What image does Leah Sharibu conjure in your mind? A young girl in the grips of the fanatic? A girl innocent, virginal in faith and mind? Or a naïve soul bewitched by her Christ? Or shall we compare her with the suicide bombers her age, except that she does not holla in the name of Allah, or carry her belief without the weaponry of a bomb. She wears no hijab, has no wardrobe to screen her apocalyptic toy and does not need to walk through a market to finish off her infidels.
So, everyone has their Leah. To some, she is the untutored zealot. To others, she is the fool in wolf’s clothing. For me, Leah Sharibu is the rebirth of the apostolic era. She manifests the purity of faith. She also telegraphs a message to our politics, especially in the age of Oyegun, where we twist betrayal as nuance and celebrate harlotry.
Her parents may have mused over the fate of the first Leah, the wife of Jacob. Just as the Boko Haram goons hate her, Leah was not the preferred wife but Rachel. But she it was who eventually earned favour. She birthed the line of priests through her son Levi. And later, he gave us Judah, who we trace to David, and Jesus. She bore the seed which was prophesied to Abraham: “By thy seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” She, who was not comely, suffered but she eventually sired the seed of salvation.
That was the power of Leah. Maybe the parents thought this. Maybe not. But it is potent that, at age 12, she invokes Jesus at about that age, who rebuked his mother when he was jousting the scholars of his day. Quipped the Lord: “Shall I not go about my father’s business?”
She is more apostolic than most of the pastors of today. How many of the showy clerics will risk their lives of luxury today under gun-handed duress and insist on Christ? Will they not remember their soaring ecstasies in private jets, the dreamy languor of their palaces, the doting worshippers, their wives’ and children’s wardrobe obsessions in the tony districts of Manhattan, London and Paris? They could easily abandon the austere examples of Paul, Peter, Matthew, et al, and embrace Peter the betrayer rather than Peter the Rock. The apostles died either by beheading or hanging, a brutal ending. Such apostolic faith highlighted Robert Bolt’s play titled: A Man For All Seasons and celebrated the piety of Thomas More.
It was an epoch when More stuck to principle when Henry V111 chose romance over God to cut off England from the Church of Rome.
But our pastors would seek forgiveness later on when they are strapped on their cosy seat in a bombardier headed to an evangelical mission in a Los Angeles suburb. In a bombardier financed by tithes and offerings and maintained at a cost that can pay off the school fees of a thousand poor students stranded at home.
Leah is the true believer. She may not hold that sort of belief when she is 30, or even 70, but she has given this country an example in principle. A principle executed in innocence. She decided to deny herself, take her cross and follow her conviction. She is not the sort of suicide bombers hoodwinked into suicidal bloodbath. She did not ask for the temptation. She did not ask to be kidnapped. She was an unknown little girl masking her convictions in her anonymous life, when she walked to school, listened to teachers, obeyed her parents, visited the market, worshipped in church, played with friends.
As The Nation columnist Gabriel Amalu noted in his commentary recently, she disavows the easy morality of her generation who crave the quick fix. She is of the type who would work and earn it. She does not fall into the corrupt class of the ‘yahoo yahoo’ wastrels, who would earn nothing but own everything.
Today the elders should look at the young girl. A man like John Odigie-Oyegun, Muiz Banire and Governor Akeredolu and other enablers of the perfect stooge, should learn about principle from them. Jesus saw little children like Leah when he exhorted: “Suffer (allow) little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
When the law says one thing and a selfish interest the other, it is only the spirit of Leah that can prompt a person to stick to what is right. It is the spirit of truth, of inflexible devotion to what is proper and decent, and put at bay the breast of greed and the impulse of tyranny. The APC is in the entrails of its battle for moral identity, and those whom I described last week as the scavengers of power who want to turn law into an excuse for personal elevation are being disgraced in public. The worst of it is that they are showing no shame, an increasing slur of our society. As an African proverb says, “where there is no shame, there is no honour.”
Governor Akeredolu is now pleading nuance. He forswears ever calling for tenure elongation, only effluxion. That’s a gyration that will make only fools feel giddy. It’s like saying you want it half full but not half empty. If Oyegun and his men remain, is that not elongation by other means? That is not the spirit of Leah, who said it in unambiguous terms. Mr. Governor, we are not deaf. We heard you all along.
We are still waiting for leah. Those who brokered the freedom of the other Dapchi girls and left out the narrative of Leah Sharibu should know that we want her back in one piece. She is the story of her generation. We want her alive, not a martyr. We want her back, in the embrace of her family, who gave her a great name and she has lived up to its billing. Leah of the Bible was not beautiful but her soul was. That is what we seek when she comes back, we want her to live like the Nobel Prize winner Malala who survived the furnace of her captors.
We want to see her grow, show examples for her generation, show her human flaws and strength and become a living evolution of moral growth in a flawed society. Martyrs enrich societies but save us the true nature of their humanity. Mandela grew up to an old age, a symbol of strength, principle, and self-control. So was Mother Theresa, whose serenity of vision and activities etched in us the possibility of human tenderness. That is why we want her here, to breathe on us the spirit in her soul.