Leah Sharibu on my mind
I was feeling low last week and began wandering what was weighing me down. Yes my mother, Madam Mathilda Nwannediya Ohuabunwa, who recently finished her race on the Earth will be laid to rest this week’s Friday, 6th of April 2018 in my home town- Arochukwu in Abia State. So it was natural to feel that was my problem. But I shook that thinking away because since our mother got called back to The Lord, my siblings and I had maintained an attitude of gratitude. After what our mother went through to raise 12 children (seven boys from her womb and five other children from the womb of her mate) and lived to the ripe age of 90, we felt God had done so well for her and for us. And having come to that conclusion, we have remained upbeat as we prepared for her interment.
Later, it dawned on me that my mood was caused by the pain that I have had in my heart even before we heard of the dramatic release of the girls abducted by Boko Haram from the Science & Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State. Actually the pain started on February 19, when the men of Boko Haram marched unchallenged to abduct our school girls the same way, they abducted the Chibok girls in 2014. One would have expected that my pain would ease with the news of the release of 104 or 105 or 106 of the girls (as the total number has kept changing from 110 to 112 to 113). But to be true, the way the release happened with Boko Haram insurgents marching unhindered as heroes into the Town to drop the girls as they took them out, created doubts in my mind and certainly in the minds of several other Nigerians. Was this a stage managed abduction and release? One Nigerian called it Nollywood movie and was asking when Part 2 would be released. Though I also found it difficult to believe that this was stage managed, I could not erase that sneaky feeling from my mind.
Then when the news came that, 5 of the girls had died (by trauma?) and one girl was kept back because she refused to deny her faith in The Lord Jesus Christ, my pain turned into anger. As I was trying to manage all these emotions telling myself that I should be happy that 104 girls had regained their freedom, I became really distressed when the Minister of Information & Culture, my friend, Lai Mohammed began to explain what happened. The government negotiated with the insurgents using back door channels.
They reminded the insurgents that they had agreed with the Federal Government, that while negotiations were going on, they would not kidnap anybody. Then it became a ‘moral burden’ for the insurgents and so they changed their minds so that they could maintain their ‘integrity’ as morally upright group and decided to release the girls unconditionally. Then the military was cleared from the way to allow the insurgents march triumphantly into Dapchi, addressed the waiting crowd, dropped the girls all wearing hijab and carrying decent luggages as if they were returning from holidays abroad and went back to their base as if nothing had happened
The girls looked neat and well looked after and many seemed happy. They did not look like people who had suffered trauma. Then the next day it was announced that Nigeria had entered into a truce with the insurgents. When actually did the truce start? All these cock’n’bull stories actually increased my pain. What really is going on here? Are we still dealing with terrorists or a band of freedom fighters? This government is certainly not telling us all that we need to know. I presume that we now know where the Boko Haram people are located. Is it still in the Sambisa Forest? What then do we need the new surveillance airplanes for? The ‘Defeated & degraded’ Boko Haram insurgents calling the shots? Beyond using backhand channels to negotiate with Boko Haram they also are certainly involved in some backhand deals.
As I pray for the safe return of Leah to her parents, I am really troubled by many unanswered questions. The first is what were the religious affiliations of the 111 girls before they were abducted? We hear that Leah was kept back because she refused to convert to Islam? The second question is how many of the girls who were Christians were compelled to convert to Islam for fear of their lives? The truth is that only less than 5% of those with Christian names will refuse to deny their fate when faced with an AK 47 or a threat to slit their throats. The narrative has been as if Leah was the only Christian in the midst of the 113 girls. This may not be so. The third question is, what was the religious affiliations of the Five Students who died by trauma? Is there any possibility that this trauma had anything to do the religious persuasions of the girls! The fourth question is, were the bodies of the five killed by ‘trauma’ released to the Federal Government? Was an autopsy done to determine the cause of death? The fifth is, what are the names of the dead girls and what are the names of their parents? May be I missed all that out, so kindly permit my ignorance for asking.
Actually the pain in my heart is accentuated by another troubling question that has refused to go. Could this be the real reason of the existence of the Boko Haram group? I recollect that when they started, their focus was on churches. They bombed churches from the North East to the North central, getting to Abuja. It was after they found that there were no more churches within their reach that they turned to other subjects including mosques. They hate ‘the book’. Is it the book used by the people called the ‘People of the book’? Could it be that was all they set out to achieve? Abduct the girls, get them converted to Islam and returned to school? These are just nagging questions and my fertile mind may just be running riot.
My mind refused to shake off this feeling and this questioning, more so when I listened to the explanations of the Federal Government and its various spokespersons. Fortunately, I am not the only one asking questions. Mr. Nathaniel Sharibu, a police officer from Hong in Adamawa whose family lives in Dapchi and the father of Leah asked why the Federal Government could not negotiate the release of their daughter even if she was the only Christian in the group. The question is much more germane when we note according to Lai, that the girls were released without preconditions. Refusing to release a captive based on her religious faith in my reasoning is a precondition for God’s sake. So the captives were released with at least one precondition: If you are a Muslim or you accept to convert to Islam, then you are free to go home, if not you would be held back. And my real pain is that our government accepted this precondition and came out to look us on the face and sell us a spin.
If the lives of Christians were as important as those of Muslims, then our government nominated and approved negotiators should not have accepted the precondition. It should have been all or none. Give us back all our girls or we take them back. The apparent weakness shown by the government in this so called negotiation is outstandingly baffling. As a Christian, I really worry that this government, can easily give me up because of my religious beliefs. I really worry. And that is why I cannot celebrate the return of the released girls until Leah Sharibu returns home. Injury to one is injury to all
Actually I should really be busy writing or reading tributes to my mother, Nne Muru Oha, but my humanity and abiding sense of Justice will not let me do just that. I therefore, decided to also write this tribute to Leah Sharibu who is on my mind as we celebrate Easter – the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which granted mankind opportunity to reconcile with God and have life abundant on Earth and eternal life in the world to come. Leah is a true Child of God who knows that that we should not fear those who only kill the flesh, rather we should fear God who has power to kill both Flesh and Soul. Leah has proven that what Daniel, Meshack, Shadrack, and Abednego did especially during the reign of the wicked Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar where they refused to deny their faith, preferring rather to be eaten by lions or consumed by fire is reproducible today. As God delivered them because of their faith, so will He deliver our lovely daughter of Zion, Leah and bring her home hale and healthy.
With this out of my mind, maybe I can be allowed to wish my mother farewell. Since she died in Christ, we trust that we shall meet her someday at the feet of Jesus, where neither Boko Haram nor militant Fulani herdsmen will find a space.
• Mazi Ohuabunwa, OFR.