• It’s unmistakable – Father
• Govt: We are verifying
• I wept listening to recording and some people are dilly-dallying — Ex-Primate Ola Makinde
By Sam Eyoboka
“I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation. I also plead with members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion. I am calling on government, particularly the President, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”
THE above 35 seconds audio recording has turned over six months of despair and hopelessness to an avalanche of hope fired by share divine grace as the Sharibu family can now heave a sigh of relief that their 15-year-old Christian daughter, Leah, abducted in February, is still alive.
Leah’s audio message was published on Monday by “The Cable” online news platform with her recent picture in which she was wearing a brown hijab and sitting on a mat, after a convoy of 4×4 trucks of ISWAP (Islamic State in West African Province) Barnawi faction on the rampage in the evening of February 19, 2018 abducted 115 schoolgirls of a government secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State and transported into the unknown.
Boko Haram released the audio recording of the lone Christian girl as proof of life. Leah marked her 15th birthday in captivity.
Reacting to the release of the audio, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the Department of State Services (DSS) was analysing it.
Also answering a question about when Leah will rejoin her parents on a television programme, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said: “That question can only be answered by God, but I believe that God is interested in that young girl”.
Adesina, a pastor of Foursquare Gospel Church, added that government was working to get her free.
A telephone call to the father of the girl, Mr. Nathan Sharibu, confirmed that the voice in that recording is his daughter’s. “It’s unmistakable”, he said with a tinge of a reassurance that there’s hope that the uncertainty over her safety was no longer in doubt.
“I can confirm to you that the voice in the audio recording is that of my daughter, Leah. It has renewed my hope in God and we are happy that I can hear my daughter speak. This has given me hope that she is alive. I am also happy to confirm that the picture displayed is her photograph.
“My request is the same with my daughter’s. I am appealing to the Muhammadu Buhari-government to hearken to the plea of a distressed family and play its part now by intensifying efforts to secure her freedom”.
He said that neither the DSS nor the police had reached the family to confirm the voice in the recording.
Similarly, the mother of the abducted JSS 3 student of Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu, brightened up somewhat when she also confirmed the voice to be her daughter’s, saying that her faith in God had been rekindled.
Like her husband, Mrs. Sharibu, who is currently holidaying in Yola with her husband and only son, to shake off lonesomeness and boredom, also called on President Buhari to make haste and free her daughter. She expressed happiness that she was able to hear her daughter’s voice after over six months.
The International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington DC based organization, whose concern is the human rights of Christians and religious minorities and in close contact with the family, also confirmed that it is Leah’s voice in the recording.
“Yes, her parents confirmed it is her voice in the audio and also that it is her face in the picture. She is the one,” Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, said in a statement.
Buoyed by statements, several Christian leaders expressed worry why it’s taking the Federal Government over a week to verify the voice in the audio recording.
Johnson said, “This is amazing news to hear. Ever since the release of the other Dapchi girls, it has been a serious question of whether or not Leah was alive. We have hoped and prayed to hear that she is, and will continue to pray and work for her eventual release. Now is the time for President Buhari to show that he will truly work to rescue Leah from the hands of evil.”
Though it is encouraging to know that Leah is alive, her travails are far from being over.
The ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa quoted the girl’s parents as saying government had not contacted them ever since Leah was abducted and “even today they have not contacted (us).”
Johnson added, “They say that only news agencies have contacted them. They have not heard from President Buhari, who has claimed to be working to free their daughter. They said that they appreciate (everyone) who is working to ensure her release. (We) continue to plead for more pressure to be put on the government until she is released.”
The ICC said it spoke with Rev. Yakubu Pam, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in 19 Northern States and Abuja, during a crucial peace summit in Jos, where the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said government was “making efforts to secure her release.”
Pam was also quoted as saying that he and the other northern pastors at the summit will continue to raise concerns over Leah to determine what “making efforts” actually means.
The Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN), comprising over 56 Christian groups from across the globe, organized a conference, tagged, “Think Nigeria,” on Tuesday, at Daughter’s of Divine Love Reteat and Conference Centre in Abuja, to evaluate developments in the country and the challenges confronting governance.
In a communique, the CSMN condemned in very strong terms the abduction and continued incarceration of Leah on account of her firm stand against renouncing her Christian faith for Islam in exchange for freedom from her Islamist captors.
“The conference demanded immediate government intervention to secure her release,” the communiqué said as members took time to pray for her and called on all Christians to contribute funds to support her family as the abducted schoolgirl had demanded in her first ever contact with the rest of the world. And in response, the conference immediately raised donations for the Sharibu family.
Immediate past Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Sunday Ola Makinde, described the response of the Federal Government since February when Leah and about 110 other girls were abducted as appalling.
“I listened to the audio recording because you know it’s the concern of every serious Christian in the country today because the thing has turned to a religious matter now. It’s disturbing that out of over 112 girls abducted by the Islamic fundamentalists, the only Christian among them was the one singled out to remain in captivity because she won’t renounce her faith,” he stated.
Makinde described the development as “unfortunate and the uncared attitude of the government” to keep its pledge to ensure her release from captivity”.
He added,”If this was to happen in the US or Britain, government would spend millions of dollars to ensure her rescue long before now. It’s unfortunate that our attitude to souls in Nigeria is this poor. Life is no longer sacred.
“I sympathize with the parents of the girl who are obviously traumatized by the continued incarceration of their only daughter. I was weeping when I listened to that recording and some people are dilly-dallying about whether the voice is genuine or not. Even after the parents of the girl have confirmed that the voice belongs to their daughter….it is sad”.
Another Christian leader who preferred to remain anonymous was uncharitable in his response to the Presidency’s claim of trying to verify the authenticity of the voice before possibly doing anything, saying “people have been outraged when Mr. Femi Adesina said they were going to verify.
“Even those who are not in government have verified the voice and you are just talking about you’re going to verify. It is obvious they are not interested because from all the reports we’ve read so far, neither government nor her security outfits is yet to reach out to the parents, if they are keen on verifying the voice in the audio recording”.