Leah Sharibu, herders and Boko Haram, by GBEMIGA OLAKUNLE

“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy; yea they have oppressed the strangers wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none” – Ezekiel 22:29 – 30, KJV. Since last week and especially during the Easter holidays, my thoughts have been with the only Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, who is still in captivity. I couldn’t gather my thoughts on what to make of her unique case until I came across an online report credited to NAIJ which inspired the headline of this article, and hence my suspicion of possible collaboration between herdsmen and insurgents.

The story was captioned: “Dapchi abduction: Released schoolgirls narrate how Leah Sharibu failed in escape bid”. NAIJ reports that “some of the released Dapchi schoolgirls have narrated their ordeal in the hands of the insurgents. The schoolgirls also narrated how the only Dapchi schoolgirl left in captivity, Leah Sharibu, tried to escape. The girls said Sharibu fled with two other girls but their escape was foiled by a nomadic Fulani family who brought them back to the camp”.

While giving more insights into the failed escaped bid, one of the released Dapchi schoolgirls revealed that Leah sneaked out along with two of her classmates Maryam and Amira. The three girls were said to have wandered in the bush for three days, during which they met a nomadic family from whom they sought help on how to return to Dapchi.

Instead of assisting the girls, the man allegedly took them back to their kidnappers. Quoting Hajara Adamu, one of Leah’s released classmates: “The Fulani man said to them: “so you are the missing girls that we’ve heard about on radio”. The man gave them a jerry can fi lled with cow’s milk and returned them to the terrorists. The multibillion naira question is should we not seek help from the wrong directions and eat the food of our enemies in Jesus name?

It is also unfortunate that 5 of the abducted schoolgirls died. The story narrated above might have proved some suspected and undeniable links between Boko Haram insurgents and herdsmen.

Be it for religious, economic or political reasons, the two groups seem to have certain things in common – to steal, to kill and to destroy. Boko Haram operates by stealing/ abducting or kidnapping school children and blackmailing government to pay ransom for the release of their victims. Sometimes, the terrorists force government to release some of their commanders as part of their terms of negotiation. They also raze villages and kill their victims in an attempt to steal foodstuff s for their survival.

Similarly, herders are fond of destroying farmlands, torch villages, rape, maim and kill in attempt to take over the farmlands of their victims for the grazing needs of their cattle. While the federal government has succeeded in degrading Boko Haram, the same cannot be said of how government is treating certain acts of criminality by some herders. This year alone, over 5 mass graves have been dug where victims of herders were buried for refusing to yield their territories/farmlands to forceful acquisition without any form of compensation.

The situation became so worrisome that some retired generals had to bare their minds for possterity. In fact, the issue of alleged compromise raised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo was later reinforced by retired General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma two weeks ago. He accused the Army of being partial in its internal peacekeeping activities on the incessant conflicts between the farmers and herders.

The Danjuma accused the military of taking sides and called on the citizens to defend themselves from herders’ attacks. According to the former chief of army staff and defence minister, who is well respected in military circles, “the Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people and kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movements. They cover them”. And these allegations are too weighty to be ignored judging by the status of their sources.

Incidentally, the scripture quoted above aptly captured the current socio-economic and political trend in Nigeria and that was why God is calling and seeking men – intercessor or mediator/reformer -who should make-up the hedge and stand in the gap before Him for the land of Nigeria, lest we unwittingly bring calamity upon ourselves which can make the Somalia and Rwanda wars child’s play, in the words of Danjuma.

Accusations and counter-accusations will not help us. God, the righteous judge, has looked into our case and His verdict is that “the people (Nigerians – leaders and the led) have used oppression and exercised robbery (through the activities of Boko Haram, treasury looters/pen robbers; and have vexed the poor and the needy, yea they (Nigerians) have oppressed the strangers wrongfully”. (Ezekiel 22:29, KJV).

The clarion call now is for each of us (those in government and the electorate/ the Nigerian populace) to accept God’s verdict, plead for mercy and retrace our steps from the crimes that the Righteous Judge has found us guilty of so that we can be qualified to serve as the mediator or group of mediators that God is looking for to stand in the gap before Him and plead for the land of Nigeria through our prayers and actions. Meantime, no harm shall befall Leah Sharibu.

The innocent teenage schoolgirl should be released so that she can return to the warm embrace of her parents and the Dapchi Community without any further delay. We also hope that she has not been molested or abused in any form. Enough is enough of these self-infl icted affl ictions and manipulations!

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