On February 19th 2018, some one hundred and ten 110 schoolgirls were abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe state, Nigeria. On 21st March, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the release of one hundred and four girls 104 from the BokoHaram sect. Five of the girls were reported to have died while in captivity and one, a Christian girl, was held back because she refused to denounce her faith.

Leah Sharibu, a 15year old girl from Dapchi, was among the 110 kidnapped school children. She is the sole victim that was not returned by the BokoHaram sect. Testimonies from her released colleagues stated that, Leah was held back because she refused to denounce her Christian faith and forcefully convert to Islam. She was told to recite the Shahada (the Muslimdeclaration of belief in one God, Allah), which she insisted she didn't know how to,because she was brought up as a Christian. Leah being the first and only daughter of her parents was described by her mother, Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu as an intelligent and obedient child, that was loved by all who knew her.

The footage of the released girls brought tears into the eyes of many, as the deadly BokoHaram sect marched unhindered into Dapchi, in broad daylight and was welcomed as heroes by the people. Boko Haram members were heard telling parents, not to allow their children go to school anymore. The right to education is being forcefully stripped from families in the affected areas of the north-east.

In august 2016, the new leader of BokoHaram, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, swore to stop the attack on Muslims and centers, including mosques and markets used mainly by Muslims. Unlike his predecessor,Abubakar Shekau, who attacked Muslims,al-Barnawi vowed to concentrate on attacking the Christians and churches. The retaining of Leah Sharibu is in line with that vow.
It's being over two months since the release of the 104 girls whom were kidnapped on February 19th 2018, and still no word or negotiations about Leah Sharibu's release. The Federal Government seems to be mum on the issue, as no mention of it was heard in the democracy day speech of May 29th 2018. The Federal Government, through its Minister of Information stated that the girls were released without preconditions. If that were true, why wasn't little Leah released with her colleagues?

 A fair amount of people, heaped the blame of " not being released"  on Leah, and described her actions as childish. They felt it was better for her to have converted to Islam and come out alive, but were quick to forget that, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. How do we describe a country if we are not free to choose our faith without coercion from any angle?
Leah Sharibu may be young, but she has chosen to stand for her belief. Not so different from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr, MKO Abiola, and a host of others, who fought for what they believed in. Leah doesn't stand for Christians alone, rather she stands for everyone out there whether Christian, Muslim, or Atheist, who also cherishes the right to chose their belief.


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