In the midst of tears, Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah
, says regardless of the outcomes the family is absolutely behind their little girl's valiant choice not to deny her faith in this meeting with Joel Duku in Yola, Adamawa State.
Since the ministers visited you in Dapchi, have you heard from any government official again?
I have not had any feedback from them since they came and left. Nothing has been heard.
What exactly did they tell you when they came?
When they came, they told me to be patient. They told me that by the grace of God, the government is working very hard to make sure that my daughter is released from Boko Haram. Just three days after they left, Hauwa Liman was killed by Boko Haram. That made me confused and more afraid. I have being thinking seriously about this matter. Since then I have not heard anything from them.
What about Boko Haram? Since Leah was taken away, has anybody from the group called to discuss with you?
Not at all. They have never called any of us in the family.
As a mother, how are you coping considering the circumstance surrounding Leah’s absence?
I cannot explain it at all. I have been traumatised. I cannot stop thinking about this girl. Everyday passing day, I wake up with the hope of seeing my daughter but to no avail. It is really a feeling I cannot express. I am just alive by the grace of God. The absence of Leah in this family… (bursts into tears).
How important was she in this family?
Leah is a well-trained girl. If Leah were here, she does all the home chores. Leah washes my clothes, her father’s and her brother’s clothes and cooks for the entire family. She doesn’t allow anything to be left undone. She was such a pillar to this family but today we can’t see her. I miss her so much. Before I wake up from bed, Leah would have swept the house, fetched water and cooked. That is my daughter for you. She is such a very dependable girl. I only wake up and eat food. My daughter will do everything in the house. I can’t even describe the life I live now.
Are you receiving any financial or psychological support from government officials at any level given the trauma that you’re facing now?
Nobody visited me at Dapchi apart from the ministers that came here. They came and gave N500,000. Apart from that, there is no support from anywhere. I only saw the principal of the school in my house the day the ministers came. That is the day I also saw the chairman of the Local Government too.
What about the community? Have they also deserted you?
Ah! The Dapchi community are very wonderful. People come here to visit me all the time. Both the Muslims and Christians are always with me praying and sympathising with me – encouraging me not to give up over Leah’s freedom. The people are not happy at all.
Do you still believe that Leah will come back?
For me, my only hope is on God now. That is where my hope comes from. I don’t really understand because government told me that they are doing their best and just a few days after they visited me in Dapchi, Hauwa was killed. Since that development, I have not heard about Leah again. I don’t know what is happening at all. On our part, we cannot do anything because I cannot go to rescue my daughter from Boko Haram. I only wait for God. If God says Leah will return, she will surely come back no matter how long it stays. But if God says she won’t return, we will still give Him all the glory. He is the author and finisher of our faith. We can’t question God’s decision.
When the ministers came was there any contact that was established between you and them – like any of them collecting your phone number or you collecting their phone numbers?
Nobody collected my phone number, neither did any of them give me their phone number. That is how they came and left. I have no contact with any of them and none of them has ever called me.
Can you remember how you raised her?
Leah has a loving spirit that endears her to the people. Everybody loves her. She is humble, gentle, hardworking and kind-hearted. I taught her how to love and respect elders. I brought her up with the fear of God and she loves her God so much. She knows how to live with people without hurting anyone deliberately. Leah is such an exceptional girl that every mother will be proud of.
If you see Leah today, what will you do or say to her?
Where will I see her (she starts crying)? Where is Leah? Let me see her… where is she (sobbing continues)?
If Boko Haram call you on phone today and ask Leah to speak with you, what will you tell her?
She did the right thing. I have no regrets for what she did. I cannot blame her for what she did. If today I am told that Leah is no more, I will be happy because she did not deny her God. People say it is because of her stubbornness that she is still in the custody of Boko Haram; I have heard all that talk. But for us, she did the right thing in the sight of God and the family fully stands with her on the decision she took. She has stood by her faith and we are proud of her.
What is your message to the government of Nigeria?
My message to government is always an appeal for them to double efforts and bring my daughter back to me the same way the other children were brought back from Boko Haram. That is my appeal.
Has anybody told you to your face that it is Leah’s decision that is responsible for her still being held in Boko Haram custody?
Nobody has told me that to my face, but a lot say that behind my back and the people that like me will come and tell me. Some people have told me that this is what people are saying about my daughter’s decision not to renounce her religion.
What do you say to such talk?
As you know, my mind is now occupied with more important things than to engage in those kinds of cheap talk. It is not my business to respond to such kind of talk. After all, nobody will say that to my face but like I said, we are proud of Leah’s decision not to renounce her faith and we are behind that. We look unto the Almighty God over her predicament.
What kind of security do you enjoy in Dapchi town?
My security in this town is God. But I must say that nobody is pursuing me out of Dapchi. I have excellent relations with the people of the town. For now, I am waiting for the return of my daughter before I will know what to do. I have no problem staying in Dapchi but my heart is heavy here.
What exactly did President Buhari tell you at the time he called you?
It was the same thing that the minister who came to Dapchi told me that the President said to me. He told me that he is working very hard to bring my daughter out of the hands of Boko Haram. I want the president to match his words with action by doing everything possible as he said to bring my daughter to me. This is my appeal to the president.