I didn’t know how to start this blog post.
I really didn’t.
In fact, this is the sixth attempt to start it.The problem, you see, is that there is the danger that it will come across as self-congratulatory or as an advert for the Mutual Appreciation Society and that is not my intent.
But, I’ll get to that later.
Firstly I want to thank absolutely everybody who had any part in making the #FreeMubarak Campaign the success that it was, whether you actively retweeted our messages through the Twitterverse (as I know many, many of you did) or you were one of the 8,140 people from 117 countries who signed the online petition. Or maybe, you helped publicise the Free Mubarak FaceBook page.To each and every one of you: a truly sincere “thank you” on behalf of the small team of volunteers who were at the heart of the operation. With a special mention to a few people who went above and beyond to help us with the campaign:
Please note this list may not be exhaustive and I offer my abject apologies to anyone I may have missed. If I did, please tweet me @virtuarat and you will be added.
Also I want to address some of the criticism that was leveled at the campaign from some quarters; in particular, a perception that we were not applying critical thinking or skepticism, to what we were doing, and the high probability that we were the unwitting accomplices in a scam.I can quite categorically state that this is not the case. There were several occasions, especially during the initial stages of the campaign, where the evidence was pointing towards a scam. We even lost one member of the team due to his belief that we were being hoaxed.Before I continue:I want to be quite clear, I am not looking to score points; neither am I offering recriminations. This is not a hatchet job nor is it a revenge piece. No names will be named. This is merely a reflection upon my experience as part of this campaign.
However, it is true that the campaign very nearly failed at the first hurdle, all due to a belief that the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital website was a fake. It was only a dispassionate examination of it and other websites linked to it that got us back on track.
Also, our man on the ground in Nigeria, Bamidele Adeneye’s credentials were called into question even after he had been vouched for by Bob Churchill of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. In fact, even after Bob verified that Bamidele was both known and respected by the well-known activist, Leo Igwe, it was only after Leo put out a statement in support of the campaign that we were able to garner support from previously skeptical quarters.
It was also posited that we had failed to examine the evidence at our disposal before we started our Twitter Campaign. To that, I can only say: Wrong! We paid attention initially, reserved final judgement, and got sufficient facts to satisfy ourselves that the story was in fact, exactly as it had been laid out to us. Go back to have a look at our tweets and the statements by Godless Mom early in the campaign and you will see that we freely admitted that we were still gathering information in support of the story as it was unconfirmed.
Quite soon, with Bamidele’s credentials established and the lawyer (amongst others) being independent of the alleged man (Mubarak) seeing him, confirmed to us that the story was true.
We even managed to come into possession of a statement from the hospital stating that he was being held, but which did not admit that he was being held for his religious beliefs, but rather because he was genuinely mentally ill. Sadly for us, we felt that it would do more harm than good to the campaign if we made it public, so we were forced to hold on to it.
Early on, all we had was the initial email from Mubarak, but as more information was uncovered and more connections made with other people, Bamidele forwarded the email to Bob Churchill, which enabled us to gain access to both official support and expert advice. We have been criticized for not gaining compelling evidence before we started, but I feel that had we waited to confirm each step of our investigation before publicizing our campaign, he could have been lost before we even started properly campaigning to help him.
Also, Bob states that he had full confidence in Bamidele, in part because of Leo Igwe and also because he is a member of a group which is an IHEU member, and had known him for many months before this whole thing blew up. The idea that this was some sort of long game involving Mubarak and Bamidele was clearly ridiculous as it would have been a crazy investment for no real pay off.
It was the official statement issued by the IHEU that brought Mubarak’s plight to the attention of the media, first the BBC World Service and then others as the story travelled down the wire. This in turn increased public attention that garnered 8,140 signatures on the petition, which resulted in an email to each of the three addressees within the Nigerian government every time somebody signed it. To save you breaking out your calculator, we sent 24,420 emails to the Nigerian government’s inbox. Any reporter taking an interest in this story could see that people all around the world cared about Mubarak and his fate.
It was the media and public attention that forced Mohammed Bala, Mubarak’s father and the man responsible for his incarceration to issue a statement to the press, a statement which was repudiated in this blog.
Admittedly, Mubarak was freed due to a strike by medical staff at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, but that takes nothing away from everybody’s efforts on his behalf. In fact, we were poised to make the first proper legal moves thanks to the support of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, who covered all of the legal costs of fighting this case.
All of the publicity and legal intervention also led to changing the course that Mubarak’s family would ultimately take – agreeing to mediation, for example, instead of just committing him to another psychiatric ward in a different hospital.
But I truly believe our campaign was instrumental in denying Mubarak’s enemies the opportunity to spirit him away to face Sharia justice.
We also had to contend with certain individuals trying to claim credit for things they never did. Although it must be said, we didn’t give that much of a fuck about that. The most important thing was, and ALWAYS was to get Mubarak out of there and to safety.
But now I want to talk about the team.
First, we have Bob Churchill, a representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) who offered advice and guidance on steps we should take, and stopped us from making some terrible mistakes along the way. He was also part of the ONLY Human Rights Organisation willing to help us. Maximum kudos to you, Bob.
Next on the list is QuranifyMe, online blogger and massive help during the publicity campaign.
Third, we have the Twitterminator, Deana. She worked tirelessly to promote the cause. She was and is an inspiration to me, especially when I had low moments and self doubt.
Then comes NancyDrewPI, our resident secret agent and all round font of good ideas, as well as actively participating in every part of the campaign, mostly from her car as she tailed bad guys and dodgy types. I really don’t know how she did it.
Bamidele Adeneye and Adeyinka were our two warm bodies on the ground and at the proper sharp end of it all in Nigeria. They were in direct contact with Mubarak, offering moral support and assistance as they could, as well as lobbying organizations and agencies in Nigeria. They were also in constant contact with the lawyer we had managed to engage to fight our legal battle. Without them, we would have been at a complete dead end. Guys, you fucking rock!
And last, but by no means least: Godless Mom, the heart of the entire operation. Brains, empathy, sharp sense of humour and the real driving force behind the Free Mubarak Campaign. It’s an honour and a privilege to be your #TwitterBFF. You kept us going when the doubts were at their worst. You raised our spirits when we were starting to despair.
Godless Mom, you did this!
There are two very important things that I have taken away from this whole campaign:
1. Mubarak Bala is a free man, able to make his way free from fear and no longer facing a brutal death.
2. I have forged several deep and lasting friendships and also strengthened one that I already had. We few have been living in each others’ pockets for the past two weeks, sharing fear, despair, experiences, but also joy and laughter. It is a privilege to be able to count you all as my friends and I want you all to know that, just by being there, you have enriched my life beyond measure.