When she didn’t come back from school… [Special report on Leah’s 17th birthday]
On February 19, 2018, Leah Sharibu did not return from school. 815 days later, she is turning 17 years old in captivity for refusing to renounce her Christian Faith. The world’s youngest prisoner of conscience was abducted by Islamists terrorists at age 14 from school in northern Nigeria.
During the global COVID19 pandemic shutdown, schools in America have transitioned to online classes and all the students from my household in Washington are back here except one. She didn’t return home with her colleague.
About five years ago, she and 10 Chibok schoolgirls arrived in my home to go to high school in America. “Salome” was a convert to Christianity risking death for apostasy.
Because she didn’t “belong” to their clique, Salome ended up making American friends and assimilated faster while the Chibok girls kept to themselves at the school they attended. She was bright and a year later, she, one Chibok girl and a murdered pastor’s daughter who came later from Nigeria were the only three out of the 12 girls we had now sponsored who passed college admission exams. Accordingly in early 2016, we sent the three high achieving students to university ahead of schedule.
Shortly after, in May 2016, the Nigerian embassy lured two out of the four Chibok girls who had been Salome’s classmates away from their high school and the home of the American pastor they lived with.
The two other Chibok girls who refused enticement by the Nigerian embassy, graduated with their high school diplomas in June 2017 (magna cum laude) and proceeded to various universities. But Salome’s two Chibok classmates taken by the Nigerian embassy were enrolled in adult education classes while one of them converted to Islam in Bronx, New York and renamed herself “Fati” after millions of dollars were blown on them.
Salome’s classmates now with the Nigerian embassy are still trying to pass the GED (high school equivalency exam) after dropping in and out of school in the last four years.
Salome learnt to drive and work to put herself through school. Her former Chibok classmate refused to work saying why will she when she is on monthly salary from Nigeria? The irony is the girls who are serially failing for years continue to be funded from Nigeria but the first girl who completed her degree and is now doing her post graduate degree is not being supported from Nigeria and has to take a loan. Our value system rewards failure and punishes success.
When she heard the embassy’s lies that she was my “relative” whom I had brought to the US, Salome said, “how I wish I belonged to a great family like yours!”
The greatest irony of this story is that not only are we not related, our tribes are mortal enemies. Her Fulani tribe are herdsmen who have brutally killed thousands of my people. In 2018, they wiped out an entire family of my relatives – a father, mother, four and six year old boy and girl. Last year, they abducted my relative’s wife for ransom.
Watch video: Children Murdered in Their Beds: Nigeria Now the Deadliest Place to Be a Christian
Yet we lived and ate together in the US. Sometimes I would post about the atrocities of her Fulani tribesmen and only her muted response reminded me that she was one. She herself noted how vindictive they could be as exemplified by the threatening phone call she got for becoming an “infidel”.
She told me,“Uncle, I have achieved so much in five years I couldn’t have achieved if I was still in Nigeria.” He has made all things beautiful in His time!
When I attended Salome’s graduation this year, I learnt that her professor gave them a statistics assignment. After working on it, she wrote back to the professor that questions 14-30 were all wrong and needed to be corrected. The professor confirmed it and apologized to the class that questions 14-30 were indeed flawed.
At her graduation reception, I told how when she and the Chibok girls first took the university admission exam, she came second after one one of them. I told her I didn’t believe it because I knew she was very smart. The next time she took the exam she aced it. I asked what happened previously and she said she didn’t want to pass the first time.
So why didn’t Salome come back home during the COVID19 lockdown like others?
Her American boyfriend proposed marriage to her. Although the wedding ceremony was set for later, due to the pandemic, it was postponed and a court wedding was done this month instead. She has started her new life, new family and her new home in America. This is a good way not to come home.
I thank those who in one way or another helped her get this far. We couldn’t have scripted a better ending but the Author of Life did!
A key reason why I will no longer bring victims to the US is the ease with which they are corrupted. Evidence uncovered in my WSJ defamation lawsuit show that some of the Chibok girls were bribed with just iPads to betray me.
God however blessed Salome beyond mere Ipad. The stone the builders rejected has indeed become the head cornerstone. It is outcomes like this that make the last five hectic years worth all the trouble we went through. A wedding was never part of my 2020 forecast but it is certainly a positive thing in a negative year.
It is also a tribute to my dear wife. A more gracious, humble, gentle, kind, godly, loving and altogether lovely soul I haven’t seen. In 20 years, her home has birthed 20 souls. Only two from her womb and only one an in law. Everyone else was not her duty or obligation. Yet she obliged. Like Ruth she made my people her people, my country’s problems her problem and my God her God. We call her blessed this Mother’s Day week.
God blessed us with a miracle scholarship for my own son’s university. We didn’t have millions of dollars to bribe our way into prestigious schools as the rich and famous do here.
Here’s what we did. We took poor students from dire, desperate and deadly situations in Africa and put them in great schools in America. Despite opposition and sabotage, we put them in colleges where we had to pay higher fees than usual because they were international students. We made all those sacrifices of hosting, funding, mentoring etc when it was never part of our job description or our wedding vows or life goal.
It was God we “bribed.” He who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord. Our investment in others’ lives for God paid off and God came through for our son.
My champion, companion, co-victim and compadre in the process for the girls and for my son never anticipated 20 years ago that she would go through all these these past five years – taking care and responsibility for other people’s children not at your convenience but at your inconvenience. Unappreciated. Despised.
She turned our home into a success incubator not just for our kids but others of God’s children. Their graduations are the glory manifestations of these past years of laboring and mothering in love. The three girls who we sent to college in January 2016, three years later, have earned bachelors degrees and one an associate degree.
Important lessons for Nigeria
Developing human capital is not just about money but mentoring. The schoolgirls with Nigeria’s wealth were outperformed and outclassed by the girls without wealth but with loving support
In five years, from the Chibok girls and other victims we produced – two high school diplomas, one Bachelor of Science, one Bachelor of Arts, two associate degrees in science plus a Masters in science (in view). In that period, Boko Haram produced from the Chibok girls and others in captivity at least six known babies including those of Amina Ali and Maryam Ali (escaped and freed Chibok girls)
While Salome was free to choose her faith, education and her life partner, Boko Haram has forced religion, non-education and marriage on Leah and others.
The exploitation of almajiri children for underage voting and their recent deportations and dumping like garbage by northern political elite is a travesty, an atrocity and condemnable. It is tragic that the vision and investment of ex-president Jonathan of millions for their education and upliftment has been frittered away. A southern infidel should not love northern kids who voted against him more than northern elites whom they rigged into office.
We cannot build a nation when chronic failures are rewarded and super achievers are punished as in the case of the first victim of terror among the girls who graduated and is now doing her masters on loans while underachievers are on full scholarship.
The above illustrates how vision and education is a value adding proposition and our rulers need to do far more to cultivate Nigeria’s untapped human resource. In conclusion, it is fascinating that today Leah’s birthday May 14th is also the date when Zee Umar’s Father was killed and she herself injured by Boko Haram. Terror can be turned to triumph. It is time for the Nigerian government to bring back Leah and the Chibok girls abducted for years now.
PIX 8 – The three Star Nigerian College Students marking International Women’s day with Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed at the United Nations in New York some years ago.
US NIGERIA LAW GROUP