She went to school but her desk is still empty… Birthday wishes pour in for Leah Sharibu

NIGERIANS have taken to social media to wish Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi schoolgirl still in Boko Haram captivity, a happy birthday as she turns 16 on Tuesday.

There was also a march organised by some concerned citizens in Abuja, calling on the federal government to intensify actions aimed at securing her release. A peaceful demonstration was also observed at the premises of the Nigerian High Commission in the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media from notable as well as ordinary Nigerians, some eulogising the little girl who refused to renounce her Christian faith in exchange for her freedom, and others condemning the federal government for allowing the girl to remain in captivity more than one year after her schoolmates were released.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education and co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group wrote on Twitter:  “She went to school but her desk is still empty. #SheIsSixteenToday. Leah Sharibu? #NeverToBeForgotten.”

Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, shared a similar post saying: “As Leah Sharibu marks her birthday in captivity today, I join other Nigerians and lovers of peace in the world to urge the FG Govt to ensure her release. God will sustain and her family members.”

Amnesty International also called on the Nigerian authorities to “redouble their efforts to rescue the hundreds of civilians still detained by Boko Haram – including Leah Sharibu, who was abducted from her school in Dapchi town, and the remaining Chibok girls”.

Many wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari would accept in the first place, a deal by the Boko Haram where the group would not release all the children abducted from Dapchi in February 2018.

“If Leah Sharibu was the daughter of a well-known politician, this story would have been over before it began,” tweeted one Evans Alex.

Soyinka likens Leah Sharibu to Mandela

Meanwhile, Africa’s foremost Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka has likened Leah Sharibu to South Africa’s first black President, Nelson Mandela.

In a poem titled “Mandela comes to Leah”, which he presented during an event at the Georgetown University in Washington, United States, Soyinka said Leah reminded him of Mandela who refused to be released from prisons after he was given some conditions that were not acceptable to him.

“We must celebrate the exception who said ‘no’ “as it reminded me of Mandela who refused conditional release,” Soyinka said. “Faith is not of compulsion. Her torch undimmed in the den of zealots.”

Describing terrorism as “horror and evil”, Soyinka said it has got to a point “where we have to go beyond the material analysis of this phenomenon. It goes beyond poverty and marginalisation. The ideology of sheer morbidity”.

“We must simply jettison the language of political correctness. Political correctness is turning the African continent into the graveyard of freedom and liberty if we don’t call things by their proper names,” he said.

“We are dealing now with the toxin of power which barely manifests itself under the cloak of religion.”

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