Leah Sharibu: Already Forgotten?


One year in captivity, it appears the fate of the last of the Dapchi girls, Leah Sharibu, kidnapped on February 19, 2018 by a faction of the Boko Haram, is no longer looking good, writes Olaseni Durojaiye

Tuesday, February 19, marked one year since Leah Sharibu was snatched by the terror group, Boko Haram, and carted away like a spoil of war. And for a whole year, the 15-year-old girl has been away from the comfort and warmth of family and friends, leaving her to a fate one can only imagine.

Like Chinua Achebe, one of the most celebrated global icons of the scripting vocation exhibited in many of his widely read fictive narratives, Yoruba people, also blessed with a rich and robust collection of proverbs and wise sayings, often espouse that ‘Omo mi ku san ju omo mi nu lo’, meaning “That one’s child is dead is a better pain to live with than one’s child is lost.”

One could easily live with the death of a child on account of the fact that death is an eventuality and that the deceased has only gone to rest, as against that a child is lost, forcing you to hope, often times, for the impossible. That, of course, comes with a lot more mental torture.

And now, that the child is a girl, vulnerable and open to violations of all sorts, is made even worse, harrowing and soul-ravaging given the knowledge that the hapless and helpless girl is in the custody of some depraved, maniacs masquerading as armies of salvation on earth.

Certainly, no parent would wish same for their girl-child. Matter-of-factly, no parent would wish to trade place with Leah’s.

For Leah’s father, Nathan, his daughter’s continued stay, against her wish with the Boko Haram would appear a promise made but not kept by the federal government of Nigeria.

His displeasure with government is understandable, even if some ultra-apologists of the administration continue to argue that it was no fault of the administration that she was snatched, from the country’s geographical territory, which the administration swore an oath to protect alongside those resident within it.

“The Federal Government assured me that this administration would do its best to rescue my daughter. Besides, President Muhammadu Buhari sent two ministers to my house in Dapchi, Yobe State to assure us that she would return home safely.

“Since then, I have not heard anything from the federal government again. The other bodies that have been deeply concerned about the development are only the churches and Muslims that are trying their possible best. The government has been silent on this issue. I am only pleading with government as I always do that they should do their possible best to see that my daughter returns safely.

“She is still a young girl and all of us have children in our homes. You can imagine my situation since then. Today is one year that she has been held captive.”

Indeed, religious organisations – Christians and Muslims alike, and some Civil Society Organisations (CSO) have been in the vanguard of the advocacy to rescue the innocent girl.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been particularly active in this regard. From enjoining Nigerian across faith lines to pray for her safe return and calling on government to do its very best to secure Leah’s release, the umbrella body of Nigerian Christians has been unrelenting in its push for her release.

As a demonstration that she has not been forgotten, the whole of Dapchi community, both Christian and Muslim decided to fast and pray on Tuesday to commemorate her one year stay in captivity. Also, in Lagos, peaceful protest held around the city as witnessed by THISDAY around Anthony inter-change in Mainland Lagos. Similar marches and demonstrations also held at the nation’s capital.

The recent call by CAN President, Rev Samson Ayokunle on Nigerians to pray for her safety even while still in the custody of Boko Haram follows in this regards. According to media reports, beyond calling for prayers, CAN has also met with President Muhmmadu Buhari on the need to rescue Leah.

“We also recall that the federal government later began a negotiation with the abductors for the return of the victims. And one month later, that decision yielded results as the terrorist group drove the abducted students back into the heart of Dapchi on March 21, 2018, as agreed with the federal government.

“The sight was unbelievable as terrorists entered the town in triumph and had the temerity to even harass their parents for sending their children and wards to school against their teachings. No single security operative was in sight to call them to order.

“To worsen the situation, it was not all the 111 abducted girls that were returned. We later learnt that five of them had died while the only Christian girl among them, Leah Sharibu, was denied freedom because of her faith!”
In a statement, CAN said, “It is reprehensible, wicked, ungodly and condemnable that this innocent girl is being persecuted for her faith; every opportunity CAN leadership has to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari is being used to prevail on his government to get her released.

“There was even two occasions when the terrorists reportedly signalled their readiness to release Leah, if the government is ready to pay her ransom, but there was nothing being done in this regard.

“All that were returned were said to be set free on the payment of the ransom though this was denied, nobody buys the denial. And even if no kobo was paid and now the terrorists are willing to negotiate, what sacrifice is too much to get her free?” the statement read.

Without mincing words, the PMB administration has not lived up to its oath of office and responsibility to protect every one living within the borders of the country; and this is without bias for the gains so far recorded in the fight against the terror group. Rather, it is a call to do more and bringing back Leah should rank high in the priority agenda.

In the midst of this all, it is heart-warming that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has not made a campaign singsong out of the Leah Sharibu issue as did the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) prior to the 2015 general election.

The way the APC made the Boko Haram menace and the Chibok Girls kidnap a major campaign issue going into the election, one would have expected that by now the group would have been completely annihilated.

And if annihilating the group was becoming tougher than expected, securing Leah shouldn’t be especially, given that the same government secured the release of her fellow abductees last year making her the last hostage remaining.
Truth be told, Leah Sharibu’s continued stay in captivity is a drawback for the incumbent administration even with its promises to the girl’s parent. It does not in the least confer the sweet fragrance of rose flower on the government.

On the contrary, the administration’s continued silence on the issue makes the government come across as insensitive and insensate to the girl’s plight unless there is something the government of President Buhari is not telling the country regarding the matter.

And as the nation progresses with the elections, may the spirit of Leah Sharibu guide everyone into doing that which is both right and deserving for the good of the nation.