Leah Sharibu, Buhari and verdict of history, By Martins Oloja

Doubtless, it is a time to deconstruct the electoral justice system that has firmly entrenched the judiciary as the author and finisher of our elected leaders in the executive arms of government because of abysmal failure of internal democracy here. It should be a time to write on the current trial and travail of the Electoral Amendment Act 2022, which prevents candidates from obtaining multiple applications for contesting various elective offices in the same dispensation, which the Supreme Court is beginning to bulldoze before our very eyes. I mean we need at this time to do contextual reporting and analysis of the trial of BVAS before the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal that gave its verdict on the 2022 gubernatorial election petition at the weekend. It would have been a perfect time to analyse what is happening within the governing party where their presidential candidate is beginning to doubt the support of some of his party leaders. I would like to interrogate the complexity in the new release from Abeokuta, which has become our ‘Chattam House’ of controversial outbursts. Not today, I am so, so sorry. Today, the oracle has nudged me on to raise a flag of appeal to our leader Muhammadu Buhari the Mauritanian authorities just honoured for us as a Peace Ambassador, who will leave office in May this year. My appeal:

Mr. President, on February 19, it will be five years since that daughter of Zion, Citizen Leah Sharibu was abducted by the wicked ones. Expectedly, on that day, there will be another round of activities to mark another dark day in our history of building our strange federation of complex diversity. That will be another day of diverse messages of solidarity and even condemnation for the authorities and indeed your presidency. It is not expedient for me to wait till that day to send this last appeal so that you can get it before the usual noises of February 19. What is more urgent, I just read your opinion in the media, in which you stated: ‘I have done my best, I hope history will be kind to me…’ Our dear President, this is very remarkable except to deconstruct it from one of the classics of Williams Shakespeare who notes, ‘the eye sees not itself but by reflection by some other things…’ Yes, you can claim to us that you have done your best within the context of the promises you made to us in 2015 and where we are today as a nation. The verdict of history is inescapable in the end. But one thing you need to do to make history to be kind to you is to work for the release of that daughter of yours, Leah before May 29, 2023. That is barely four months away. Many people believe that her heartless captors will kill her when you leave office. And as our own iconic Chinua Achebe would have written to you, do not allow the wicked ones to claim that you bear a hand in her death despite the fact that that girl regards you as father, and your administration didn’t reach out to pay the terrorists what they allegedly demanded for her release. Your Excellency, may the good Lord who enabled you to be in the highest office in the land grant you the grace to deepen your understanding of why Citizen Leah should not be left to die in captivity where aid workers and rescued ones have consistently claimed that she (Leah) have been forced to renounce he faith as a Christian and marry a Boko Haram Commander by whom she has had two unwanted children in the wilderness of life.

Mr. President, recall that in 30-second video clip in Hausa, after seven months in captivity in 2018, the 15-year-old then appealed to you for help and help for her agonising family. In the video she pleaded: ‘I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government, particularly, the President to pity me and get me out of this serious situation…I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives…Kindly help me out of my predicament…I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation. I am begging you to treat me with compassion. Thank you’.

Mr President, this is the last testimony from the Leah’s mother who merely responded to a media inquiry about the last time the family heard from you:
‘…When my daughter was taken away in February 2018, I did not hear from the government; I did not hear from anybody until seven months after. It was then that a video was released of her in a hijab. Boko Haram had released a video to say they had killed one health worker and they said the next person to be killed would be Leah. So, the Leah Foundation organised a world press conference in Jos. We asked the world for help because the next person Boko Haram said they would kill was my daughter. We said we had not heard from the government or anybody as a family and that, as far as we were concerned, we were calling on the international community to plead with the Nigerian government to take action.

The night of the press conference, we got the attention of the government and the President called and spoke with me. That was the first time they (the presidency) got in touch with us. After speaking to me, he (President) promised that he would do everything possible to bring Leah back.
Two weeks after, he sent three ministers led by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, to us. He came to Dapchi with two female ministers. When they came, they told me the President had sent them with a very large delegation and the media to say that very soon, Leah would be found. In fact, when they came that day, we thought Leah was coming back because we had just spoken with the President two weeks before. But they just came to register their presence with us as Leah’s parents. They took pictures and it was all over the media that the President sent ministers.

After that time, we never heard anything from anybody in the government until October 2020 when the Minister of Women Affairs (Paulen Tallen) came to Yola (Adamawa State) to pay us a courtesy visit. She told us that she had brought a message from the President, that the President was still working towards fulfilling the promise that he would rescue Leah. Since then, there has been no contact or communication…”

Mr. President, intelligence received on the status of Leah indicates that she has delivered a second child in captivity. There has been no rejoinder denying this unpleasant development even as diplomatic and intelligence sources have also confirmed. This is not a good news item of childbirth.
The Guardian had (on January 1, 2019), named Leah Sharibu as its 2018 ‘‘Person of the Year,’’ aptly describing her as “A goddess of resistance”.
Remember this story? To commemorate the March 21 third anniversary of the release of the Dapchi girls returned by their captors and “abandonment of Leah Sharibu”, a US group in its commemorative statement said, “until she is released, Leah remains a poster child and symbol of a failed state that can’t protect its children…” The group also lamented the “full-scale onslaught on education in Nigeria by Islamist extremists: Boko Haram wars against education; bandits mass kidnap of children in school; and religious violence against Christian mission school owners in Ilorin over hijab controversy.” These too are sad commentaries even as we are not talking about the more than 100 Chibok school children that the same Bomo Haram insurgents have wasted since 2014.

Our father and leader, I hope it is still clear that Leah’s father who hails from Adamawa state is a policeman, who was posted to Dapchi where his daughter was abducted. But they had transferred him to another beat at the time Leah was kidnapped. Does anyone feel how Leah’s family has been coping? The words of the mother two years ago are instructive:
‘…For us as a family, it is very painful; it is not something that is palatable. It is painful when a child is taken for three years and you don’t know anything regarding the child’s whereabouts. We are not happy as a family. I am not happy, her father is not happy and my son is not happy. We are in pain every day. She has just her younger brother, Donald. He is in school… My son has gone back to school, but every day I’m afraid; my mind is not at ease. But he has to continue with his education and people have supported us. The Leah Foundation has taken up his education. With that, he has to go to school, but every day, I am afraid. We are in deep pains. We are not happy. It is not something to be happy about.

Mr. President, this is the summary of the reality we are checking: while 104 of Leah’s 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 because she refused to convert to Islam questions this view, which 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 five years. This may account for the resentments by various individuals and groups within and outside Nigeria as aptly captured in the earlier question posed by The Guardian: “Mr. President, Where is Leah Sharibu?”

Mr. President, it can be repeated here that on Wednesday, October 3, 2018, you consoled and assured Leah’s parents that the Federal Government would do its utmost for the safety and security of Leah. You were then 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 your assurance to Rebecca Sharibu, (mother of Leah), the Leah albatross still hangs on the neck of your administration Sir, as the girl is still held in captivity. Till the present, there has been no update on the plight of that unlucky girl and her whereabouts have remained unknown, five years on. Our dear President, this is a reproach that you should cast off before leaving for Daura on May 29, 2023, lest history won’t be fair to you as you desire.
Article first published by The Guardian

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