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Leah Sharibu @15: The painful wait continues

…Marks 15th Birthday in captivity
…Parents appeal for her release to continue her education

By Mike Ebonugwo & Sam Eyoboka

IT has been an anxious and indeed painful wait for the  release of Leah Sharibu who is one of the 110  students abducted from Government Girls Technical Science College, Dapchi, Yobe State by the Al Barnawi faction of Boko Haram on February 19, 2018.

Leah Sharibu and her mother, Rebecca Sharibu

The poor girl who was 14 when she was abducted, yesterday, marked her 15th birthday while still in Boko Haram captivity.

The long wait began for the distraught and traumatised parents the day news broke in March that 104 of the 110 abducted school girls had been released by their Boko Haram captors. The news prompted the parents and other relations of the affected girls to jump for joy.

Indeed, there was widespread jubilation in Nigeria and across the world over the happy development. The jubilant mood was only dampened by the sad revelation that five of the female students died while being abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents.

For the Sharibu family, their initial joy that their daughter, Leah, was returning to them alive was rudely cut short by a most disheartening news.  Another sad chapter in the whole episode of the abduction and rescue drama soon shocked them with the revelation that the Boko Haram insurgents had decided to hold on to their beloved Leah for her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and embrace Islam.

Boko Haram insurgents

It was a most shattering news to them. In fact, Leah’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu was said to have fainted after receiving the news that her first child and only daughter was not among those released. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she had said: “…My heart was broken… when I searched through the released girls and could not set my eyes on my dear daughter, Leah”.

And with no one to turn to  she made this plaintive plea: “To the Boko Haram members, I have nothing to say other than that they should have pity on my only daughter and release her. It is not her fault that she is a Christian, I know that in this world, everyone chooses the path of faith he or she has chosen in worshipping God. There is no way one could be forced to do what he or she does not know. It is not possible.”

On his part, Leah’s father, Nathaniel Sharibu said he would not be happy until his daughter was rescued and brought home like her mates. “Nigeria must do all within its powers to bring back my daughter, the same way they did to others. I really thank and appreciate the people of Dapchi community, especially how they rallied round us at this time of great sorrow,” he said.

The Leah abduction episode had immediately sparked both local and international reactions, with strident appeals and demands that the Federal Government should immediately kick-start the process of her rescue or release. For instance, the Nigerian Senate had while commending the Federal Government for the release of most of the Dapchi school girls demanded that all the security agencies must do their best to see that Leah was immediately rescued.

In his response to the global outrage over the non-release of Leah, President Muhammadu Buhari had assured that everything would be done to secure her release. According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu: ”The Buhari administration will not relent in its efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents as it has done for the other girls after she was held back by the terrorists over her decision, as reported, not to convert from Christianity to Islam.

President Buhari is fully conscious of his duty under the constitution to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic background or geopolitical location and will not shirk in this responsibility. President Buhari assures the Sharibu family that he will continue to do all he can to ensure that they also have cause to rejoice with their daughter soon.”

That was about two months ago. And with the Buhari government so far failing to make good its promise, and hope of seeing and reuniting with their daughter diminishing, the distraught Sharibu family feel betrayed by the inability of the Federal Government to rescue her.

So, they are passionately appealing to Nigerians to join them to fast and pray for their daughter’s safe and timely return from Boko Haram captivity.

Speaking with newsmen on Sunday, Mrs. Sharibu said: “Tomorrow (today), Monday, May 14, 2018, our daughter, Miss Leah Sharibu, will be 16 years. If she were here with us, we would have been celebrating her 16th birthday with her. She is not with us and all we can do is fast and pray for her as a family and I want to appeal to all Nigerians and other concerned people around the world to help us pray for her safety wherever she is and for her return as well.

15th birthday  anniversary

“President Buhari seemed to have forgotten about Leah but we know God who brought her forth will not forget her. We believe that God is keeping watch over her and our prayers would be answered.”

The father, Mr. Nathaniel Sharibu speaking on telephone from his Yola base on the occasion of the 15th birthday anniversary of the girl, appealed to the Federal Government to “do their possible best concerning my daughter.” He did not stop there.

“We appeal to the government and all concerned for the release of my daughter. I am pleading to the Federal Government that they should do something urgently to release her. It is almost three months since this saga began….just a few days away to complete 90 days since she has been in captivity.

“So, I am pleading for them to have pity on us and release this girl to the family to continue her education. It is very painful now that her fellow students have resumed school,” Mr. Sharibu, who said he was yet to receive any official delegation to brief him on the continued saga added.

Confirming that Christian groups in Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom and other parts of the world are conducting special prayers to mark her 15th birthday today, he appealed to the media and all public spirited persons across the nation and beyond to encourage the government to release the girl.

His wife, Rebecca, tearfully told our correspondent that the entire family was moody especially because it is her birthday. She confirmed that apart from prayers of the saints across the globe for the release of her only daughter, she has been engaged in series of fasting and prayer for the safe release of her daughter.

Safe release of  her daughter

“I have been doing prayers. Although the Church is praying all over but, as a mother, I take my time to pray instead of just crying,” she said, adding that sometimes Leah’s only brother who will be 13 years this year, joins in the family prayer sessions.

“I appeal to the Federal Government to try their best to return Leah to us and reduce the pain of a mother. That is my only request to Government because all her mates have now resumed school,” she stated.

Continuing, Mrs. Sharibu appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to please release Leah now, “because it appears he has forgotten about Leah but we know God who brought her forth will not forget her. We believe that God is keeping watch over her and our prayers would be answered.”

The Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, which is the church of her parents, recently declared a three-day fasting and prayer for Leah Sharibu, the only Christian among the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgent group in Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19.

While the other girls have been released, Boko Haram is reportedly holding on to Leah Sharibu who turned 15, yesterday, because she refused to renounce her faith and embrace Islam.

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