Today, October 15th, by God’s special grace, is my 60th Birthday. My joy knows no bounds. I rejoice in the compassionate mercies of my LORD GOD, the ALMIGHTY.
By His grace, he has made my life worth it for these 60 years on earth! I have reflected deeply on my days so far on earth: the ups and downs, my many failures.
Yet, He found me worthy to be a servant in His service. I am filled with tons of gratitude to God for His sustaining power in my life. My life is worth nothing without God. I want to serve Him faithfully to the end!
On the 4th of September 2019, I arrived at the US for a 3-day symposium. After resting from long hours of flight from Abuja via Frankfurt to Chicago O’Hare airport and to Missouri, I reflected in an Airport Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. I was thinking about my upcoming 60th birthday in October.
As, I prayed and reflected, God impressed deeply on my heart not to engage in celebrations. God re-directed my focus to the plight of Leah Sharibu, our precious daughter who as at today is still being held in Boko Haram’s captivity.
Apart from Leah, there are several others like Alice Ngaddah. Grace Taku. Some others, not so known, are also languishing in kidnappers’ dens. How can I celebrate with such realities before me? On returning home to Nigeria, six innocent school girls and two adult teachers were kidnapped in Kaduna State; all these are combined to tell a difficult story for parents and our citizens.
How can I celebrate my 60th with these realities? I remain very thankful to God for creating me a Nigerian and allowing me to live these years in Nigeria, but I cannot celebrate.
Sadly, the kidnap of Leah Sharibu is being politicised and by both government and certain groups. The bottom line is that Leah is still in captivity. Is she still alive, some have asked? From feelers, she is still alive by the grace of GOD.
I am dedicating today to pray for Leah’s release along with others who remain in captivity. I wish to urge all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the global community to remember, in a special way TODAY – 15th October, to also PRAY for Leah’s release and others.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has always offered assurances of Leah’s release. My question to the FG TODAY is: for how long will Leah’s parents keep waiting and expecting the fulfillment of your promises to bring their daughter back to them? A word of wisdom in the Bible suggests that hope deferred makes the heart sick.
So, as the wisdom book also admonishes, let us pray that hope differed will NEVER turn into hope denied. I therefore appeal in the strongest way possible, today that the Federal Government of Nigeria to demonstrate responsive leadership and free Leah Sharibu. What is Nigeria about if the citizens are subjected to such human misery although we still have a government in place?
I know Nigerians to be resilient, gifted, industrious and hard working. We have our negatives no doubt. No nation is perfect. But our government has failed not just Nigerians, but the world’s expectation of the potential that all know and have come to expect from Nigeria.
But, our political leaders won’t let us be. Nigerians are more tormented by her political leaders today and this is very difficult to accept. We are presently under-performing as a nation because of an under-performing government.
We have a government which always creates the impression that it is ‘on top of every situation?’ This government shows more muscle in protecting its interest of remaining in power than in protecting the citizens.
So, TODAY, I urge President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to ACT deliberately and decisively to bring Leah home to her parents. This would be the happiest Birthday gift, I could pray and wish for at this time!!!
Yesterday morning 14th October, Leah’s Father Nathan Sharibu and I were on the phone again. We connect on a regular basis and this has been the case since March 2018, till date. Yesterday, he said he has not heard a single word about his daughter’s release beyond the promises. He also confirmed that he has NOT received any phone call or updates from the President of this country. Why is this the case?
I am wondering deeply. Mr. President, where is your humanity? Is life all about enjoying power in Aso Rock? You are a father and Nathan Sharibu is also a father. Before you were anything in government you were probably a father.
Before you were elected President for which you fought so hard to get the position, you were a father. So, why are you not reaching out even as a father to call Mr. Nathan Sharibu? Must anyone beg you?
Imagine for a moment if Leah were to be your daughter and you were not President, how would you feel? How would you respond to such apparent neglect? Leah has, as at today 15th of October 2019, spent a total of six hundred and three days (603 days) in captivity. If Leah were your daughter, what would you do, Mr. President? 603 days? Would you have the presence of mind to lead Nigeria?
A few minutes into writing this statement, Leah’s father and I were on the phone again. He shared with me that their life as a family is one of daily agony and pain; but they remain thankful to God. I encouraged him once again as I normally do, to remain hopeful about Leah’s release.
He went further to tell me that last night was rather a very difficult night for him because he dreamt about Leah. He seemed distressed and unhappy. We agreed to reconnect again later in the day.
