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To Combat Boko Haram, St. Louis Nigerian Group Turns To Ballot Box

Egbe Omo Yoruba of Greater St. Louis held a "Bring Back Our Girls" peace rally at the downtown Central Library last May, after the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 200 girls in Nigeria.
Courtesy St. Louis County

A St. Louis-based group of Nigerians is condemning recent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria not through public demonstrations here, but by encouraging voting there.

The group Egbe Omo Yoruba of Greater St. Louis plans to send about a dozen of its members to Nigeria to cast ballots and monitor voting in next month's national elections.

But the group's members aren't focused on raising that public awareness here, Olayefun said. Instead, they are joining social networking efforts by a national organization of Nigerian ex-pats and others involved in the global diaspora to boost voter turnout in the election.

"We think we can better talk to a new government about bringing protection to Nigeria and Nigerians than this present government. It's about trying to turn a new page." Olayefun said.

He said some Nigerians are concerned that elections are rigged, but increased vigilance will prevent that.

"We are trying to let our people both here and abroad know that their votes count," he said. "Because of the general apathy of some Nigerians towards elections, you know we are trying to let them know that, 'Hey, you’re vote counts and your vote is very, very important.'"

According to Olayefun, Nigeria, the most populous African nation, is being splitting apart along tribal or religion lines. He said that should concern the United States and the international community. 

"It is the number one economic power in Africa with a huge population," he said. "The world cannot allow Nigeria to break apart, and to be sure, Nigeria is on the precipice. It is important that the world help Nigerians."

But Nigerians themselves can affect change"by voting, Olayefun said.

"It is important to help to begin anew in Nigeria by getting another government in place that we feel we can talk to, to negotiate with, to make life better for Nigerians," he said.