(By Arnold Alalibo)-
I am appalled by an official pronouncement of the captors of the Dapchi school girl, the legendary Leah Sharibu, that she had been sentenced to slavery for life. I am grieving; her parents are still in distress; Nigerian Christians are experiencing rising frustration. It is time to sound it to the authorities in Abuja again and again the danger in conceding to this declaration. Let me tell you why. There are no indications that Abuja has entered into a serious engagement on this matter. Since Leah was held back by the terrorists after the release of 104 of her colleagues who were abducted along with her on March 21st this year, the federal government has never shown earnestness about her release. Rather, it has ignored this weightier matter for politics.
Sometimes one wonders why Abuja has consistently failed to empathise with this young girl who has been suffering painfully in the hands of her captors. Her recent plea to President Buhari to do everything possible to free her from captivity simply summarises her ugly experience in the terrorists enclave. In its characteristic manner, the government has repeatedly told Nigerians that it was doing everything humanly possible to free the kidnapped girl. Good talk! But long after those assurances, no visible modification has occurred in her situation. Leah is still in captivity.
One expects the Federal authorities to act faster on this issue particularly because of its sensitive nature and what the hapless girl represents at the moment. For her being asked to renounce Christianity before she could be released, Leah Sharibu is now the face of what I refer to as religious dialectics (if you like call it conflict) in the country.The concerns surrounding the release of the Dapchi girls and a boy are so perplexing that one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. While the Nigerian government told the world that the girls were freed after rigorously negotiating with the terrorists through a back channel, a recent media report by the United Nations claimed that the government prevaricated.
The Nigerian government had denied the payment of ransom to get the girls released. But the UN report clearly stated that money was paid contrary to the government’s claim and referred to the payment as “huge ransom.” If that was so, why was Leah not covered by that huge payoff? Leah truly stands for “something” for her refusal to denounce her faith or change her religion. One thing is certain; she will remain a moral guilt on the government and the entire nation as long as she is left with her abductors. Indeed, it is sad that it took a recent passionate plea of this young lad to reawaken the nation to her plight, reminding us that she was still in the hands of her abductors. In this matter, President Buhari has to draw inspiration from the government of Thailand that rescued 12 boys with their coach from where they were trapped in a cave underneath a mountain.
The entire world was gripped with fear because the cave was isolated and without communication facilities. The heroic rescue of the boys by their home government became a story of hope and survival.
This is a remarkable story of determination and doggedness and an indication of a country that has love and value for human lives. Thai government didn’t bother to know which section of their country the boys were from or their religion.
There was no inter-agency squabble; people helped voluntarily; trauma management was excellent; due diligence was observed while rescue procedures were explored. The rescue operators were trained on various options before the procedures to adopt were decided.
And the team diligently worked in a well-integrated manner, without the customary blame game and finger-pointing that is common in our clime. Also, money was not thrown at the problem. They did not rest on their oars until the last person was rescued.
If Thailand could do this, then Nigeria can do more. All we need is to demonstrate a greater commitment to resolve the Leah question and the rest of the kidnapped Chibok school girls still in captivity and possibly get help from other countries.It is hoped that Nigeria will learn grand lessons from the Thai episode. We must always remember that Leah is still in the hands of her abductors and, therefore, intensify efforts to rescue her as the Thai government did for their boys.