When l think of Leah Sharibu, one very significant scripture in the holy Bible that springs to my mind is “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”.
That very profound statement is credited to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Christian book of knowledge and record, the holy Bible.
Those words of wisdom captures in my mind’s eyes, Leah Sharibu because as a little girl she is an embodiment of that scripture as she is now shinning the light on our faith which some of us might have been taking fore granted.
Clearly, we all have a lesson or two to learn from the amazing fifteen years old girl who is the only one still in captivity amongst the 110 Dapchi school girls kidnapped on February 19 and later released by the religious terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Although small in age, Leah is a giant in faith hence she refused to renounce her Christian faith even when under threat from Boko Haram.
In making the decision not to renounce her faith, Leah must have remembered Queen Esther, the woman with the indomitable spirit in the Bible who faced with a choice of staying aloof while her people the Jews remain in captivity or she goes to the king, her husband to seek for their freedom even though it was against the law.
Hear her: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night and day. I also and my maids will do likewise. So l will go unto the king which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish”.
What a great declaration and sacrifice by a queen who had the option of folding her hands and enjoying her privileged status. But she choose to fight for her people by declaring “if I perish, I perish” That simply means that since the king may sanction her for making demands on behalf of Jews and thus sentence her to death, she was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of dying for her people (faith)
Thousands of years after, Leah is toeing the foot steps of queen Esther by holding on to her faith even in the face of grave danger.
Until I heard the story of Leah Sharibu, l don’t think l quite understood the import of the aforementioned biblical teachings.
Perhaps with guns and other instruments of death trained on her head, the young lady held on to her faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the famous Hebrew three who refused to bow down before the golden calf which king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon created as his god and wanted everybody to worship or get sanctioned.
According to the Bible, when the three Hebrew children (like Leah) refused to bow before any other god except the God of Israel, they got thrown into a burning furnace. But to the utter surprise of the Nebuchadnezzar and his courtiers, the fire failed to burn the three youths as the God whom they have unflinching faith in, protected them.
That to me was a true test of faith which l assumed belonged only to bible records. But unbeknown to me, people with unshakable faith like Leah still abound in our generation.
How can a fifteen years old Leah pass a test that even the almighty Peter in the Bible, failed when he denied Jesus Christ three times before the cock crowed as Jesus had forewarned?
Given that Peter was one of the closest confidants of Jesus Christ and first amongst equals in the hierarchy of the 12 disciples, it was considered impossible that he would deny Jesus but when his own life was under threat like Leah’s, he disowned Jesus.
Of course, it takes the power of the Holy Spirit for such a spiritual feat exhibited by Leah to manifest.
Until the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ promised his disciples that He will send to them (when He appeared to them after he rose from the dead) fell upon Peter on the day of Pentecost , he did not become the awesome apostle and defender of the faith that he ultimately was.
So, as it was said in the holy Bible by the angels to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ, “blessed art though amongst women”, I want to seek the permission of the Christian community to say to Leah Sharibu, blessed are you amongst Christians in Nigeria of today for pricking our conscience into appreciating how seriously we should be guarding our faith.
Before going further, allow me confess that initially, I wasn’t sure if Leah’s decision not to pretend to have renounced her faith just to secure her release from her captors was wise or foolish. In my thinking, how could her captors have known that she truly did not renounce her faith if only she could pretend to have done so?
This perhaps stems from the fact that l was relying on my canal understanding of the scripture where Jesus was admonishing his disciples before he sent them out into the world to preach his gospel by saying “Behold, l send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
Hence I thought that the life threatening choice that Leah faced as a captive of Boko Haram terrorists would have been the equivalent of being “a sheep in the midst of wolves”that the Bible verse earlier referenced was foreshadowing.
Should she have been wily like the serpent or bold in her faith by proclaiming that Jesus is lord ?
Confronted by such tough choice to make, l don’t know how many bishops and pastors could have chosen not to be “…wise as serpents”.
Stories are told of how faced with death during religious extremists attacks like the type carried out by Al Shabab terrorists group in a Nairobi,Kenyan mall, some victims who could not recite verses of the holy Quran were slaughtered.
Not to be caught napping, some Christians are known to have learnt how to recite a verse or two of the holy Quran to enable them escape if caught in such a difficult situation.
Clearly that was not an option for the young lady-Leah who is not at all lily levered, but mercurial and fortified with the spirit of the Holy Ghost therefore choosing to entrust her life to the care of Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of her faith.
