By Sam Eyoboka
AGONY OF A FATHER
CITIZEN Nathaniel Sharibu hails from Hong Local Government Area of Adamawa State. He is a member of Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA on posting to Yobe State. After serving his intial time in Dapchi, headquarters of Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe, the father of three was further posted to Taraba State.
Not wanting to obstruct his children’s academic calendar, the Police officer decided to relocate to Taraba alone leaving his family behind in Dapchi.
Once in a while he visits Dapchi to fellowship with his family before returning to Taraba, his place of primary assignment until Monday, February 19, when Boko Haram insurgents invaded Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi abducting over 110 schoolgirls including his 15-year old daughter, Leah Sharibu.
Speaking to our reporter on telephone, Mr. Sharibu who’s been receiving phone calls from across the globe, has only one wish: To behold his highly esteemed curtain raising daughter, 15-year Leah join the rest of the family to mark this year’s Easter at the ECWA in Dapchi where prayers are daily being offered for her safe return.
Citizen Nath, a Police Officer serving the nation in neighboring Taraba State, has since March 21, 2018 when Boko Haram insurgents reunited 104 schoolgirls except Leah, who was said to have refused to renounce her Christian faith; has understandably been downcast though hopeful as prayers are being offered across the globe for the safe return of the heroine of faith.
He told our reporter that he had nothing to tell any more because “Till now I have not heard anything and no authority has told me anything about the whereabouts of Leah.
“Loved ones were calling to congratulate me that my daughter is on her way home. But uptil now I have not seen anything yet,” adding “it’s very sad; if we are going to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ without Leah.”
Fighting tears, he narrated how the rest of the family has been coping without Leah. According to him, Leah who hopes to be a medical doctor in future has remained the lone captive of the Islamic insurgents who have unsuccessfully insisted that she renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
The father of three said his “wife fainted and was rushed to a hospital when Leah’s 104 school mates were returned to Dapchi after one month in captivity.”
While thanking all those praying fervently across the globe for his daughter’s safe rescue, he appealed to the Federal Government and the abductors who are still holding back their daughter, to please let go Leah to rejoin the family ahead of the Easter celebration.
“I really have nothing much to say now except that Leah is not yet back to join the rest of the family. The trauma within the Family can only be imagined, especially as her school mates have been released to rejoin their families,” he appeal-ed.
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), has hailed the courage, doggedness and faith of Leah Sharibu, who was abducted along other 109 other schoolgirls by Boko Haram insurgents in Dapchi, but still remains in captivity because of her inability to recite the Quran.
Public Relations Officer of ECWA, Rev. Romanus Ebebwokodi, in a recent statement, said: “We, in ECWA, are thankful that the Federal Government negotiated the release of all the abductees, includ-ing Leah. We are so happy that 104 of the girls, plus two other victims, have been releas-ed as at Wednesday, March 21, and are in safe hands.
“However, we are very surprised and sad that the Boko Haram abductors have refused to release Leah Sharibu, simply because she is a Christian and would not give up her Christian faith for her release. Leah is a member of ECWA in Dapchi. We call on the Federal Government and all its agencies to ensure the immediate release of Leah without any conditions. She is a law abiding Nigerian, who is at liberty to practise her Christian profession to the fullest.
“We condemn in strong terms, any attempt to forcefully convert anyone from one religion to another. As a church, we continue to pray for her release and those of all abducted Nigerians,” the ECWA statement added.
In his own response, Rev. Bright Ogbansiegbe, act-ing Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Yobe State branch said there was so much confusion when word filtered into the commu-nity that the girl has been released and she’s on her way, but when he called the girl’s father he said he was yet to see his daughter.
“I spoke with the office of the DSS, when I told them that as far as I’m concerned, whatever measure was used for the release of the 104, should be used for the remaining one because keeping her three kilometers away, if anything happens before she gets to her house, it’s going to be a very serious breakdown of law. The Commissioner of Police called us to his office. I spoke with him, maybe he was trying to know our mind as CAN. He said he heard that there were underground plans that Christians want to protest.
“But I told him no! We don’t want to protest because our concern in Yobe is not to cause more problem that will spill over to other parts of the country. But then the right thing should be done because the negotiation was done on behalf of all the abducted girls. So why is Leah an exception?
“What is the problem with Leah? Because as far as I’m concerned, she’s an equal citizen of this country. So she also has the same right the other children have,” Rev. Ogbansiegbe who also doubles as CAN Secret-ary said.
According to him, “religion is not compulsory, there’s no compulsion in religion. We can choose to be whatever we want to be and besides Niger-ia is a secular state and not a religious state and it should be respected. As I speak to you now, even from the National Youth CAN leader also went to Dapchi and I spoke with him, up till now, the girl has not still be released. She has not gotten to her family.
“I can’t tell you how many times the mother of the girl fainted. Let’s forget about what the man says on television, the truth is, in the inside of these people, they are in serious trauma. Secondly, my other part of concern is that the trauma would be less when they were 110, but now that it’s only Leah with that same number of armed men around her, I now look at how deep this trauma is.
“I’m still pleading and appealing with the government, I don’t want to know what was the arrangement for their release, what I care about is that we don’t create a serious problem out of this thing. Because if we Christians in Yobe are tolerant, what about those in Jos where there has been this recurrent religious crisis? What about areas like Taraba, Kaduna? I’ve been very careful.
“People call me from left and right. The #BringBackOurGirls forum and so many other platforms call me on this issue. I’m very careful on what I say not to trigger any part of the nation into violence. As a priest, I’m called to preach peace and I will maintain it till when I’m no longer able because there’s an extent I can go. But I want to tell you that the family of this girl are in a serious dilemma, in a serious problem, in a serious trauma now. They are not finding it funny at all in all sincerity.
“The way politicians are talking about the thing, the IGP said he’s coming, the next thing they said the press misquoted him. I don’t understand. That’s human life. They are playing with this thing but what it will result to is unimaginable. As far as I’m concerned, if anything happens now, it won’t just be a soul. I don’t want to know whatever narrative given to the whole incident, as far as I’m concerned, this lady should be released,” the CAN acting Chairman further stated.
Continuing, the cleric said he wondered why the insurgents handed over the 104 girls to the youths in Dapchi and preached for some 20 minutes, shaking hands, snapping photographs as they accompanied the girls out of the vehicles.
”One of them said he was able to converse with the insurgents, and the person was telling him that he thought that the Dapchi girls were Christians and that was why they came, only for them to realize that they are Muslims. Now looking at what this guy said and what is playing out, there is no argument than the fact that this is just an attack on the Church.
“As far as I’m concerned, God is trying to expose something in this country. What I’m concerned about is that they should not allow a strand of hair on Leah’s head to break because it will bring a serious breakdown of law and order. If they are bringing her, they should bring her the same way they brought the other girls, not keeping her in a distance and the news will say that she has been released just to cause confusion.
“As far as I’m concerned, human lives should be respected. If she had died with the five, it’s a different thing. We can live with that. But since she is alive, I am begging the whole world because this thing is no longer a Sharibu’s problem, it’s no longer a Yobe State CAN problem, it’s no longer just a Nigerian problem; the international community is looking at what we make out of this. So I’m really concerned about the kind of trauma the family of the girl and Leah herself,”the Meth-odist Church minister stated.
According to Rev. Ogbansiegbe if the lady still in captivity was a Muslim, “our churches and houses would have been on fire by now. I can say this anywhere.
“Everybody in the state is looking at me because the CAN chairman is on transfer.
By UN standard, Nigerian Christians are the most persecuted in any part of the world. Go and check statistics,” he challenged anybody who is in doubt.