Full story of how girl who refused to deny Jesus in Boko Haram's Sambisa forest, was held back.
As 104 schoolgirls and two unidentified hostages made for the Boko Haram trucks that would convey them to Dapchi, Bursari local government area of Yobe State on the morning of March 21, 2018; 15-year-old Leah Sharibu was told she was going nowhere.
Her offence? She had refused to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam even though her abductors had told her that denying Jesus was her only ticket out of a dangerous Sambisa forest.
Five of the schoolgirls had died from stampede and injuries before March 21; and Leah could see the same fate befalling her as stern looking Boko Haram commanders encircled dimly lit caves.
One of the freed schoolgirls, Khadija Grema regrets that Leah didn’t make it back with them, even though she praised the terrorists for not treating them badly.
Heart attack and stress
“Five of our colleagues died of heart attack and stress as a result of the long trip. They didn’t allow us close to them neither did they subject us to any molestation of any kind of sexual harrassment.
“There’s one of the girls that wasn’t freed because she is a Christian, she was held back”, Grema said.
When Leah’s parents heard what had befallen their daughter, they were thrown into more sorrow and mourning.
Leah’s sister fainted and slipped into a coma as she took in the story. Around the Sharibu household, cries broke out at irregular intervals as parents of the other 104 freed girls broke into a song and dance in the distance.
It was a case of contrasting fortunes on a dry morning in Dapchi.
Denouncing her faith
Leah’s Mom, Rebecca Sharibu says; “she was about to board the vehicle that was to bring them back. Then Boko Haram said she should convert.
“Her friends said they tried to convince her but she said she will not convert to Islam. Boko Haram said since she will not convert to Islam she should remain behind. That was how they left her. She is alone.”
Leah’s Dad, Nata Sharibu says he is proud that his daughter stuck to her guns and kept the faith even at the risk of her life.
“Right now, I’m not in Dapchi. I’m in my duty post. I called the parents who are in Dapchi. I was informed that my daughter was not released. All of them have been released but they said some were dead there, but my daughter is alive.
“They said she was a Christian that’s why they could not release her. They said she cannot be released until she becomes a Muslim. And my daughter said she would never be a Muslim.
“I spoke with about five to six of them whose daughters have been released. They are presently with their daughters in Dapchi. They were dropped by the Boko Haram people in Dapchi town this morning.
“I am happy because my daughter did not denounce her faith. They refused to release her because she refused to convert to Islam.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised that Leah Sharibu will not be abandoned.
“It is disheartening that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity”, Buhari said.
“Let me assure that I am as committed to her freedom as I was to the girls’ freedom when all 110 of them were in captivity. We will do everything in our power to bring Leah back safely.
“My heart goes out to Leah’s parents who must watch other parents rejoice while their own daughter remains in captivity. It is my responsibility, under the constitution of Nigeria to protect all Nigerians and I will always strive to do that.
“Leah will not be abandoned.”
No compulsion in religion
The presidency released a statement late Thursday which read; “President Buhari is fully conscious of his duty under the constitution to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic background or geopolitical location and will not shirk in this responsibility.
“The President is equally mindful of the fact that true followers of Islam all over the world respect the injunction that there is no compulsion in religion.
“To this effect, no one or group can impose its religion on another”.
Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of people, while displacing millions more since it commenced a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian State in 2009.
The terrorist group which abhors Christianity and Christian values, seeks to carve out a hardline Islamic State from Nigeria’s northern region.
The words ‘Boko Haram’ literally translate to ‘western education is forbidden’.
Nigeria runs a secular federation which is divided between a Christian dominated South and a Muslim dominated North.