Without any doubt in my mind, with the prayer of all of us, He that protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, from being burnt in the furnace of fire by Nebuchadnezzar , will deliver Leah Sharibu from the hands of her captors.
I’m convinced that in this month of Ramadan, when our Muslim brothers and sisters are seeking Allah’s face for mercy and compassion , Leah Sharibu’s abductors (who by the way should be observing the Ramadan, assuming they are true Muslims) would be benevolent enough to release her to her parents in the spirit of Ramadan as some state governors who are Muslims and have released many prisoners as a symbolic gesture of forgiveness in accordance with Islamic injunctions.
Increasingly, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian and pastor of Redeemed church, like Leah is having his faith tested on a daily basis as the orgy of killing of Christians, particularly in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Kaduna states, reach alarming proportions.
‘Pastor Prof’ , as he is fondly referred to by his flock in the Olive Tree branch of the Redeemed Christian church, banana island, Lagos where he was the parish priest before he got elected as Vice President was clearly flustered in Benue State where he was on a mission to apply the healing balm on another set of victims of violent attacks by herdsmen.
Hear Vice President Osinbajo: “Let me assure you that under no circumstance whatsoever will I give up my faith or refuse to stand up for my faith. You can take that to the bank. Even the position that I currently occupy, I did not ask for it and I’m prepared to leave it on short notice. It doesn’t mean anything.”
According to media reports, the vice-president made the comment above last Tuesday night at a stakeholders’ meeting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, in response to allegations by the bishop of catholic diocese of Gboko, Williams Avenya that the administration was pursuing an agenda of Islamisation.
The bishop had called on the vice-president to stand up for Christians who have been worst hit since the killings started.
Before the confrontation in Benue State, Femi Fani-Kayode, who has been having a running battle with the incumbent administration had published a very strongly worded article questioning Vice President Osinbajo’s faith.
That’s on top of the fact that the General Overseer of Redeem Christian church, pastor Eunuch Adeboye, Osinbajo’s mentor, had also recently reportedly threatened that there might not be an election in 2019 if the wanton killing of Christians persists.
Clearly, Vice President Osinbajo who is usually as cool as the cucumber is under pressure hence he is quoted as telling his audience in Benue State: “It is because of the evidence of things that are not seen, it is because you can make something out of nothing that I stand here today as vice-president. How can anyone say that the killing of women and children doesn’t matter because he is vice-president or because he is president? How is that possible?”
Vice President Osinbajo then concluded the defense of his faith by saying “Certainly, it cannot be for a person who is born again. A renewed mind will know that there is justice, there is consequence even if there is no justice here on earth.”
With those powerful words proceeding from the lips of Vice President Osinbajo, it is clear that his back is being pushed against the wall like Queen Esther in the days of yore and Leah Sharibu in the den of Boko Haram.
And his push back which appears sincere to me were very refreshing and reassuring to hear.
But how do we proceed from where we are currently?
Should we be looking forward to another mass burial of the victims of herdsmen massacre like the type that happened in Benue State, then the usual verbal condemnations by people on the corridors of power or we should be saying never again and mean it?
Without a doubt, we can’t afford to leave all the burden to govt alone. So must all in our own little ways put our hands on deck to pull Nigeria back from the brinks.
We can all start by trying to help bail out little Leah Sharibu who has become the symbol of the faith struggle and the alarming insecurity in Nigeria in the manner that Nelson Mandela became the apartheid icon in South Africa.
On Leah’s birthday earlier in the week, my WhatsApp platform was inundated with her pictures and tributes to her.
I responded thus to a friend who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN: “I’m surprised that the agitation for her release has gone cold. Maybe the Christian church in Nigeria should raise money and pay Boko Haram the ransom for her release if that’s what would resolve the matter. Members of Redeemed Christian church alone can raise the funds through crowd funding. As a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, I believe it’s within your purview to so do. I will be solidly behind you if you lead the charge. You can start by consulting that lady in the north that claims to have access to Boko Haram and you can also seek the consent of our security agencies. What do you think?”
That request or challenge to my friend on Leah’s birthday is now being thrown open on this platform to all men and women of Goodwill.
I’m a father who lost my 18 years old daughter, Kikaose Ebiye-Onyibe to the cold hands of death (not through terrorist activities) about one year ago.
So I know exactly how the parents of Leah would be feeling after losing custody of their daughter for the length of time that she has been in Boko Haram captivity.
Let us help them end the incredible pain and anguish that they are going through, while we can.
Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and former commissioner in delta state, sent this piece from Lagos.