By Georgina Bako and Ikechukwu Ilomuanya
The American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola, Adamawa State, on Thursday organized a walk to mark the second anniversary of the abduction of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls and others, who escaped the captivity of Boko Haram insurgents.
Top officials of the university, including the President, Margee Ensign, faculty and students participated in the procession, which commenced from one of the female dormitories.
It was an intense moment for everyone as the university came together to demonstrate support for the over 200 girls still in captivity, and the 27 others who escaped after the insurgents captured and took them away alongside their classmates.
Participants wept and sobbed as students and faculty lamented the abduction of the girls and the inability of the Nigerian government to rescue them two years after.
Members of the extremist Boko Haram sect abducted the girls from their dormitory Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, as their prepared for their WAEC examination.
AUN later offered scholarships to 27 of those who escaped to study in the American-style University.
The kidnapping of the girls triggered a global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, and attracted world leaders and celebrities including the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
In spite of the sustained campaign, the girls are yet to be found and reunited with their families.
Addressing the procession, AUN President, Margee Ensign, described the event as “symbolic,” saying the 27 girls who escaped from the insurgents are the some of the most inspiring young women she has met.
“This is to show them that this community is behind them in their plight,” Mrs. Ensign said before going in to fetch the girls from their dormitory.
“Tonight is just a night to look forward. Tonight, we gather to encourage and celebrate them for their courage, their strength, their faith, and to show them how much we love them.”
Speaking shortly after the walk, Vice President and Dean of Students Affairs, Byron Bullock, showered praises on the 27 escapees, saying they are “young, beautiful and brave women.”
“It is a very emotional time for them as their colleagues are still captives,” said Mr. Bullock.
“As a campus community, our efforts are to rally around these students and make certain the kind of supports they need, emotionally or otherwise, so they can in fact continue to make progress and succeed with their own individual lives as well.”
Asked if he had any message for the Nigerian government, Mr. Bullock replied, “I think the government still has a lot of work to do and I want to believe they are looking at the best way possible to obtain these girls, who I believe according to recent news reports, are still alive.
“We need to find a way to get those girls back to their families and begin to deal with the trauma they have suffered over the two year period.”
Eugene Uwiringiyimana, a 400-level Petroleum Chemistry major from Rwanda, urged the Nigerian government and the international community not to give up on the effort to rescue the girls.
“I came here to join with others to keep pressing to bring back our girls alive so they can join us in learning; so their future may be as bright as ours,” Mr. Uwiringiyimana said.
But it was Siddiki Hamadou, a female student of the university that moved the crowd to tears.
“The rest of the world may have forgotten but here at AUN, we still remember our girls,” she had said in a somber tone that cut through the night.
During the walk, participants kept shouting, “We need our girls, bring back our girls, and educate our girls.”
Dina Lawal, one of the girls who escaped, said, “It’s been two years now since my four sisters and many of my friends were gone, I feel sad and heart broken anytime I think about it.
“I will continue to pray and trust in God to bring them back, I will never loose hope” she also urges us to pray and never loose hope on them too.”
Mary Yaga, another of the escaped girls, said, “I can’t even explain how I feel, this incidence has led to the death of many parents, leaving their children homeless and helpless.
“When I go back home, I don’t have peace of mind, I always think and imagine the incidence that has happened. I miss my sisters and my friends.
“I miss all the memories we shared. I just hope they come back someday.
“I also thank AUN for the scholarship, love and endless support to me, even when it seemed like all hope was lost AUN gave us hope.
“This is an opportunity of me to begin a new life, and I will use this opportunity to its fullest.
“I will make sure I study hard, my dream is to one day become somebody big in the future so I will help my people.”