The pain and agony is the same for Leah’s mother Rebecca Sharibu. Three weeks ago, when we spoke on phone, she was unwell. I encouraged her and prayed with her as well. The prolonged captivity of Leah is taking its toll on her health not to talk of the psychological instability she has been subjected to.
When we invited her to spend time in our home in September/ early October, she had a familiar place she liked to sit: on a small rocking chair in our living room. She stayed there for most of the day and always had this far away distant look on her face as if absent minded.
It’s like being present and absent at the same time. She is thinking of Leah, her 16 year-old precious daughter. Leah was snatched away from her when she was 14, by the deadly Boko Haram ISWAP group, while attending school in Dapchi, Yobe State, north east, Nigeria on February 19th, 2018.
As, I was writing this sentence, my phone rang, it was from Leah’s mother. Donald, Leah’s younger brother is in school but can hardly focus because of missing his older sister. Will teenage Donald see justice by being re-united with his sister? How soon would this be?
How on earth could we excuse our government for ridiculing Leah’s mum before the global press in faraway United States for exaggerating the general state of insecurity in Nigeria today? Leah’s mum of all people? How unconscionable!
Our Vice President and the leadership of the Nigerian Embassy erred to have so chastised Leah’s mother who was simply making a case for the release of her daughter before a foreign audience. That action added to her agony and psychological trauma.
On her return from the United States, we connected on phone and she told me how unhappy she was to be characterised as a liar. In truth, who is lying about our security situation?
Leah’s mum and those who accompanied her to the States or the government officials who tried to contradict her? The Nigerian government always has a way of condemning itself by their actions through what they say which seems to always have an obvious disconnect with what they do.
Indeed, how can I celebrate with such realities before me? I am compelled by the LOVE of God and in OBEDIENCE to His call to advocate for Leah’s release.
God impressed this heavily on my heart since March 21st, 2018, the very day, the other Dapchi school girls were released but Leah was held back on account of her Christian faith and refusal to deny Jesus Christ as her LORD and Saviour.
She traded her freedom for what she believed in. This is conviction! This is uncommon courage. The struggle to free Leah and others will remain on, until Leah is free along with others.
The International Community, Leah Sharibu and the rest of us
Where is the international community, especially global leaders whose help is much needed to secure the freedom of Leah Sharibu? Leah is a prisoner of conscience. Her freedom of belief is being denied right now. Where is Amnesty International?
If the denial of the right of this 16-year-old, including the continuation of her education, does not move some these global human rights bodies, what else is more important to them?
Leah’s case is a matter of human rights, social justice and religious liberty. Her fundamental human rights are being abused. Human Rights International sadly cares more about the rights of her oppressors than her rights as the oppressed.
If the Nigerian Army could be accused of human rights violations by some of these rights groups in favor of Boko Haram, why are they silent on the rights of victims such as Leah Sharibu? Is Human Rights not getting it wrong?
Why is the global community abandoning Nigeria on Leah and others despite numerous appeals? Why should Leah’s parents and the citizens of Nigeria receive empty promises both from their government at home and the global community?
The United Nations Rapporteur on Nigeria and the Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the British Foreign Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for the Persecuted Christians Interim Report – have produced two of the finest reports so far. Both reports highlighted the plight the victims of violence and what they have been subjected to, and the criminal neglect of the Nigerian government.
Both reports were released in 2019. The killings with impunity taking place in Nigeria, with a government in place defies all logic. When will the Nigerian government come clean and stop the killings, kidnappings and the captivity of its citizens in their own country?
I urge Church leaders at home and globally to do more for the plight of not ONLY Christians but all Nigerians, no matter their creed, who are suffering various forms of dehumanization and their diminished dignity.
I urge all Church denominations and the Mega Churches in Nigeria to unite to stand up for the vulnerable. The Church needs to offer fresh hope anchored on biblical tough love and forgiveness.
The Church needs to be prophetic in speaking truth to power and do more than what she is doing now for Leah Sharibu to be set free along with others.
I wish to close this statement by expressing deep appreciations from my family and friends within Nigeria and outside for the showering of love and best wishes received. My wife surprised me by organizing a birthday fellowship in our home with a close circle of friends, where we spent time in intensive prayer for Leah Sharibu, her parents and others. Messages in various forms including a surprise phone call from Liberia’s Ambassador to Cote’ d’Ivoire, Her Excellency Willy Mai Tobert King, daughter of the First Liberian President.
The Revd Gideon Para-Mallam
Founder & Convener (The Gideon & Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation
October, 15th 2019, Jos, Nigeria