As President Muhammadu Buhari prepares himself for a happy return to his comfortable country home in Daura, Katsina State, after nearly eight years in office where he posted what is widely adjudged as far below average performance, a 19-year-old, tender, innocent girl named Leah Sharibu remains a hapless, pathetic, unspeakably traumatized captive of Boko Haram terrorists, obviously under the most dehumanizing conditions.
Given what has, reportedly, been the horrible experiences of young, beautiful girls like Leah who have been captured by these terrorists, one is really scared to imagine the extent of savage violations she might have been subjected to for over five years now! It is heartbreaking that she hardly gets mentioned again these days, especially by those whose job it is to rescue and bring her home to her grieving parents and siblings!
Has Nigeria woefully failed Leah Sharibu then? Has President Buhari who may have her age mates as grandchildren forgotten her? Has he given up hope of ever bringing her home to her heartbroken parents? Will he leave her in the horrible den of terrorists as he happily retires to the comfort of his home and family in Daura in the next few months?
What happened to Buhari’s very loud, almost five-year-old promise to rescue her quickly? Or even his firm pledge during the campaigns for his first term that he would end the Boko Haram menace in six months and ensure the freedom of all their captives? What did he have in mind when he was making those promises? Has he exhausted all his ideas and strategies for ending terrorism and banditry? What in his assessment was the result of his efforts in this regard after nearly eight years in office? Or was he merely dropping those campaign promises (just to get the people’s votes) after which he hurriedly forgot them as soon as he won the election and settled into the limitless comfort of presidential office in Nigeria?
Leah was among the 110 students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on February 19, 2018. She was only 14 then. When in March of the same year news broke that the terrorists had brought back the girls with the same fanfare they had taken them away – like kids going on an excursion – Leah’s parents rejoiced like the other parents, and rushed down to embrace their beloved child and take her home. But on discovering that her child was not released with her classmates, Leah’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu, fainted. The shock was too much for her.
Speaking of her experience later, she said, weeping profusely: “My heart was broken when I searched through the released girls and could not set my eyes on my dear daughter, Leah.”
Leah’s equally traumatized father, Nathaniel Sharibu, could only sorrowfully plead that serious effort should be deployed to bring his daughter back. “Nigeria must do all within its powers to bring back my daughter the same way they did to others,” he said.
Now, after nearly five years and no heartwarming news had come in about his beloved daughter, the only girl in the family, his conclusion would probably be that he merely sang ballads to the deaf!
The terrorists had refused to release Leah because she is a Christian and had refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam as they demanded. That was her unpardonable offence which she has continued to pay dearly for. Her heart must have bled as she watched the other girls go home, but she remained firm in her resolve not to trade her faith for her freedom. She is a heroine of the Christian faith.
Now, how does Leah see Nigeria and her leaders today? An American boy will look you straight in the face and declare that he is ready to die for America any day, anywhere, and he means every word of it. Same goes for youths from several other countries. Why? They know very well that should any of them be in trouble anywhere in the world, their country would spare no resources and efforts to rescue them. Their leaders are patriotic and humane and sincerely love and care for the people they are governing. They tower far above those callous and selfish leaders who only remember hapless captives like Leah Sharibu when they want to use their predicament to score cheap political points!
On Saturday, June 23, 2018, a young football team in Thailand, made up of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 16, went missing with their coach in a Northern Thailand cave. The world stood in awe as their country went all out to trace and bring them home. Nobody bothered to ask why they embarked on such an adventure. That was no longer necessary. The most important thing was their safety. The whole country and their leaders became united in their resolve to rescue the boys and gave themselves no rest until they were found and brought out to safety. The dedication and concern of the Thai leaders aroused the sympathy of the world which moved in to help.
In saner countries, the worsening insecurity in Nigeria and the fact that many of our citizens are either in captivity or brutally displaced are enough reasons to inspire in Gen Buhari the noble decision to stand down from office. But in these parts, people seek power not to serve the citizenry, but largely to wallow in the glamour and luxury of the office. So, even if they run the country completely aground, they would still remain there even if to play the undertaker. The verdict of history holds no attraction for them.
So, as Buhari prepares to retire to his comfortable home and into the loving arms of his wife and children, Leah Sharibu’s hot tears continue to flow in the terrorists’ den. For five excruciating years, she must have looked out each day for the rescue team that is yet to even take off. Sense of loneliness and abandonment has remained her daily sources of additional torments. Maybe, the Buhari regime had wished that we forgot Leah and moved on – like they seem to have done with the Chibok girls. It is now clear that the horrible plight of the Chibok girls was merely a very effective tool for winning the 2015 election, and nothing more!
Nigeria is today bleeding at all corners. The universities are still battling to recover from the eight months’ clearly avoidable strike by lecturers even as the government strives to weaken the toiling hands of the teachers with very punitive decisions on their welfare.
Since the past few months, Nigerians have been groaning under one of the worst, seemingly intractable petrol crises in this country that has unleashed overwhelming hardship on the populace, a situation that has now been horribly compounded by the unavailability of the newly redesigned naira notes for the common man to purchase food and services even at very prohibitive prices.
Is this the kind of badly battered Nigeria that Buhari is leaving behind after eight years as president? Very pathetic and sad!
*Ejinkeonye, a journalist and writer, is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop. He can be reached via [email protected].