Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, outlines two potent reasons why Zainab Aliyu’s release was secured quite easily by the federal government and Leah Sharibu is still in Boko Harm captivity. She opines that it is not quite right to accuse the government of bias in this regard. However, she urges the Buhari administration to apply the same level of determination to secure Sharibu’s release and that of other Nigerians still in captivity.
On Tuesday, April 30, the federal government finally secured the release of Zainab Aliyu, the young lady who was detained in Saudi Arabia after being wrongfully detained for trafficking Tramadol.
Investigations had shown that Aliyu was innocent and that the drugs were actually planted by a cartel at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport which used her name tag without her knowledge. Thankfully, there was a Whatsapp trail and other details which led to the arrest of the real criminals and their aides at the airport.
With Aliyu’s release, however, many Nigerians, even though joyful over the incident, have also raised the issue of Leah Sharibu – as they should – and are asking the federal government to also secure Leah’s release – as the government should.
Furthermore, many are accusing the federal government of bias…and it is at this point, that I beg to differ.
Leah Sharibu, a Christian, is the only Dapchi schoolgirl still in Boko Haram captivity. While her mates were released, she was held back because she refused to denounce her faith and convert to Christianity. Her courage in the face of barbarism and wickedness has put many of us, lukewarm Christians, to shame.
Like others, I too am dismayed by Leah’s continued detention. I do not believe that enough has been done to secure her release; just as I do not believe that enough has been done to secure the release of the remaining 112 Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity.
In the same vein, I do not believe that enough is being done to secure the north-east.
I also do not think our soldiers are well armed for the battle they are being sent to fight. I question how terrorists would be able to run amok in a town in broad daylight and even overrun an Army base.
I also can’t wrap my head around why soldiers would be killed at random, and so easily, by insurgents. Our brave young men, the defenders of our land, are meeting untimely deaths at the hands of savages and barbarians. It is sad and outrageous!
However, while Leah still remains in captivity and Zainab has been released, I do not think it is right to infer that the federal government – led by a Muslim president who I am not particularly fond of (for his actions and inactions; not his religion) – is being biased in this particular incident.
I know the president has a penchant for favoring Northerners in his political appointments, to the chagrin of the rest of us; and in that regard, I would love to see a true display of ‘Federal Character’.
But this Leah and Zainab issue, in my opinion, is not a case of bias.
There are differences in the two situations…differences which made Zainab’s release easier to secure.
First of all, Zainab Aliyu was not held by a terrorist organization which is not amenable to dialogue or sound reasoning – though some actions by the Saudi government certainly defy logic. She was held by a country…one with which Nigeria has diplomatic relations. As such, it was easy to carry out negotiations which facilitated her release.
Nigeria has no ‘diplomatic relations’ with Boko Haram. There are no rules or norms of international relations that the terrorists adhere to. For this reason, it is hard to set up any sort of negotiations and even somewhat impossible to expect that the terrorists would abide by any agreements reached.
At this point, our best bet may be a military option…but as I said; our Army still has challenges to overcome!
Secondly, even though Nigeria had the advantage of relating with another sovereign government and not a terrorist organization, it was also easier to secure Aliyu’s release because there was evidence.
Aliyu was certainly not the first Nigerian to have been arrested on drug charges in Saudi Arabia. In fact, right now, there are about 23 Nigerians on death row in the Muslim country for various offences. A Nigerian woman, Kudirat Afolabi, was even recently executed in Saudi Arabia after being accused of drug trafficking.
But what made Aliyu’s case different was that in this instance, there was concrete evidence which nailed the real criminals. This was the potent weapon which ensured that the innocent lady regained her freedom.
In the absence of evidence, I don’t believe Zainab Aliyu would be free today. It would have just been her word against a Saudi government’s which intercepted the drugs…the latter would have prevailed and Aliyu would have been condemned to death.
That is the sad truth.
So you see that it is not quite right to accuse the government of bias in this regard. Zainab Aliyu’s situation is different from Leah Sharibu’s. In this instance, Aliyu had the advantage of being held by a sovereign nation, and concrete evidence to prove her innocence to that sovereign nation.
However, there is one thing on which I agree with others. I do agree that if the same level of determination which was displayed in Aliyu’s situation is also put into securing the release of Leah Sharibu and the other Chibok girls still in captivity; we may just have a favorable outcome as well.
And so, it is incumbent on the federal government to stop reeling off platitudes and nice words; but take serious action. Upgrade our military and intelligence gathering apparatus, and give our soldiers adequate weaponry to execute this war.
Make securing the release of all Nigerians held in captivity, a priority!
At the end of the day, we just want our girls home – all our girls – and we are hoping that this Buhari-led federal government can live up to its responsibility to secure the lives and properties of every single Nigerian.
The task of securing Leah Sharibu’s release and that of every other Nigerian still in captivity is one that must be done!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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