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Hard to explain that Leah is now a slave!

•Abducted Dapchi girl’s father confused after Boko Haram kills two aid workers

By Sam Eyoboka

Who can snatch the   plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go? (Isaiah 49:24 New Living Edition).

Leah Sharibu
Leah Sharibu

WHEN a group of Northern Christians under the aegis of Hausa Christians Foundation, HACFO, decided to hold its maiden national conference at the Jacaranda Farms Events Centre on Kaduna-Kachia Road in Kaduna State, the objective did not include the travails of Leah Sharibu. Instead, HACFO was more concerned about the general security situation and threat to the Church in the North.

After several presentations and it became public knowledge that the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram, had executed Hauwa Liman, an aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), however, the group joined the rest of the world to condemn the continued incarceration of the Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, by ISWAP, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure her release.

A communique signed by President/Founder, Ambassador Joshua Jydson Danlami, and Communiqué Committee Secretary, Rahila Dauda, the Hausa Christians Youths appealed to Buhari to ensure that Leah, who has been detained by ISWAP for her refusal to deny her faith, is rescued alive, pointing out: “Leah is not just a Christian but a citizen of Nigeria.

“We therefore plead with the Federal Government to do everything within its power to ensure her release.”

They condemned what they described as the “frequent forceful kidnapping and Islamization of young Christian girls by some Muslims who enjoy the backing of the governments of northern states of Nigeria”.

Despite pleas from across the globe to spare the lives of the captives, especially the last-minute statement by the ICRC “to the Nigerian government and to communities and individuals with influence to work toward the release of three committed medical workers abducted in north-eastern Nigeria earlier this year” the Boko Haram group went ahead to kill Hauwa.

The 24-year-old nurse and student of health education at the University of Maiduguri, one of three aid workers abducted by the ISWAP militants during an attack on a heavily-guarded military facility in Rann, Borno State, on March 1, 2018, had been forced to kneel down, with her hands tied inside a white hijab, and then shot at close range.

She was the second aid worker to be killed by ISWAP. The first aid worker, Saifura Khorsa, had previously paid the ultimate price on September 15.

Leah Sharibu and her mother, Rebecca Sharibu

The Islamist group, in a short statement after Hauwa was murdered, said: “We have kept our word by killing another humanitarian worker, Hauwa Liman, who was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and abducted during a raid on a military facility in Rann, Kala Balge in March 2018.

“Saifura and Hauwa were killed because they were considered as Murtads (apostates) by the group because they were Muslims who abandoned their Islam the moment they chose to work with the Red Cross, and, to us, there is no difference between Red Cross and UNICEF”.

Slaves

ISWAP then said Alice Loksha Ngaddah, an abducted Christian who works with UNICEF, and the 15-year old Leah, who was kidnapped on February 19 along with 109 other schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, will be kept as slaves.

“From today, Sharibu and Ngaddah are our slaves,” the statement said.

“Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them.”

Like many people, the reaction of the International Christian Concern (ICC), a non-partisan, charitable organization focusing on human rights, religious freedom and assisting the persecuted Christian Church around the world, was that of shock at the gruesome killing of Hauwa.

A statement by Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager, said the group learned that Boko Haram had released a video depicting the execution of the aid worker who was abducted in March this year by the terrorists.

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“This is the second captive who Boko Haram has killed recently as they killed Saifura Khorsa on September 15. They said that they killed Hauwa and Saifura for being apostates. In the video, they make Hauwa kneel down with her hands tied and wearing a hijab before shooting her. “In the video of Saifura, they said that if government did not give in to their demands, they would kill Hauwa and two other captives, Leah Sharibu and Alice Ngaddah,” the statement added.

“However, in the recently released video, Boko Haram claimed that they will keep [Leah and Alice] as slaves. They said that they are not allowed to kill ‘kafir,’ or people who are not apostates, like they did with Hauwa and Saifura, but will instead keep them as their slaves”.

Johnson continued, “We are deeply saddened by the news that Leah and Alice will not only be kept but that they will also be made slaves to serve those who persecute them. This continued persecution by Boko Haram must be stopped, and government must figure out a plan to rescue these young women. “Leah’s faith is truly amazing and we will continue to pray that she will be freed and return home safely.”

Visit

A few days before the Hauwa killing, precisely Friday, October 12, a Federal Government delegation, led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had paid a visit to the Sharibu family at Dapchi. This was the first time any government official would visit the family since the abduction of Leah on February 19. The visit, according to the Information Minister, was a follow-up to the phone call by the President to Rebecca, Leah’s mum, and “to reassure the family that the Federal Government is doing everything possible to ensure Leah is released soon.”

They were, therefore, devastated by the news that Boko Haram is not planning on returning Leah anytime soon due to government’s lack of response to this case.

‘Short of words’

The father of the girl was short of words to articulate what enslavement of Leah portends as Mr. Nathan Sharibu was confused when he spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the twist in his daughter’s situation, last week.

“I don’t know how to even explain how I feel right now. I am confused,” was the initial response of a bewildered father, whose daughter is being forced into slavery after the instrument for the abolition of slavery was signed on Monday, December 18, 1865.

