February 2018 started like a normal day for Leah Sharibu, but by then end of that day, she had joined a very select group of Nigerians; teenage girls abducted by Boko Haram. Boko Haram first truly gained global traction when they kidnapped an alleged 235 girls from Chibok town and still hold over 100 of them till today.
Many of those girl were hurt and beaten. Some were radicalized and forced to conduct suicide bombings, some escaped and some were rescued. But their legacy remains till today as an example of how the government and people of Nigeria failed its most vulnerable. The fact that the Dapchi abductions happened, under a government that had promised to eradicate Boko Haram and had risen to power on the back of the campaign for the release of the Chibok Girls is doubly damning. But even worse is the plight of Leah Sharibu, a teenage Christian who was abducted in Chibok along with 117 Muslim girls. All 118 muslim girls were released after negotiations but Sharibu was held back because she refused to renounce Christianity. The government promised and failed to secure her release and she stands today a martyr of sorts, exploited by former politicians and largely ignored by the government.
This Christmas period, Christians from Nigeria’s North have asked the Federal Government to secure Leah Sharibu’s release as a Christmas miracle for Christians across the country. In a statement from the Northern Elders Christian Forum, chaired by Ejoga Inalegwu, the body asked for Sharibu as ‘our gift for Christmas’.
It is especially disheartening that we have to resort to appealing to religious sentiment to secure the release of a Nigerian citizen held by a terrorist organization. And even at that, we have no guarantee that these pleas will be considered and acted upon. A true Christmas miracle would be the assurance that the Nigerian government will rise to the occasion and act judiciously on this most important matter, not because it is religious thing to do, but because it is its civic obligation to every citizen.
That would be worth celebrating.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.