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Leah Sharibu’s 16th birthday in captivity

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Leah Sharibu, one of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls


While 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, arrived in the country the other day, families and well-wishers marked the 16th birthday of abducted Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl and the only Dapchi school girl still held in captivity with several activities in Abuja, Jos and Lagos. This is not a good contrasting story in nation building at this time.

Essentially, till date, Leah Sharibu Guardian’s 2018 Person of the Year, is still in the hands of her abductors, the Boko Haram terrorists, who made the renunciation of her faith a precondition for her release, but she declined and so has been held hostage.

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

So, it is indeed, inexcusable that the Federal Government has not been able to negotiate Leah’s release two years on. This may account for the resentments by various individuals and groups within and outside Nigeria; and aptly captured in a media message captioned, “Mr. President, where is Leah Sharibu?”

It would be recalled that this Christian girl, Leah, still held by Boko Haram terrorists during the third quarter of 2018, in a trending audio message begged President Muhammadu 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 since.

Again, it was reported that on Wednesday, October 3, 2018, Buhari consoled Leah Sharibu’s biological family and assured her parents that the Federal Government would do its utmost for the safety and security of Leah. 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 President Buhari’s assurance to Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah, the Leah Sharibu albatross still lingers as the girl is still held in captivity! Till date, there is no update on the plight of citizen Leah and her whereabouts have remained unknown. It is a shame of a country that a Nigeria’s daughter is still held hostage and the government remains unconcerned about that tragedy.

This ugly reality is a monumental embarrassment, because the ‘child’ Leah had even cried out to her ‘father’ of the nation to recuse her. Or is Leah Sharibu no longer a child of the Mr. President?

Mr. President the story of Leah Sharibu’s capture and her continued detention by Boko Haram insurgents as a result of her defiance of compromise and refusal to renounce her faith is legendary; and echoes a bright message of love, selflessness, courage and hope to our nation. Leah, ‘goddess of resistance to terror’ by her principled stand is now the number one soldier on the frontline in defence of Nigeria’s integrity and values and aspirations to unity, peace and progress. She is a true heroine.

Mr President, you are known as a man of integrity, therefore, your word should be your bond! Remember that part of your campaign promise on which you won election in 2015 is that you would work for return of the Chibok school girls. The 113 Chibok and Leah Sharibu still in Boko Haram captivity are our daughters and sister!

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 Sharibu. 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.

In this regard, rescue efforts of help from foreign powers can be requested when necessary. The Nigerian state should stop being territorial. If it requires expertise from other countries as in the case of Zainab Aliyu, until Leah and every school girl abducted is accounted for and Boko Haram is conquered, there should not be pride and vanity displayed over that.

Therefore, it is hoped that other duty bearers and relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government will learn some lessons from the Zainab Aliyu’s case and put in a lot of efforts into solving the problem of Leah and the rest of the kidnapped Chibok school girls still in captivity. If Nigeria, can free Zainab Aliyu from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria can and should rescue Leah Sharibu from her abductors!

The authorities in Abuja should note that the Leah Sharibu’s albatross remains a moral guilt hanging on the neck of state’s duty-bearers who should bear the responsibility for the rescue of the abducted school girls still in captivity.On the parents, friends and relatives of Leah, who have been in agony and waiting for the return of their child, we appeal to you to keep hope alive.

So, all told, Nigeria’s leader should not allow perception of lack of enthusiasm on Leah’s plight to grow into reality as he settles down to a second term in office. He should demonstrate to the people that he ‘belongs to everybody.’ Certainly, Mr. President, Nigerians are waiting to say thank you for keeping to your words by rescuing Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok school girls alive and for conquering Boko Haram!


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Leah Sharibu
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