Asked if anybody had contacted him to explain the current situation, he answered, “Nobody has contacted me or my wife. I do not know what to say right now about the current situation than to just leave it to God. People are still praying. Both Muslims and Christians are interceding and encouraging us to hold on to our God.”

Sunday Vanguard also spoke with several Christian leaders, including the retired and current Presidents of Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA (the church attended by the Sharibu family), Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau and Rev. Stephen Panya Baba respectively, as well as the General Overseer of the Power Pentecostal Ministry, Lagos, Bishop Bolanle Odeleke, on the Leah case.

Baba, who has dispatched a group of women to Dapchi to pray and counsel Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother, said the narrative had not changed.

“As the spiritual head, what I am doing is to mobilize members of our church to intercede as much as possible because it seems that our only hope now is God. What we are doing is providing that personal spiritual and physical encouragement to the parents at the moment”, the ECWA President said.

Sadness after assuring words

Expressing sadness over the ISWAP latest statement after the reassuring words of Buhari on phone to the mother and the visit of government delegation to the woman within one week, he said: “Honestly, except God does something miraculous now, we don’t have confidence in the nation’s security outfit. God might just choose to use somebody to miraculously free the girl. We are keeping all options open believing that a miracle can still happen. We really don’t have much confidence any more in this government.

“Our greatest concern is that God should grant favour that she will not come to any harm because, humanly speaking, we are helpless and powerless now. The situation is bad but we have hope in God and I have often told the mother of the girl to remain calm, trusting that we will do everything humanly possible to ensure victory over current challenges”.

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The cleric contended that whatsoever the efforts of the security architecture of the current administration in terms of plans, strategies in “effectively addressing the security situation in the country, they have failed”.

Baba went on, “So, we have to see a drastic turnaround before our confidence in the present security outfit can be restored. What has happened thus far has not given us reason to have confidence in the system.”

To the retired President of ECWA,   Dziggau, who was kidnapped at gunpoint on Kaduna-Abuja Expressway in 2016, the picture is not much different as the old man described the current state of affairs in the country as “very bad and provocation for anything that can break this country”.

He said, “Boko Haram is trying to instigate religious war in Nigeria if care is not taken because they released the Muslim girls and Leah, the only Christian girl, was held back and now they are saying they are going to enslave her. They are trying to cause a religious war in Nigeria, but our people are not seeing it that way. It’s just to provoke Christians and Muslims are not doing enough to curtail the situation because 99% of Boko Haram operatives are Muslims and they are threatening issues on religion.

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“So if the international community is just looking at it, and the President of Nigeria is looking the other way, I want to warn that no country has had a religious war and survived. The insurgents appear to have become superior to us now since the Federal Government has resorted to begging them to spare the lives of their captives. There are no more tactics to stem the situation. Government has refused to act properly or swallow our pride and call on the international community to come to our aid.

“If you cannot do something, ask for assistance, ask others to help you but they are proud that they are still strong when they have no legs and hands. Since you refused to act and you are just singing the song that no country ever had religious war and survived, that doesn’t mean anything at all”.

Asked if government is sincere in fighting the war against terrorism, Dziggau stated, “They are not fighting. This government has deceived the people to get their votes in 2015 and God is punishing us now. They are not ready; they don’t even have the skill. Let me tell you, when God left Saul, he had no idea what to do. From all indications, God has left this government and they don’t know what to do.

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“As a retired general, President Buhari could have been better than the civilian leaders but nothing has changed. He’s just deceiving the people that he can do it. Instead, let him swallow his pride and ask for assistance. They are not ready. How many years? Next year there will be elections. There’s nothing they can do now. If you fight corruption properly, why don’t you fight insurgency properly?”

He counselled Leah’s parents to be calm and trust in the ability of God to rescue their daughter, saying, “This government will eventually be exposed. I beg the parents of Leah, let them be calm. If it’s the destiny of Leah to join her parents, nobody can change it. A delegation from government visited the mother last week and said the President was doing his best in secret.

“What kind of secret that they released the Muslims girls and forgot about the only Christian? The statement he’s making that it’s in secret, I don’t buy the idea. Let them be calm and believe that whatever will be the destiny of the girl, let it be. Let them live in calm as Christians. Leave it to God and let Him fight. Let it not be as if they are looking for assistance. They have been working before. Let them be contented with whatever they are earning. They shouldn’t just lose themselves as if the world is finished. We have hope in Christ”.

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On her part, Bishop Odeleke urged Buhari to make haste to rescue Leah.

“Leah Sharibu is a citizen of Nigeria and because she’s a citizen, the President and his security officers should be concerned about her life”, she said.

“Everybody is asking that they do something for her to be released. She cannot become a slave for life. My stand is that government should be concerned about releasing her. President Buhari is a kind man. If he’s feeding students in schools, this girl is also a student and part of those he’s supposed to feed which means our President and his wife and all concerned should do all within their power to release Leah to us and the Lord will keep their own children too safe in the name of Jesus”.

The General Overseer of Power Pentecostal Church believes that government will not make the mistake of allowing the Dapchi schoolgirl to die in captivity.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.