In his Democracy Day speech on May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari did not mention the case of Leah Sharibu, the abducted 15-year-old schoolgirl who has been in Boko Haram captivity since February 19 when she and 110 other girls were abducted in Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. While this oversight is deplorable given the implications of the young lady’s plight for the nation, it may not be enough reason to conclude that the government has abandoned her to her plight.
Only last month, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reminded the nation that the government had not abandoned efforts to rescue the schoolgirl, even though negotiations with the terrorists had been ‘tortuous and complicated.’ The Leah Sharibu case has caused tension in the polity because when, in March, the terrorists made a show of returning 105 of the abducted girls to Dapchi in a convoy of vehicles and even addressed the nonplussed people in the town, her colleagues linked her continued incarceration to her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
Last month, Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother, spoke of a dream in which she shared a hug with her daughter, who clocked 15 on May 14. She said: “Yes, we hugged each other very tight in such a way that no force could separate us before she narrated her ordeal to me. Those minutes of excitement nearly took away all my sorrow. Sadly, it was a dream. I cried when I opened my eyes and realised it. I tried going back to sleep for more, but I couldn’t. I cried throughout that night and prayed that God should make it reality. I’ve already transferred her brother to a school in Jos. She is the only one I am waiting for now.” The anguish encapsulated in these words is deep, and it can only be hoped that the Federal Government will fulfill its pledge to rescue the schoolgirl and reunite her with her family. Unless and until this happens, it should consider itself as being on trial.
To be sure, the government’s management of information relating to the abducted girl is defective. Going by Mrs. Sharibu’s account, the family only heard information about their daughter from media publications. This is not good enough. The abduction of Leah and her schoolmates resulted from the government’s failure to uphold its constitutional pledge to ensure security of life and property, and it is only fair to expect it to keep in touch with the families of the abducted students. Besides, given the suspicion and acrimony in the polity following the disclosure of the fact that Leah is a victim of religious persecution, the government needs to double down on its efforts to ensure her release from Boko Haram captivity. Understandably, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) warned that there might be religious war in Nigeria should Leah die in captivity. But it is important to realise that Nigerians, irrespective of their religious subscriptions and beliefs, have been united in their clamour for Leah’s release.
We urge the government to do everything within its power to ensure Leah’s release from Boko Haram. It should devise strategies for ironing out those areas of its negotiation with the terrorists that it described as tortuous and complicated. Surely, the Yobe State government and the Buhari administration realise that part of the reasons a government is put in place is to address tortuous and complicated matters and make a success out of them with the enormous resources at its disposal. Nigerians want a resolution of the Leah case and not rhetoric. A situation whereby the issue is brushed aside as politicians invade the airspace in the coming months, preaching their 2019 doctrines, bodes ill for the country. It should be avoided by all means.