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Leah Sharibu: ‘A goddess of resistance’ still missing!

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Leah Sharibu

It is incredible to note that this newspaper’s 2018 ‘‘Person of the Year,’’ Leah Sharibu aptly described on January 1, 2019 as “A goddess of resistance” is still in captivity.

This is the eighth editorial of this newspaper on the tragic story of the Dapchi school girl who has spent agonising 677 days in captivity despite a series of promises by Nigeria’s chief executive officer and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

It is unfortunate that we will still ask some of the questions we asked on February 14, this year when the story cropped up again like a sore thumb: When will several promises made on the release of Leah Sharibu be fulfilled? Where is Leah Sharibu? Is she alive? It is unfortunate that the answers to these questions continue to blow in the wind. There was a glimmer of hope then that she would be released before the 2019 elections.

In October 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari 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.”

Despite the president’s assurance to Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah, the Dapchi secondary schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists, the Leah Sharibu albatross still hangs on the neck of government as the hapless girl is still nowhere to be found.

As we migrate to a new year tomorrow, it is quite significant to remind the authorities in Abuja that the nation is still waiting for freedom for Citizen Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi schoolgirl and Christian who is still being held captive because of her faith. Some aid workers had the other day raised concern about her safety but the Federal Government said all was well with her and they were continuing with negotiation to set her free. Why has the negotiation been too difficult and inconclusive? We feel it is expedient to remind the president that people’s anxiety is beginning to turn to fear of the unknown. And the implication as we noted in our last opinion on the ticklish issue, is that, “when hope is deferred, it makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

There has also been a relevant reference to a similar tragedy in the polity, which involved another Citizen Zainab Aliyu, a Muslim girl, who was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug trafficking and whose release was secured through the intervention of the Federal Government. She reportedly arrived in the country before the elections while families and well-wishers marked the 16th birthday of Leah Sharibu, (still held in captivity) with several activities in Abuja, Jos and Lagos. As we noted before here, this is not a good contrasting story in nation building at this time.

While 104 of her colleagues were released on March 21, 2018, five of the hapless girls died in captivity. Although, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed announced then that the 104 girls’ release was unconditional, the refusal of the terrorists group to release Leah since 2018, on the condition that she converts to Islam, questions this view and buttresses some perception that the Federal Government’s negotiations through a back-channel led to the release of the girls.

So, it is indeed becoming inexcusable that the Federal Government has not been able to negotiate Leah’s release for almost three years. This may account for the resentments by various individuals and groups within and outside Nigeria; and aptly captured in our earlier question: “Mr. President, where is Leah Sharibu?”

It would be recalled that during the third quarter of 2018, this same Christian girl, Leah, had in a clear audio message begged Buhari to come to her rescue. However, the government said the clip would be verified to be sure that it was Leah’s voice. There has been no update on the authenticity of the voice since.

This ugly reality is a monumental embarrassment, because the ‘‘child’’ Leah had even cried out to her ‘‘father’’ of the nation to rescue her. Nigeria’s leader should note again that the story of Leah’s capture and her continued detention by Boko Haram insurgents as a result of her refusal to renounce her faith is legendary. That defiance echoes a bright message of love, selflessness, courage and hope to our nation. The Leah this newspaper calls, ‘‘goddess of resistance’’ to terror, is now the number one soldier on the frontline in defence of Nigeria’s now fragile unity, peace and progress. She is a true heroine.

The word of the President on Leah and the remaining Chibok girls should be his bond. It will be recalled that part of Buhari’s campaign promise on which he won election in 2015 was that he would work for the return of the Chibok school girls. The remaining 113 Chibok girls and Leah are still in Boko Haram’s custody. They are still our missing daughters.

We will continue to appeal to our leader to please use the doggedness with which he handled the case of Zainab Aliyu’s release for Leah. This is one of the ways, Nigeria’s leader can show Nigerian citizens that he is a ‘‘father’’ to all; who has value for human lives and can go to any length to save lives.

As we once noted, help from foreign powers can be requested when necessary. The Nigerian state should stop being territorial. If it requires expertise from other countries, there should not be pride and vanity displayed over that.

To the parents, friends and relatives of Leah, who have been in agony and waiting for the return of their child, we renew our appeal that you continue to keep hope alive.

In a preface to this newspaper’s tribute to “the goddess of resistance” on the first day of the year that ends today, this is a fitting excerpt:

“…In this very dark chapter of Nigeria’s history, however, one person has chosen to write a bright message of love, selflessness, courage and hope to her compatriots. The story of Leah Sharibu’s capture and her continued detention by the Boko Haram insurgents in the north east of Nigeria as a result of her defiance of compromise and refusal to renounce her faith is the stuff of legend…Still in captivity till date, despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s acceptance of our charge to do everything to free her, she has since become the symbol of Nigeria’s refusal to give in to agents of darkness, hell-bent on dividing the country and appropriating a section of the nation’s territory unto themselves.

‘‘By her principled stand, the battle for the soul of Nigeria has become one between a young girl with a heart and a garrison of devils with no souls.

‘‘Leah remains missing but she has not missed her way. In the face of terror, she found a true guide in her heart and is now the number one soldier on the frontline in defence of Nigeria’s integrity, values and aspirations to unity, peace and progress.

‘‘She turned down personal liberty and chose to put her life on the line so that the whole of Nigeria may fulfill the promise of freedom and prosperity…She is a true heroine.’’


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