For a mother whose daughter has remained in captivity on account of refusal to renounce her faith, even after her fellow abductees have been set free, and who is alleged to have been impregnated by one of her captors, nothing would be too much to bear, including having to accept one of the captors as an in-law.
Leah Sharibu’s mother is willing to go down this route just to secure the release of her beloved one.As her daughter turned 17 last Thursday, May 14, and marks her third birthday in captivity, Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah Sharibu, the only Chibok schoolgirl still in Boko Haram captivity, said she was ready to take an outlaw for an in-law as long as her daughter is set free, just as she expressed disappointment with the federal government’s unending negotiation for her daughter’s release, describing it as “a scam to satisfy themselves.”
Leah is the sole Christian among 110 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.
While her surviving classmates returned a month later, following government negotiations, she was allegedly denied freedom for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Muslim as a precondition for her release. She has been in captivity ever since.
In February this year, her mother joined a protest outside the Nigerian High Commission in London, the United Kingdom (UK) to mark the second anniversary of her abduction and delivered a petition with 12,132 signatures to the High Commission, calling on the Nigerian government to take action to secure Leah’s release.
In a brief encounter with The Guardian yesterday, Rebecca lamented the continuous absence of Leah, saying time for selection or option has either passed or not yet, and “all that matters now is the safe arrival of my precious Leah.”
Recalling that Leah has spent two years and two months in Boko Haram clutch, the devastated mother said she was ready to take even an outlaw for in-law rather than lose her daughter, saying: “You may call him an outlaw, but to me, her husband will be my son. I will take and treat him as an in-law.”
Asked how Leah’s birthday was marked in her absence, she said: “We felt very bad, because we missed her presence. We celebrated her in absentia amidst tears and agony. Like others before last Thursday, we did it for our love for her.”
Reminded of the federal government’s promise to rescue Leah, Rebecca cuts in, asking: “Which federal government? Is it today they have promised? This is what they have been telling us for over two years now.”
Has she lost hope in the federal government bringing back Leah? She responded emphatically: “Yes! They have promised us and they promised the whole nation that Leah will be back, but it has been empty promises. They have promised us several times, but we have not seen our Leah.”
Asked what other options she has, since she has lost hope in government, the distraught mother said: “Not that we have any options, we are just looking up to them. We rest heavily on God to rescue Leah for us.”
On her reaction on hearing that Leah now has a child for one of her abductors, she stated: “We heard it, but we don’t believe it; it is a rumour. We don’t know if it is really true.
“But if it is true, no problem, I still love her. The only thing paramount is for my daughter to be back.”Assuming Leah returns with a baby strapped on her back, would she receive the baby as well? “I will receive both of them, after all it is my grandchild,” she stated.
But what if the husband shows up, would she accept him as in-law? She answered: “I will take him as my son as well; he is my in-law, no matter what,” she said, despite his faith and past actions, all for the sake of her daughter and grandchild.
She added: “As long as my daughter is released to me and alive too. The only thing I live for now is for my daughter to be back.“She is an obedient child, she even cooks for me. She is one in a million.”
How often does she hear from Leah, and she said: “We didn’t hear from her; we only heard from her through the audio they released last year in which she was pleading with the government to rescue her.”Now that she has lost confidence in the government, does it mean she could be considering international agencies’ interventions? “No, we have not reached out to them,” she responded.
Meanwhile, Leah’s younger brother, Donald, amidst tears, told The Guardian that the whole family has been in “tatters since Leah’s abduction.” On Thursday, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) marked Leah’s 17th birthday with an online prayer event at 7.30pm.
The online prayer event featured contributions from Revs. Yunusa Nmadu, Matt Redman, Pete Greig and others. CSW has also released a video to mark Leah’s birthday, in which individuals around the world shared the impact her story has had on them.
CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: “For the third time, Leah marked her birthday as a captive. This brave girl is an example to all of us, as she continues to stay true to her Christian faith and refuses to renounce her faith.
“We continue to call on the Nigerian government to do everything in its power to secure her swift release and that of other captives held by both Boko Haram factions, including the remaining Chibok girls.
“We also urge the international community to raise her case with Nigeria at every opportunity and to offer assistance to counter the continuing threat posed by armed non-state actors in the country.”