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Before Leah Sharibu’s captivity ruins Nigeria 

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It is a reproachful memory that a second year has passed since the abduction of 110 girls from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State and Leah Sharibu, the only Christian girl among the victims, is still being held by her captors. It is unfortunate that the Leah’s story has been allowed to worsen Nigeria’s fault lines and political future. And here is the reason: Leah at the moment is the face of the perceived conflict between religions in Nigeria by telling her to renounce her faith to be a free citizen.

The Boko Haram terrorists reportedly made the renunciation of Citizen Leah’s faith a precondition for her release, but she was said to have declined and so was held hostage while 104 of her colleagues were released on March 21, 2018. Five of the hapless girls died in captivity.

This is a dangerous mix in the raging battle for nation building. Indeed, it is shameful and inexcusable that the Federal Government has not been able to secure Leah’s release despite several promises by the president.

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At different times Leah, her parents and other concerned Nigerians have cried to the president to rescue Leah. It would be recalled that in 2018, this Christian girl in an audio message that went viral begged President Muhammadu Buhari to come to her rescue. Similarly, Leah’s parents and community leaders and other concerned individuals and groups have cried to the president to ensure a safe and speedy release of this unlucky girl.

What is more, in October 2018, the president consoled Leah’s family and assured her parents that the Federal Government would do its utmost for the safety and security of their daughter. Then, the president was quoted as telling Mrs. Sharibu: “I convey my emotion, the strong commitment of my administration and the solidarity of all Nigerians to you and your family as we will do our best to bring your daughter home in peace and safety.” That hope is still deferred.

Despite the president’s assurance to Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah, the Leah Sharibu albatross still hangs on the neck of government as the hapless girl is still nowhere to be found.

Till date Leah and her parents are still in distress. Doubtless, Christians in Nigeria are grieving with rising frustration. Beyond this collective anguish, the premium that should be placed on human life has been overlooked.

On the second anniversary on February 19, this year, President Buhari personally signed a statement where he assured Nigerians that his government would not relent until all captives are released. He also promised to redouble his efforts for Leah’s return.

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It is a shame of a country that a Nigeria’s daughter is still held hostage and the government continues to make unfulfilled promises concerning her release. So, again, “Mr. President, where is Leah Sharibu”; “what happened to the promises on Leah Sharibu”; and “Is she alive”? When will your action answer these questions that epitomise a painful reflection of the poor value the Nigerian state attaches to the lives of her citizens?

Your promise to rescue Leah Sharibu should go beyond rhetoric to action and result! Enough of unfulfilled promises concerning citizen Leah. Nigerians are tired of promises, we want result.

Mr. President, Leah is Nigeria’s daughter and the nation’s attention and action concerning her rescue should not be less. Leah is our daughter and sister, but it appears that we are turning blind eyes to her safety. We are appealing that you prioritise the quick return of Leah and others in captivity.

As such, authorities in Abuja should continue to reflect on the consequences of Leah’s capture and her continued abduction by Boko Haram insurgents. It is legendary and it will continue to re-echo until Leah is rescued, because she is now a ‘special captive’. That is why we are appealing again, to the president and his men to intensify efforts to rescue her from the abductors. As long as Leah remains in captivity, the reproach will continue to haunt the government of Buhari.

Mr. President, Nigerians are waiting to say thank you for rescuing Leah and the remaining Chibok schoolgirls alive and for conquering Boko Haram. Certainly, as this newspaper has repeatedly noted, Leah’s issue is too sensitive to be left in the realms of miracles.

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Therefore, Nigerian state actors with conscience in Abuja, should rise up to the situation as the non-release of Leah remains a moral guilt hanging over the Nigerian state’s duty-bearers; and should not be treated like the June 12 1993 election, where the Federal Government attempted to ‘atone’ for its sins after 25 years.

Buhari should do all that is humanly possible in his government today and put the issue of safety and release of citizen Leah as an issue of urgent national importance.

Until citizen Leah is safely released, we will continue to ask Nigeria’s leader, where is Leah Sharibu? Her blood should not be allowed to be part of the stains already on the palms of government of Africa’s most populous nation. Her release is the only action that can stop so many speculations about her safely and all that stuff including the latest but dangerous one that she has been married off to a terrorist who has put her in the family way. The only armour against this rumour mill is her release after more than two years in captivity.

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