Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has asked his supporters to stop using an adapted version of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag to campaign for his re-election.
In one sense you can understand what the president’s supporters were thinking. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, calling for 200 school girls abducted by Boko Haram militants in April, became one of the world’s biggest ever social media campaigns. So why not borrow the slogan for the president’s re-election campaign?
The hashtag #BringBackGoodluck2015 seems to have first been used on Twitter by a group campaigning on behalf of the president. On 30th August, they tweeted: “There is no vacancy in Aso rock [the president’s palace] we want Goodluck Jonathan again #NigeriansDemand #BringBackJonathan2015.”
It was never an officially endorsed slogan, despite appearing on signs and banners around the capital city of Abuja, but now the president has reacted to try and quash it. A press release issued by the president’s office this morning says the campaign is “offensive and repugnant”, and that signs and banners carrying the slogan should be removed immediately.
The slogan was widely criticised because it seemed to dramatically misread the public mood in the country. The abducted school girls are still held captive, despite repeated promises by the government – and President Jonathan himself – to secure their release. So far, the government has not taken military steps to rescue the girls, arguing that if force is used, they may end up being killed by the militants.
A major backlash against the hashtag soon emerged, as people took to Twitter to label it as insensitive. It has appeared more than 2,800 times in the last 24 hours, and the vast majority been used to criticise the slogan.
“That hashtag is not only inappropriate but it is insultingly silly. And it is bereft of any political tact,” said one. Another said the slogan’s inventor “has the combined IQ of 500 frogs. Why not coin another hashtag?”. “I didn’t realize Boko Haram had kidnapped the President!” said a third.
Japheth Omojuwa, a columnist at Nigerian newspaper Punch, told BBC Trending that he felt the decision to use the slogan was “absurd”.
“They are using variation of our hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to campaign for the president,” he said. “These are people that failed to secure the release of these girls over 150 days since their kidnap.”
Terrorist attacks carried out by Boko Haram are still rife in the country. Research by Amnesty International suggests at least 2,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict this year.
Reporting by Nasidi Yahaya and Sam Judah
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