Leah Sharibu may never have dreamt or thought of spending her birthday being an abductee of the dreaded Boko Haram terror group. She was just a little girl hoping to have education and be able to compete favorably well in a competitive World. If it had ever cross her parent's minds as well that Leah would one day be in the hands of Boko Haram, at such a young age, maybe that fear would have made them keep her away from receiving western education.
Today is her 15th birthday, perhaps the first ever birthday she would witness away from the loving arms of her parents and other family members. The joy and happiness that comes with witnessing a new year may never cross Leah's heart at the moment, especially when she remembers she isn't free, not because she does not want to, but because she has been held captive against her wish by elements who cannot withstand a young girl of her age renouncing her faith.
February 19, 2018 is another date in Nigeria's history that will not be forgotten in a hurry, just as April 14 2014 was to some families of the remaining Chibok Girls that are yet to come back home. 110 girls whisked away from Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state after their school was attacked by Boko Haram. The Federal government has since secure the release of over 105 of these girls a month after their abduction, but Leah Sharibu alone remained in the custody of her abductors simply because she refused to renounce her faith as a Christian. The other four girls were reported to have died in the course of their abduction.
Also Read: Like Chibok Like Dapchi: How Nigerian Girl-Child Has Become A Pawn In The Hands of Nigerian Politicians
Although, president Muhammadu Buhari vowed to ensure that all the girls would safely return to their parents, (a promise he has fulfilled to 105 parents already); this promise is yet to see the light of day in the Sharibu's family. It is now almost three months since Leah was abducted, no sign of her return yet in view. In a recent interview granted by her father, Mr. Nathaniel Sharibu, he pleaded with the Nigerian media to put pressure on the Federal government not to relent until Leah is returned.
Leah's only crime is that she is a Christian and that she has refused to renounce her faith. Sometimes you ask yourself: what is wrong in being a Christian? Nothing wrong really, except in certain parts of Nigeria where certain elements believe you should not be one. It tells you the subtle persecutions that Christians in Nigeria have to struggle with within their own country.
In a recent publication by the Open Doors USA called 'The World Watch List' on the global persecutions of Christians, Nigerian ranked number 14 out of fifty countries being surveyed (www.opendoorsusa.org). Sometimes you wonder why this is so in a country that boasts of over 85 million Christians scattered across various denominations. Religion intolerance in the Northern part of Nigeria is going on unabated, and it appears as if the government is helpless as to what to do in curbing it, or complicit in its happenings.
A United Kingdom Organization, Aid to the Church in Need; Chronicles the number of killings and persecutions of Christians in the Northern part of Nigeria in recent times as follows:
"On the evening of 13th November 2016 Fulani herdsmen, armed with guns, machetes and explosives, attacked five villages in the Kauri local government area of Kaduna State, mostly populated by Christians. 45 civilians were reported dead, mostly elderly people, women and children. Dozens of others were injured and thousands more were displaced. 120 churches, including eight house churches, were torched. In response, Church leaders reiterated calls for more security, including the establishment of a military base in southern Kaduna State.
11 people were killed on Christmas Eve when Fulani herdsmen dressed in military uniform attacked the village of Goska in Kaduna State. The attack, which left several houses razed to the ground, took place in spite of a curfew. Reports stated that the act of violence was timed to coincide with Christmas festivities. Governor Nasir Ahmad ElRufai condemned the attack, describing it as inhumane.
At least 21 people were killed when armed Fulani herdsmen carried out raids on Christian-majority communities in Kaduna in attacks. According to reports, the first attack took place on the evening of 19th February when hundreds of militia descended on Bakin Kogi in southern Kaduna, setting fire to houses. At least seven people were killed and scores of others were injured. Pictures appeared to show the beheaded corpses of young men. Early the next morning, Fulani gunmen killed 14 people in simultaneous attacks on Mifi and Ashim villages. Women and children were among the victims, who were aged between eight and 73. Peace was restored only after police and military reportedly defeated the attackers in a gun battle.
Fulani fighters were accused of carrying out an attack on Christians gathering for an Easter Vigil service outside a church in Asso village, southern Kaduna State. 12 people died, including 10 Christians. Catholic Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan, told Aid to the Church in Need afterwards that in spite of the many sightings of the perpetrators, no arrests had been made."
As if Leah's case was just it, just recently, two catholic priests and about seventeen others were killed in Benue state by Fulani herdsmen. Reverend Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha alongside their congregants had woken up to observe their usual morning mass when the assailants opened fire on them, depriving them the right to life as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This incident added to the many tragedies that Benue state had faced in the hands of Fulani bandit, as a result of the anti-open grazing bill being signed into law by Governor Samuel Ortom in May 2017.
Today, Leah is a victim of a failed country that do not place value on human lives. Although many Nigerians have praised President Muhammadu Buhari for securing the release of these Dapchi girls by every means available, but there is still more to be done. The problem still have not been addressed: the problem of religion intolerance and insecurity in the nation. How easy can one claim it is to practice is or her faith in certain parts of this country? We must be able to sincerely answer these questions in order to ascertain our going forward from here as one nation under God.
If I don't feel safe to proclaim Jesus in certain parts of the North, simply because it is the Northern part of Nigeria, then it means there is a major problem we have not yet addressed as a nation. Until these many problems are addressed, then we can talk about 'Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress' as depicted in our Coat of Arms.
Thank you for reading.