It’s been 200 days since Leah Sharibu was kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters, alongside one hundred and nine other girls from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State, North East, Nigeria, on February 19, 2018. One month later, 104 of the girls were released, five had died, but only Leah remains in captivity because she refused to convert to Islam.
On Thursday, in faraway London, United Kingdom, there were protests at the Nigerian Embassy, organised largely by non-Nigerians – an advocacy group called Church World Service (CWS) – to put pressure on the Nigerian government to intensify actions to get the kidnapped girl out. However, while the protest was all over the social media (Leah Sharibu trended on Twitter all Thursday), no mention of the development was made by officials of the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
The Buhari administration maintains a robust presence on the social media. Asides having an active Twitter account, Buhari has a personal assistant and a special assistant on the “new media” – Bashir Ahmad and Tolu Ogunlesi respectively – both of whom have verified handles on various social media platforms. There is also a Twitter handle for the office of the President. Similarly, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also operates a personal Twitter handle; both of Buhari’s aides on media and publicity, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, as well as Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande also have verified social media handles, yet all of them feigned ignorance of the worldwide protest for Leah Sharibu’s release.
The protesters in London on Thursday included a sitting member of the UK Parliament, Tom Brake; a British missionary (according to TheGuardian Nigeria) who worked in Northern Nigeria years ago, Graham Weeks; and former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri. They will take turns – for 200 hours from Thursday signifying Leah Sharibu’s 200 in captivity – to sit on a school desk in front of the Embassy, demanding that the Nigerian government must free her as it freed her classmates.
Outside the Nigerian High Commission launching the #freeleah campaign. Leah, who is still held captive by Boko Haram, because she refused to recant her Christian faith, has been held for 198 days. pic.twitter.com/3b4KvKksql
— Tom Brake (@thomasbrake) September 4, 2018
When the Dapchi girls were released in March this year, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told journalists that no ransom was paid to the terrorists, but it turned out to be a lie according to a United Nations Security Council report, which stated that the girls were released after the FG made “large ransom payments” to Boko Haram.
“There cannot be a clearer example of someone whose human rights are being ignored than that of Leah who is being detained just because she has maintained her Christian faith,” the UK MP, Brake told CNN in an interview.
Also speaking with CNN, Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, expressed his gratitude to the people all over the world who, even having met his daughter, are agitating for her release.
“I am very happy the way Christians around the world have been standing by Leah,” he said. “This man (Thomas Brake) has not met my daughter or her family before, and he is calling for her release. We are so grateful.”
The protest is also taking place in the Nigerian Embassy in Madrid, Spain, on Friday.
#FreedomForSharibu: @MasLibres y @CitizenGO han entregado este viernes en la Embajada de #Nigeria en Madrid más de 131.000 firmas de ciudadanos que piden al presidente de ese país que actúe eficazmente para liberar a la joven #LeahSharibu: https://t.co/hNN0hUrLWX
— MasLibres.org (@maslibres) September 7, 2018
President Buhari had on several occasions said that his administration was doing its best to secure Leah Sharibu’s release, but many Nigerians have expressed doubt over the President’s comments. Many wonder why it is taking longer to free one individual when over one hundred were released within one month.
Leah marked her 15th birthday on May 14, in Boko Haram captivity. The insurgents are yet to release over one hundred of the schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014.
On August 27, Boko Haram released Leah’s recent photograph and an audio clip in which she was heard appealing to President Buhari to take pity on her and rescue her.
Below are other twitter posts from all over the world pleading for Leah Sharibu’s release:
Day 1,607 #ChibokGirls‘ abduction, 112 still in captivity.
Day 1,199 under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.
Day 1,592 of consistent advocacy.
Day 200 in captivity of Leah Sharibu and 5 other #DapchiGirls unaccounted for.#BringBackOurGirls
— #BringBackOurGirls (@BBOG_Nigeria) September 7, 2018
Let us close our eyes and imagine for a moment that Leah Sharibu was Aishatu Yakubu, a Muslim kid kidnapped by IPOB but who conscientiously refused to be released based on her religion. Do you think Operation Python Dance 4 will not be commissioned to free her?
— Dr Chima Matthew Amadi (@AMADICHIMA) September 7, 2018
Tonight, I pray for Leah Sharibu. May the good Lord continue to protect her. May he give her the strength to persevere.
Most especially, may the good Lord bring her back home to reunite with her family.
Your country failed you Leah Sharibu, but God won’t fail you.
— Arinze Odira (@CaptainArinze) September 6, 2018
Where is LEAH SHARIBU??? Abducted by terrorists in Nigeria alongside other children. The rest were released but, she was held back cos, she refused to convert from her religion.
Everyone is running for Presidential nomination forms, those in power… I reserve my comment. pic.twitter.com/wQr0QLxkup
— Iche Dimkpa (@IcheIceman) September 7, 2018
— Y! Online (@YNaija) September 6, 2018