By Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda
As we approach the next elections, the question that should agitate our mind is “Where is Leah Sharibu?” This should be made a subject of discussion particularly for the incumbent President seeking a second term. Unfortunately, we seem to have swept this issue under the carpet.
Yet Buhari came with a promise to secure us all. He said his predecessor in office performed woefully on security. There could be no better time than now to demand from the President, for the liberation of Leah.
Nigerians woke up to the horrifying news of Boko Haram’s abduction of 111 girls including Leah from their school in Dapchi. Afterthe initial noise, we have returned to our business, leaving her to her fate. Government has not done better. This is the time to ask the President to account for his stewardship with regards to security. If the President does not rescue Leah, he should forget his second term bid.
The kidnap debacle in Dapchi, to me was executed by the same masterminds that stage-managed the Chibok kidnap episode. The Chibok incident was done to blackmail the Jonathan’s government, while the Dapchi case was a publicity stunt to enhance the image of Buhari, but God turned it to become a publicity upset which has become his albatross. How can one explain that of the 111 girls abducted, the only Christian girl, was kept behind in a negotiated settlement? How can we explain the carnival-like return of the kidnapped girls; well dressed with bags as if returning from a picnic? How can one explain that the military check point in the town was removed just moments before the kidnapping? How can one explain that the abductors in bringing the girls back drove triumphantly into the town, undisturbed? How can a government that is alive to its responsibilities and is mindful of the sensitivities of the citizenry, negotiate the release of the Muslim girls, leaving behind the only Christian girl among them? Is this not unthinkable, irrational, senseless and irresponsible?
And think of the lame excuse they gave for leaving her behind, that she refused to denounce her Christian faith. A sensible government would not have given such an excuse—not minding its sensitive nature. The money that the government paid to the terrorist, was it contributed by Muslims? Is this not the President who said, “I am for everybody, I am for nobody”! Has he realized that by this his many asymmetric actions so far, he is for the Muslims? Was Leah abducted because she is a Christian? So, why would that be a factor in her release?
Garba Shehu said the President was concerned about Leah’s plight and working to ensure she is freed. When will that be, if not now? Sanctimonious sentiment by the President should have been backed by concrete action at this time. The President’s assumed “worry” is ungratifying, and is part of the usual government’s reactionary rhetoric.
Buhari’s undignified assurance and indeed his government comments only comes when the insurgents released video/audio clip. The last of such was when the girl pleaded with the government to secure her release from her abductors. Unfortunately, government has not walked it talks. This is the time for the citizens to demand the President to march his words with concrete action.
Prominent people have made calls to the government to ensure that Leah is back to her parents. If these local appeals could not move the government, one would have expected that calls by international communities would spur them. On the 200th day of the abduction of Leah, Thomas Brake, a UK Parliamentarian, called for her release, when he participated in the 200-hour #Freeleah campaign held outside the Nigerian High Commission, London. The House of Commons discussed Sharibu at plenary. A member of parliament for Carshalton and Wallington, Tom Brake, requested the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to update them on his department’s discussions with Nigerian authorities on the prolonged detention of Leah Sharibu.
Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State for Africa, said the Foreign Secretary spoke with the Nigeria’s VP, Osinbajo, and extended an offer of additional support from the UK government. As expected, Nigerian government, gave a rhetorical answer, to wit, “Attacks on schools and abductions of children are abhorrent and must stop. The Nigerian government is making all efforts to secure her release”. Harriett Baldwin re-echoed the UK government’s resolve to help Nigeria in her trying times with insurgency. She informed them that “The UK is resolute in its support for Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, and are providing a substantial package of intelligence, military and humanitarian support to assist in the response to the ongoing conflict.”
Buhari, while speaking with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in London, said he was trying to be careful not to fall into the hands of fraudsters in trying to secure the release of the Christian girl, who was kept behind for refusing to renounce her faith as was demanded by her abductors. So, while negotiating for the Muslim girls’ release, they did not fall into wrong hands. Is Leah not kept by the same group that released the Muslim girls? Which wrong hands was the President referring to? These questions require quick answers.
- Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda is a medical sociologist and author