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Leah’s 2nd birthday with B/Haram: Father, Christians pray, bank on miracle for girl’s release

By Sam Eyoboka

AFTER a brief interview with Mr. Nathan Sharibu, the father of Leah Sharibu, who will celebrate her second birthday in Boko Haram captivity on Tuesday, I was searching for a topic for a story when I stumbled on a 1939 crime novel by a British writer, James Hadley Chase, No Orchids For Miss Blandish.

No Orchids For Miss Blandish, which may not have any bearing on the travails of the Dapchi, Yobe State–born young Christian, was influenced by an American crime writer, James M. Cain and stories in a pulp magazine, Black Mask. James Hadley Chase  (December 24, 1906–February 6, 1985)  was an English writer. While his birth name was  René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, he was one of the best known  thriller writers of all time with about 90 titles to his credit, which earned him a reputation as the king of thriller writers in Europe.  He was also one of the internationally best-selling authors, and, so far, 50 of his books have been made into films.

In 1942, No Orchids For Miss Blandish was adapted into a stage play which ran for over 200 performances at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. In 1948, it was adapted into a British film No Orchids for Miss Blandish and given a contemporary New York City setting. The 1971 American film The Grissom Gang was also based on the novel, moving the setting of events back several years to 1931 Kansas City.

In 1944, it was also the subject of an essay by George Orwell, Raffles and Miss Blandish, and parodied by Raymond Queneau in We Always Treat Women Too Well. In 1962 the novel was extensively rewritten and rearranged by the author because he thought the world of 1939 too distant for a new generation of readers.

The minute I learnt that Nobel Literature Prize Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, read an ode to Leah Sharibu in far away Georgetown University in Washington, US, I made up my mind to settle for the above title for obvious reasons and because the story of Leah, whichever how it eventually end, is a potential bestseller.

If you are convinced that Leah’s voyage despite current persecution would be painted in gold, then follow the unfolding plans for her 16thbirthday anniversary on Tuesday as four groups, Leah Sharibu Foundation, CWEENS (Women), Catalyst for Peace and Justice (CPJ) Lagos and the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, have put up a series of events in three cities, Abuja, Lagos and Jos, where people are urged to contact their friends and others to turn out and provide support and solidarity to honor Leah’s testimony of faith and resilience.

“We women, mothers, fathers and young people are enjoined to  identify with Leah on this day by coming out to join in the prayers for a peaceful march,” the statement by the facilitator, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, said, adding that by Tuesday Leah would have spent 449 days in captivity.

“There is need to mark Leah Sharibu’s birthday in prayer on Tuesday. You are hereby invited to join in marking her birthday. There will be a variety of events. However, we would like you to consider the following and attend any of the under-listed events in the following three locations:

National Christian Centre, CAN Headquarters, Abuja and the Unity Fountain Park at 9.00 a.m. to noon; ECWA Headquarters Church, Jos (12.00 noon -3:00 pm) and Realm of Glory Church, Off Dibor Street, Okota-Isolo, Lagos (10:30am-12.00 noon).

Strategies to mark the day, the statement added, include special prayer time for Leah Sharibu and others in captivity; there will be peaceful marches in the three cities and brief rallies with placards displaying #Not Forsaken, Not Forgotten, #Free Leah,  Happy birthday Leah, #For Leah’s sake, keep our schools safe, act now to keep our girls safe, It could be your daughter. SAY NO TO KIDNAPPING IN OUR SCHOOLS, LET’S UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM!

The parents of the girl and her only brother, Donald are not part of the birthday plans. Mr. Sharibu told our correspondent that he are aware of plans by different groups including some churches to mark the occasion but there is no plan whatsoever by the family to celebrate the occasion.

According to him, the CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle called him a few days ago that the umbrella body association of Christians is also planning to mark the occasion though he didn’t disclose details of the plan and who are involved. “The other day, he led a delegation of CAN leaders to Yola and they invited me and I went to them. They told me they would do something but I am yet to see anything though I saw on internet recently that they are consulting the Federal Government on behalf of my daughter.”

Speaking further, the soft spoken father of Leah, acknowledged that prayers are ongoing for the release of my daughter, which is top priority for the family, “we are putting all out trust in God for her release because for some time now we have not heard any update from government on their efforts to release our daughter. Its only God Who can do His miracle to set our daughter free.”

The International Christian Concern, ICC, a non-partisan, charitable organization focused on human rights, religious freedom and assisting the persecuted Christian Church around the world which has been following developments in the country doubt the possibility of any deal that could result into the release of Leah Sharibu before the inauguration of the incoming government on May 29.

In an interview, the Regional Manager for Africa of International Christian Concern, Nathan Johnson said: “In my opinion, there really is zero chance that they will make a deal in the next three weeks. I also think that it is unlikely that the Nigerian Government will effectively be able to help Leah get released soon if at all. I highly doubt that any deal will be made before the inauguration on May 29.”

The interview continued:

Are you aware if the leadership of Christians in Nigeria currently enmeshed on credibility crisis is doing anything worthwhile towards her release?

This is hard to say. Leah is being held by a terrorist organization that doesn’t care about rules, laws, feelings, authority or anything that the Christian Association of Nigeria would be able to use to secure her release. There are tens of thousands of people around the world that are calling for Leah to be released, but Boko Haram just doesn’t care. So I don’t really know what CAN could functionally do that would help her get released.

CAN leaders in Yola, Adamawa State recently, paraded Nathan Sharibu on television without giving the family any financial support beyond repeated pedestal appeals for Leah’s release. Was it right to parade the man on TV?

I agree that this is wrong, but do you know if Nathan Sharibu was forced to do it? If he wasn’t then it was his choice. He may have asked for it even. I have personally met with Donald Sharibu, and he wanted anything and everything to be done to help his sister get released, so I’m not surprised if Nathan would be willing to speak with CAN.

Chances of the girl’s release are remote as there are rumours that she may have been forcefully married to one Boko Haram commander by now. What do you think?

As I said above, I don’t think that there is a good chance she will be released. Sadly with groups like Boko Haram, there can never be a guarantee that hostages will be released. I do think that God has the power and ability to do it if He wishes, and I will continue to pray that she is returned home safe.

On several occasions the Nigerian Government has vowed to release this girl even after they have claimed to have decimated the terrorists. What do you make of such claims?

I think that the Buhari administration wants to show that it has done something good in its time, but I think that it is clear that Boko Haram is not only still surviving, but is actually growing in strength and size currently. I also don’t think that they have tried to actually get Leah’s release. They were able to help secure the release of 104 other girls within a month, but have been unable to get her in over a year, which raises major questions.

Isn’t there anything the international community can do to rescue these girls and several others still in captivity beyond appeals to obviously unwilling government?

As I said above, it is nearly impossible to secure the release of someone like Leah Sharibu from a terrorist group like Boko Haram. The only way to ultimately ensure that this happens is to find them and destroy them, or pay them enough money that they want to let her go. I don’t think the first is possible for the Nigerian government right now, so they would have to ask for help from the international community, but I also don’t think they are willing to do that. So the international community can’t. I also don’t think they are willing to pay a bunch of money at this point for a girl who they don’t ultimately care about or think will gain them anything. I still pray that she gains her freedom though, whether through the Nigerian government or international community. Prayer is all we can do at this time.

Isn’t there any concerted effort to wipe out the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism globally?

This is outside my expertise.

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