Two days ago, Leah Sharibu was 16. For her the birthday can only be remembered and filed away as quickly as possible in the recess of her mind. I am even imagining that her mien must be expressionless so as not to give anything away. How does one sketch the life of a young girl in captivity, in a lion's den with death stalking in the event of any misstep, any wrong word, any grimacing? You want to know what her daily routine is like. When does she sleep? When does she wake up? Any wonder, her father has reportedly been knocked down with stroke. Hardly can one get a parent who would fare better, having to live under so harrowing many a thought. You don't want to entertain any negative thought and ask yourself: Is hope of a precious daughter ever rejoining the family dimming? Our gratitude must go to activists who trouped out to celebrate her birthday and to remind the world on Tuesday that Leah is still in captivity.
Her story is very well known. Of some 110 school girls carted away from their dormitory in February last year, five reportedly died and Leah was held back, she was firmly and bravely convinced about her faith and would not exchange it for her freedom! The others were released. She has spent more than 400 days at the hands of her abductors.
In April last year, Leah sent a desperate, heart-rending message out to touch our souls. In it she said: "I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation."
Despite her situation, she spared a loving thought for her parents and younger brother. In her considerate and generous heart, she was concerned about their condition over her experiences. Said she: "I also plead with members of the public to help my mother, father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion. I am calling on the government, particularly the President to pity me and get me out of this serious situation."
For the Chibok girls, it was four years in captivity last month--away from parents, away from school and away from their community, from friends and relations. Credit must go to the Bring Back Our Girls brigade. There were activities in Lagos and in Abuja to keep their plight still burning in our hearts. One can only hope that these embarrassing incidents are indeed burning in the hearts of the government and its senior functionaries. They will have to do more to convince the world that they sleep and wake up troubled that these young girls are in captivity and their predicament is not being regarded as one of those things!
It is amazing that in this day and age, with all the modern and supper intelligence mechanism, in these days of sophisticated technological wonders--satellites and drones which are reputed to work with pinpoint precision, school girls can remain in captivity of insurgents and terrorists for one year in the one case and for more than four years in the other.
When I think of the Chibok girls and Leah, I can't but wander down memory lane to remember the Raid on Entebbe, code-named Operation Thunderbolt. It was an Israeli military action in 1976 to rescue hostages numbering 106, the majority of them Jews, whose airliner had been hijacked by a Palestinian liberation organization and flown to Entebbe in Uganda. The aircraft took off from Tel Aviv and was headed for France. However, hijackers forced the flight to head for Uganda. Acting on intelligence by Mossad, the Israeli authorities plunged into action. The Prime Minister was Yitzhak Rabin and his Defence Minister was Shimon Pares who was himself later to become Prime Minister. A rescue squad was set up following recommendation by Defence Minister Shimon Pares. The commando squad was headed by Lt.-Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, younger brother of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Col. Netanyahu's confidence bolstered the resolve of his minister and cleared whatever any misgiving anyone might have about a military option. For him military operation was the only option. The hijack was on 27 June, 1976, and the rescue operation took place on 04 July, 1976.
Watching the film, the following year, I could see Prime Minister Rabin pacing up and down at the cabinet meeting on the night of the operation. When the signals came announcing that the raid that took the Uganda authorities by surprise was successful with 203 of the hostages freed, Rabin said to the world proudly and confidently that every Jew must consider his life safe and secure anywhere on the surface of the earth! And the world must take note. If the situation were to repeat itself today, Benjamin Netanyahu would do the same. And you can trust crazy Mr. Trump were an American be abducted in America or outside of America.
Nigerian security forces have proven their mettle, and won laurels at all external engagements in which they were involved. I am confident that if provided with the necessary encouragement and equipment, they will, with their daringness and skills, bring out the Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu. We cannot wait for one more year for the rescue of the girls from the daily fear of death and hopelessness. The day should come soonest for nation-wide dancing and rejoicing, in crowning efforts of the indefatigable Obi Ezekwesili, Aisha Yesufu in Abuja and Ayo Obe in Lagos and their groups as well as their allies. It will be interesting to know how Buhari, perhaps more than the parents of the girls, is able to sleep with the burden of the rescue of the girls on his mind and their images floating in his dreams! It is a burden he should know he must discharge!