by Vincent Ikuomola and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
Abducted Dapchi schoolgirl Leah Sharibu is not dead.
Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed described as ‘absolute fake news’ reports that the girl was dead.
“It’s absolutely fake news. There is nothing like that,” the minister yesterday told reporters at a news conference in Ilorin, Kwara State.
He described the rumour of Leah’s death, which surfaced just a few days to the presidential election, as another ploy by the opposition to bring down the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and to exploit primordial sentiments ahead of the polls.
The minister spoke on a day the Leah Sharibu family renewed its appeal to the Federal Government and the international community not to give up on the abducted schoolgirl.
Mohammed said: “I think it’s part of the opposition’s strategies to throw everything at the administration and at the President. I think every day they are realising the hopelessness of their position.
“Every day they are amazed by the support Mr. President is receiving from every part of the country and they have decided that they are going to spread falsehood, inflame passion and make this election a Muslim-Christian affair or North-South affair, but people are not listening to them.”
On today’s presidential campaign rally in Ilorin, Mohammed said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has put everything in place to make the President’s visit a huge success.
“The party has been meeting in the last couple of days to ensure that the President’s visit is very successful. We have watched the rallies in many parts of the country and we want to assure Mr. President that our rally in terms of numbers, quality of people, entertainment and colour will rank among the best,” the Minister said.
He said the crowd that will come out to receive the President will be organic as the party will not engage in crowd renting.
The minister appealed to security agencies to create a level playing field for all the contestants in the election to allow the people to freely exercise their franchise, saying that those involved in legitimate activities have nothing to fear.
He also described the protest in some circles over the redeployment of police commissioners across the country as the handiwork of the opposition, which according to him, has been working to discredit the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
At a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the mother of the 15 year-old girl, Rebecca, pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari, the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) to do everything in their powers to rescue her.
She urged the President and the government ministerial delegation to keep the promise they made when they visited her family in October last year.
Speaking through an interpreter, she said: “I have become before you and the federal government to plead that you don’t forget Leah. The president spoke with me on phone and encouraged me not to worry, and with the assurance that my daughter will be released. Three minister’s also visited me and gave me assurance but till today, I haven’t heard anything, hence my coming before you to plead.
“The government should keep its promises made by the President and the ministers who visited us in Dapchi in October.
“There is a Hausa proverb which says, ‘Whenever you make a promise, the best thing to do is to keep that promise. Leah was 14 when she was abducted, she has clocked 15 in Boko Haram custody.”
The founder of Para-Mallam Foundation, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, described Sharibu as a heroine of faith, stressing that she represented what Nigerians should be.
Praying for her release, the cleric wondered why the abduction of Sharibu, the Chibok girls and other hostages was not a campaign issue, noting that it was concerning that none of the presidential candidates talked about their plan to rescue Nigerians in Boko Haram custody.
He said: “We will love to hear from all the presidential candidates what exactly they are planning to do to bring Leah to freedom if for any reason she is not released before the 19th of February. We want to hear her name and story becoming a campaign issue.
“The silence from all the presidential candidates about Leah and others in captivity is not encouraging, so we are using this appeal and thus campaign season to hear what the presidential candidates have to say about Leah’s freedom. It’s important for all Nigerians and the global community.”
An American teenager, Becca Lubbert, who flew into the country to identify with Sharibu’s plight, described the Dapchi schoolgirl as an incredible example of standing for one’s faith.
She asked the government to protect schools and rescue those in Boko Haram captivity.F