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'Bring Back Our Girls' Hopes Release Brings An End To Campaign

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When Oby Ezekwesili heard about the deal, she sent out a tweet. She wrote that many people in Nigeria quote "cannot afford another heart-shattering episode. And so we are so praying that what we are reading is true." She's one of the leaders of Nigeria's Bring Back Our Girls Campaign. We reached her in Abuja.

OBY EZEKWESILI: I would say that I'm extremely anxious, cautiously optimistic and therefore I am praying all the way.

CORNISH: Many of the parents of the abducted young girls are involved in the campaign. What are you hearing from them?

EZEKWESILI: Anxiety, anxiety, you know, because there have been other false notification about the release of these girls, the rescue of these girls. You know, one of the parents said I have died and resurrected many times during the period that my daughter has been missing. And this gentleman that said this, I recall in the early days when I would speak with him, I would be so saddened because we had thought that this was going to be a matter of a few weeks. And so when it entered months, my God, I was losing faith. And when I would speak with him, he would be the one encouraging me to just be more confident in God, that God would bring the daughters back.

CORNISH: You said in the past that for you, the Chibok girls are a symbol of how we, as Nigerians, define ourselves going forward as a society. In what way?

EZEKWESILI: In our society, a lot of people were beginning to wonder, why did you have to go all out for these girls in this kind of a way? And most of the people who make up the Bring Back Our Girls movement would say to you that it came out for these girls because they just kind of felt that we've had enough of people simply thinking it's not my business. The absolute disconnect from tragedies that affect other people, that vanished with the Chibok girls.

CORNISH: You know, the northern part of Nigeria has been under attack by Boko Haram and villages there continue to be targets. And this is a mostly Muslim part of the country and many of these communities still don't trust the government. There's still this kind of divide between the North and the wealthier Christian South. I mean, do these communities still feel under threat? Is there a sense that the government can actually handle this insurgency?

EZEKWESILI: Oh my God, I mean, this is an everyday situation. In fact, some of the people that are members of the Bring Back Our Girls movement continue to insist that beyond the girls of Chibok, we must talk a lot about the situation in the North. And we do. We did crowdsource citizens' ideas of how our government could end terrorism. We just knew that you couldn't possibly govern in Nigeria that is divided into two. Nigeria is both North and South, and we all have to work together to get Nigeria back to what we knew. I think we could do with a morale boost that would come from everyone seeing the Chibok girls home.

CORNISH: You're saying that their return would be a morale booster for the country.

EZEKWESILI: It would be such a morale boost. And what it would do is signal that a lot of positives can still come out of the ashes of pains and tragedies that have been the lot of the country in the last couple of years.

CORNISH: Oby Ezekwesili. She's a leader in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign and senior advisor to the Open Society Foundation on Africa Economic Development Policy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.