Around the Nation
4:02 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Out Of Maryland, A Cry For Nigeria: 'Bring Back Our Girls!'

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 8:26 pm

It has been four weeks since more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school. In that month, search efforts for the girls have been largely fruitless, even as media outlets continue to spread their story. It's caught the attention of communities around the world, including many Nigerian-Americans living in the U.S.

On Mother's Day, members of one of the country's largest Nigerian-American communities gathered in Bowie, Md., to lift their voices and protest signs. Janet Aiyegbusi, a hair salon owner and mother of two, organized the rally outside the Redeemed Christian Church of God. In the church parking lot, Temi Bodunrin sold red T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Bodunrin says the rally was a way for the group to express its sympathy. "We have to for our kids, for the girls. I'm the mother of three girls, so I can imagine — well, I cannot fathom, start to fathom what the mothers are going through."

During the protest, demonstrators passed around a microphone to share their frustrations with the search for the missing schoolgirls. Some were especially angry with what they see as poor leadership from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. One of the protesters invoked his name: "Mr. Goodluck! We are tired of you! Get up with your team and do something!"

And frustrations such as these aren't confined to Bowie. At the Lagos barbershop in Cheverly, Md., the television remains tuned to CNN. Just mentioning the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, the militant group claiming credit for the abduction, can spark a passionate debate.

All of the bad news has been numbing, says business owner Cynthia Uguru. "We've become so immune to everything that is happening in Nigeria. It's just one more thing," she says. "And you get scared because we have relatives back home."

Delivery driver Ayodeji Olayiwola shares the same fears. "Right now," he says, "it's not the proudest moment to be a Nigerian. Yeah, it just frightens me, makes me not want to have a child in that country."

Folasade Alabi could only shake her head after Friday prayers at the Nigerian Muslim Council, a mosque in Brentwood, Md. Alabi, a nurse, says that there is only one word to describe Boko Haram: evil.

"I'm an educated woman, so for someone to now come up and say, 'Oh, women are not supposed to have education' — where did they read that from?" she says. "It's not in the Bible. It's not in the Quran. So what are they talking about?"

Back at the rally in Bowie, Anu Otuyelu says she is holding onto hope. "I wake up with a thought every day since it happened," she says. "The thought of [these] girls and what happened to them last night, how did their captors treat them. I mean, everything comes to mind, even the most horrible things."

She says she won't be able to stop thinking about the girls until they return home.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Communities all over the world are joining the call urging the release of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month. The group that took them, Boko Haram, released a video today appearing to show more than 100 of the girls. The teens are dressed in hijabs and praying in Arabic. The group's leader speaks in the video, acknowledging the global attention and demanding the release of prisoners held by the Nigerian government in exchange for the girls. For Nigerian-Americans watching these events play out from afar is especially difficult.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang visited one of the country's largest Nigerian-American communities and filed this report.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) All we are saying...

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: On Mother's Day, a passionate chorus lifted their voices and protest signs in Bowie, Maryland.

JANET AIYEGBUSI: This is a cry out for help.

WANG: Hair salon owner and mother of two, Janet Aiyegbusi organized this rally outside the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

This is how you're spending Mother's Day?

Yes, this is how all of us are spending Mother's Day. What better way to spend Mother's Day?

Protesters continue to gather today around the country.

TEMI BODUNRIN: We have to for our kids, for the girls. I'm the mother of three girls, so I can imagine. Well, I cannot fathom, start to fathom what the mothers are going through.

WANG: Temi Bodunrin sold red T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag BringBackOurGirls in the church parking lot this weekend.

Demonstrators passed around a microphone to share their frustrations with the four-week search for the missing schoolgirls and with, they said, poor leadership from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Mr. Goodluck, we are tired of you. Get up with your team, and do something...

BABATUNDE ADEYINKA: Very, very passionate, very, very, because it's very, very disappointing.

WANG: Barber Babatunde Adeyinka switched off his electric trimmer to join a discussion at the Lagos Barbershop in Cheverly, Maryland, where tempers can fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Are you serious?

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

WANG: Just mentioning the Nigerian government and Boko Haram can spark a passionate debate here, where the television above the barber chair stays tuned to CNN. All of the bad news has been numbing, said business owner Cynthia Uguru.

CYNTHIA UGURU: We've become so immune to everything that is happening in Nigeria, it's just one more thing, you know. And you get scared because we have relatives back home.

WANG: So does delivery driver Ayodeji Olayiwola, who said...

AYODEJI OLAYIWOLA: Right now, it's not the proudest moment to be a Nigerian. Yeah, it just frightens me. It makes me not want to have a child in that country.

FOLASADE ALABI: I can't take my kids to a country where there's unrest, so they've never been to Nigeria. Isn't that very unfortunate? That's very, very unfortunate.

WANG: Nurse Folasade Alabi shook her head after Friday prayers at the Nigerian Muslim Council, a mosque in Brentwood, Maryland. Alabi said there's only one word to describe the militants of Boko Haram: Evil.

ALABI: I'm an educated woman, so for someone to now come up and say: Oh, women are not supposed to have education, where did they read that from? It's not in the Bible. It's not in the Quran. So what are they talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Bring back our girls.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: When?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Now.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: When?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Now.

WANG: Back at the rally outside the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Anu Otuyelu, a registered nurse, said she's holding onto hope.

ANU OTUYELU: I wake up with a thought every day since it happened.

WANG: Every day, what is that thought?

OTUYELU: The thought of those girls and what happened to them last night, how did their captors treat them. I mean, everything comes to mind, even the most horrible things.

WANG: And she said she won't be able to stop thinking about the girls until they return home.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.