It builds on earlier actions. When some said #OccupyNigeria was a failure, I was quick to point out the fact that it’s not correct to isolate citizen action as activities.
Before 1999, social mobility in Nigeria was frozen, except for few activists we outsourced protests, concerns to. Many buried heads in sand. With the arrival of democratised communication in the early 2000’s, thanks to mobile telephony, anger found its way through telecom networks. People discussed issues. Poor power supply, terrible roads, miseducation, shameful healthcare. Social mobility found ally in telecom freedom.
Between 2007 and 2009, when social networks began to connect more voices on similar issues, unfreezing of social mobility in Nigeria grew. By 2009, we began to see clear demonstration of anger finding exit through BBM, Facebook, more. Organization for action enjoyed these tools. The 2010 protests, triggered by a sick president and rumour of the cabal, found friends in social media connections. 2011 enjoyed from this.
2011 elections saw citizens using tools like ReVoDa and social media-enabled tools to take action. We labelled them clicktivists but a group that had found exit in silence found tools that allowed the safety of near anonymity while allowing outlets for angry expression. This is why 2012 #OccupyNigeria happened. Not because opposition or a tired labour movement wanted mass action, but anger found expression.
Social media proved useful in amplifying the issues, connecting angry citizens to mutual expression and to even report organised action live. 2013 saw Nigerian citizens standing up for each other through various #SaveCitizen efforts. You think hashtags are useless? Ask victims whose lives were saved because someone cared enough and started a hashtag. These actions are part of a trend, and it’s why it was easy for citizens to join a campaign that had elements of citizen solidarity, demand for good governance and measurable action.
When the first set of #BringBackOurGirls tweets showed up, people could identify with what it represented. Government failed to act and was going to cover up the abduction of #ChibokGirls, as usual. They saw concrete action that challenged citizen helplessness in the face of Boko Haram. #BringBackOurGirls is part of an unfolding series of citizen expression. Citizens respond to leadership that seeks results.
As with many hashtags before it, and many more we’ll see unfold, #BringBackOurGirls isn’t isolated clicktivism, it’s growing citizen action.