Nathaniel Sharibu, the father of Leah, the Dapchi schoolgirl being held by Boko Haram for her refusal to convert to Islam, tells ADELANI ADEPEGBA of PUNCH that he is confident that his daughter will resist extremist indoctrination
How did you feel when you learnt your daughter was not released by Boko Haram?
I felt very sad when I heard that my daughter was left behind but when I later learnt that it was on account of her religion, I felt happy about it.
Why were you happy about it?
I am happy because she did not renounce Christ.
Tell us a little about her upbringing?
We brought her up on strong Christian principles and she attends Sunday school, youth fellowship and she also participates in other church activities. But she learnt to be a Christian at home because we are Christians and we taught her the way of Christ.
Are you sure that she can continue to resist the pressure from the insurgents to change her religion?
She will not change by God’s grace. As she did not change her religion when she was among her classmates, who were abducted along with her, I believe she will not change.
How did you feel the day she and other schoolgirls were abducted?
I felt very sad, I was very weak. I felt discouraged and was angry with the school authorities that they did not protect the girls from the insurgents.
Do you think the abduction could have been prevented?
Yes, they could have taken certain security measures to protect the girls. It happened before in Chibok; so they ought to know what to do to prevent a recurrence.
What is Leah’s ambition?
According to her, she wants to be a medical doctor. She took the decision because of her academic performance and I have also encouraged her to achieve her dreams. I want her to become a medical doctor.
In the light of her abduction, do you regret sending her to school?
No, I don’t. If God brings her back today, I would still ask her to continue with her education.
It was reported that when Boko Haram brought back the other girls, they warned Dapchi residents against sending their children to school. What is your reaction to this?
I wasn’t in Dapchi when the insurgents brought back the girls but I heard about the warning, but that won’t stop me from educating my children. Whenever my daughter returns home, I will send her to school.
So, you are not frightened by the threat from the insurgents?
No, I am not bothered by their threat. I have no business with them. They are doing their own thing. I have the right to do mine.
What is life like in Dapchi?
I have been living in Dapchi with my wife and two children for 24 years. Though, it is largely a Muslim community, everyone is living in harmony and there is no discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Since the release of the other girls, people have been trooping to my house to commiserate and encourage my family. I am from the Hong Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
So, what made you relocate to the community?
I was transferred to the community. I am serving in Yola presently, but I visit Dapchi from time to time. When the girls were about being released, I was informed that they were bringing them, but I was later told that my wife fainted because my daughter was not among those who were released. She was taken to the hospital; so, I rushed down to Dapchi to see her.
How is she handling the development?
When she learnt the reason why Leah was not released, she became calm. She is okay.
How has your daughter’s refusal to compromise her faith affected you spiritually?
It has further strengthened our faith because she learnt her character from her mother and I.
Aren’t you scared that your daughter might be indoctrinated and used as a suicide bomber?
We are not worried even if they use her as a suicide bomber. The fact that she has confessed that she cannot change her religion for anything has further strengthened our faith.
Do you believe President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise that he would ensure Leah’s release?
I am very confident President Muhammadu Buhari will fulfil his promise. I don’t doubt him; I believe he would do as he had promised. My request is that he should negotiate for her release as quickly as possible.