By Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda
AS we approach the next general elections coming up in a couple of days from now in Nigeria, one of the questions that should agitate our mind is “Where is Leah Sharibu?” We have not acted like enlightened people in discussing issues preelection. This is one topic that should have come up in the discourse, but shamefully left out. In saner clime, this would have been made a subject of discussion and negotiation. But since in this clime, human life matters nothing, we have all swept this important issue under the carpet. The Buhari’s government strong point called in sales and marketting palance, Unquie Salling Point, USP, was the issue of security. The government that it replaced was said to have performed woefully on that score, that Buhari and his cohort capitalized on it and made very suprious promises, they have woefully failed to deliver, but shamelessly claiming they have delivered. There could be no auspicious time than now to demand from the President, what has become of our daughter Leah Sharibu, particularly as he aspires to go for a second term in office.
We will recall that Nigerians woke up on February 19, 2018, to the horrific news of Boko Haram’s abduction of 111 girls from their school the Government Girls Science and Technology College in Dapchi, Yobe State, in North Eastern zone of the country among whom is Leah Sharibu. As it is typical with Nigerians, we have made the initial noise and have all returned to our usual business. The government have not fared better either. But alas, God has provided for us a time, to me an auspicious one, to hold our leaders accountable. This is indeed the time to ask the President to account for his stewardship. And one of those things we should ask is, where is Leah Sharibu? If the President does not provide a credible and concrete answer, that should determine his fate in the forthcoming elections. Therefore, the President must take every action necessary under the sun to bring back Leah now. If the President fails to bring back Leah, we may just forget that she ever existed.
The kidnap debacle of a hundred and eleven girls in Dapchi, to me was conceived and executed by the same actors that staged managed the Chibok kidnap episode. While the Chibok incident was done to blackmail the infamous Jonathan’s government, the Dapchi case was a publicity stunt and gimmick to enhance and boost the image of Buhari, but mismanaged that it became a publicity stunt which turned out to be his albatross. How can one explain that of the hundred and eleven girls abducted from their school dormitory, only one and the only Christian girl, was kept behind in a negotiated settlement? What explanation can we possibly give on the images that was shown on television of the return of the kidnapped girls. They were so well dressed and with nylon bags as if they were returning from a picnic? How can one explain that the military check point in the town was removed just moments before the abductors came in to carry the girls? How can one explain that the abductors brought back the girls and drove triumphantly into the town, while our military applauded them? How can a government that is alive to its responsibilities and mindful of the sensitivities and mode of the citizen, could have gone to negotiate for all the other girls except the only Christian girl among them? This is particularly painful against the backdrop of the statements made earlier by Buhari, to the effect that they the terrorist should be treated as dignitaries, his actions and attitude towards the Christians?
Is it thinkable, is it rational, is it sensible and does it make for a responsible and fair expectation for them to allow the only Christian girl to remain in captivity, while they brought back the Muslim girls? Think of it, a month after their abduction, the federal government secured the release of 105 of the girls all Muslim, and left behind the only Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, who would have been the 106th girl to be freed. We were told that she was left behind for refusing to denounce her Christian faith, and a government accepted such lame excuse, not minding the sensitive nature of that. Was the government expecting that it would be praised? The money that the government paid to the terrorist, was it contributed by Muslims? This is the President who on the date of his inauguration said, “I am for everybody, I am for nobody”. Has he realized that by this action amongst his many asymmetric others, that he is for the Muslims? And this is a country that the constitution said is a secular nation!
This government has given the citizen little thread to hold on to. Aside the lame excuse given by the government for their refusal to bring back Sharibu, the government has provided no reasonable, logical and sensible excuse why her release was not secured along with that of other girls and why she could not be freed using the same “back channel” it explored for the other girls. Was Sharibu abducted because she is a Christian? So, why would that be a factor in her release? With the acute lack of information, except for the occasional glimpse from Boko Haram videos or audios releases, not much has been heard about the remaining Chibok girls. But Leah Sharibu’s parents and all of us hope that her fate will be different. The father, Nathan Sharibu, once said he has been barred from speaking to the media, even though he won’t say by whom.
A demographic analysis showed that in both Chibok and Dapchi episodes, the insurgents deliberately targeted female students. This action, although blatantly criminal, has both sociological and ideological undercurrents. Boko Haram, loosely meaning western education is forbidden, has been waging war against the Nigerian nation. At a point they declared a large swathe of Nigerian territory in the northeast as its caliphate. With its members drawn from its immediate locality and then radicalized, the girl child who wants to escape the grip of poverty in the region becomes an easy target. Access to education in northern Nigeria is still alarmingly very low and abysmally poor. Africacheck.org reports that only 4 per cent of female children complete secondary school in northern Nigeria, while two-thirds of girls in the region “are unable to read a sentence compared to less than 10 per cent in the South. In Yobe state, where Leah comes from, 77.4 per cent of girls are not in secondary school. By this disgraceful figure, the state ranks the third highest in the Northeast region and the fifth highest among the 10 northern states covered in the report. Yet the central government whose responsibility it is to secure the territorial integrity of the nation, now exhibits a nonchalant attitude.