Leah Sharibu was abducted by Boko Haram alongside other schoolchildren in Dapchi on February 19, 2018. While others have been released, she is still in captivity. Her father, Nathaniel Sharibu, shares the family’s agony in this interview .
Leah was abducted by Boko Haram three years ago. How has the family been coping?
We are feeling very sad about the abduction of our daughter, Leah. The family is in terrible grief because of our situation and Leah’s absence.
How are her siblings coping with Leah’s abduction?
Just like I said before, it is sad and unfortunate. We are always sad about it. Sometimes we ask: ‘Where is Leah’?
Many other schoolchildren have been abducted after Leah. Do you encourage other children to go to school?
Even now some of her siblings are in school.
How do you encourage them so that Leah’s fate does not befall them?
Actually, we have been affected by that. Sometimes, we feel there is no reason for sending them to school, because of what happened to Leah. Nevertheless, we have been encouraging them to go to school and that everyone has his destiny.
Has the government reached out to you to explain efforts being made to rescue Leah?
In 2018, the President himself called my wife on the phone and assured her that his administration would do everything possible to ensure that our daughter returns home safely. In October of the same year, he delegated ministers to come to Yobe State to encourage and reassure us that his administration would do everything possible to see that our daughter returns home safely. In October 2020, he sent the Minister of Women Affairs to Yola to encourage us and to reassure us of the administration’s commitment to the release of our daughter.
Have you heard anything about Leah’s whereabouts from people who were rescued or who escaped from Boko Haram captivity?
I have not heard anything concerning my daughter and I have not been told anything about her whereabouts. Nobody has said anything to me about her condition, whether she’s a mother or not. You know Boko Haram is fond of posting most of its messages on the social media. But I have yet to see anything on Leah. So, I cannot tell whether she’s a mother or not.
What encourages you about Leah every time you wake up from your sleep?
What happened to my daughter has truncated the plans I have for her. She’s supposed to be in the university now. There’s no news about her whereabouts.
Before Leah’s abduction, where were you staying? Is the place peaceful now?
I am no longer living there now. I left the place after the abduction of my daughter. Even before her abduction, I was not working there. So, I don’t know much about the place. Since the abduction of my daughter, I have never gone back to the place. My family has left Dapchi; we are all here in Yola.
Since Leah’s abduction, there have been kidnappings of schoolchildren. Do you see a relationship between the government’s failure to rescue Leah and the attacks on schools?
My daughter was abducted alongside many other children, but all have been released except my daughter. The same thing happened in Kankara, Katsina State, but all of them have been released; and it happened in Niger and all of them have been released. But my daughter is not released because she is a Christian and refused to renounce Christ.
What call will you make to the government and how do you feel as a parent when things like this happen?
I feel bad. I am pleading with the government to intensify efforts in tackling insurgency in the country.
What do you think is responsible for the government’s failure to rescue Leah?
It is the government’s responsibility to protect the lives and property of the citizens. So, it is government’s responsibility to rescue my daughter.
What about the family challenges you have had?
There are countless challenges. It will never be easy with a parent like me, who woke up one day to discover that his daughter had been abducted. It is a great challenge and disappointment to the family. So, I am very sad.
How do you feel for the parents of the children abducted in Kankara as someone who has also gone through the same trauma?
I feel sad for them, because it has never been easy with me. I am certain that the trauma I went through is what they also went through. It is sad. But when I heard that they were released, I was happy. I am pleading with the government that efforts should be made to ensure the release of my daughter.
Among the Kagara schoolchildren and the abducted travellers in the bus belonging to the Niger State Transportation Company, there were also Christians and they were released. Why is Leah’s case different?
I don’t know why her case is different. Among the 110 girls who were abducted with her, 104 were released and five died in the abductors’ camp. But Leah is still being detained.
What is keeping you strong and going despite the agony of the last three years?
People have been praying for me, Christians and Muslims alike. God has been my strength and I believe that when there’s life, there’s hope.
The President has called the family and promised Leah’s release. Do you still see him making good on his promise? But if that doesn’t materialise, what will it mean to you?
I am pleading with Mr President, Baba Buhari; he’s a father and a grandfather; he should fulfil the promise he made about the release of my daughter. He has promised families, nations and even the whole world. He should please fulfil his promise about the release of Leah. I will feel disappointed with his administration should he be unable to secure Leah’s release before the end of his tenure.