Madeleine and Leah: A tale of two captives

Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 8 June 2019 | 1,597 times

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•Onwubiko is National Coordinator of HURIWA.

Richard Templar is a very fascinating writer. As a professional writer
myself, operating from Nigeria, one of the most treacherous human
habitations in the world, I am always looking for fresh ideas
documented in beautifully written books, not just because of my
inclination for aesthetics but also because of my undying admiration
of logical reasoning.

You can’t afford to embark on a search for the aesthetics and the most
precious gifts that the uncreated Creator-God has endowed the World
with if you are a logically minded writer who is born, bred and
co-exists in the chaotic space called Nigeria.

And so it was that in April, I found myself deeply involved in the
intensive search for some great books to pick up during a pre-planned
visit to one of the biggest outlets for great books in Central London
– during one of my necessary holidays to stay away from the functional
disorder which Nigeria has become – to take a breath of fresh air for
some few days before returning to our familiar lawless society to try
to make the chaotic space a livable one.

I came face-to-face with some beautifully designed books. I
particularly had a deep communion with a certain copy printed in my
best admired colour: blue, given my penchant for Chelsea Football Club
of London.

Incidentally, a night before, I was at the Stamford Bridge stadium,
somewhere in South-west London, to witness a competitive match between
my beloved team Chelsea and another elite premiership club side, which
ended in favour of Chelsea.

It was, indeed, with a sense of satisfaction that I approached this
book, entitled The Rules of People, written by Richard Templar.

I wasted less than two seconds to make up my mind to pick up two
copies – one for myself and another for Ugochi, my beautiful wife, who
loves reading books as well. Our marriage is like an author marrying
his editor. That is a romantic story for another day. Today is about
my odyssey in a London bookshop, which berthed the idea behind this
reflection on two youngsters from two distinctive nations who
disappeared and are still being sought.

As I flipped open the book, the first thing I saw was a philosophical
quotation: “The only solution that works is to change the hole,
because a square peg will always be a square peg.”

I instantly fell in love with this saying, because there were two
issues I was battling to untangle: The raging debates on the best deal
for Britain regarding the referendum the voters passed to exit the
European Union, known as Brexit, which at the material time I
encountered this magisterial book was about to end the illustrious
political career of Britain’s second female premier in history. (The
first was Margaret Thatcher and the one I'm referring to as regards
Brexit is Theresa May.)

The second issue was the inability of Nigerian government headed by
President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue the teenage Miss Leah Sharibu,
the only Christian girl abducted alongside 133 others, who were later
released by their captors: Islamist Boko Haram terrorists.

As we were told by one of her freed school mates at Dapchi Government
School in Yobe State, Leah had refused to denounce her Christian
faith. Her captors reached an agreement with the Nigerian government
to keep her, while her Muslim fellow students were released.

The issue of Leah Sharibu to me becomes even more intriguing when I
also read in the British media about a little girl by name Madeleine
McCann, who was kidnapped when she was four while holidaying with her
parents in Portugal. Ironically, I was also holidaying in London about
the same material time that this little girl was stolen from her
Parents in Portugal. The good thing is that Great Britain has for a
decade continued to budget huge cash to search for her whereabouts.

When compared with the secrecy surrounding the so-called effort being
made to release the young Christian girl kidnapped by Boko Haram
terrorists, one is left to accept the logic and the reason behind the
saying in the earlier quoted book regarding how best to reach a
solution: “The only solution that works is to change the hole, because
a square peg will always be a square peg.”

As you read this, you may be asking the question about whom this
little British girl is and why so much public fund has been expended
searching for her by the government of her country, even when she went
missing in another nation in company of her parents.

This is unlike in Nigeria, where the failure of government to provide
water-tight security culminated in the mass abduction of Leah and her
long-released Muslim school mates.

Leah was kidnapped many years after nearly 250 girls were similarly
kidnapped in Chibok in Borno State, thereby placing the fault straight
at the security agencies, for failing the primary duty of care and
protection, which the constitution imposed on them as a primary duty
of government.

According to a report in The Sun newspaper of UK, since disappearing
on the evening of May 3, 2007, no one has been able to find her or
conclusively prove she is either dead or alive.

As of 2016, over 8,000 potential sightings have been recorded in 101
different countries and territories, but nearly all of them have been
dropped as leads.

But now, a new docu-series about her disappearance claims Madeleine is
still alive and her case will be solved.

Jim Gamble, the top child protection cop in the UK’s first Maddie
investigation, says:  “I absolutely believe that in my lifetime we
will find out what has happened to Madeleine McCann.

“There’s huge hope to be had with the advances in technology. Year on
year, DNA is getting better. Year on year, other techniques, including
facial recognition, are getting better.

“And as we use that technology to revisit and review that which we
captured in the past, there’s the likelihood that something we already
know will slip into position.”

The documentary also claims Madeleine is likely to have been kept
alive by child traffickers because, as a middle-class British girl,
she is more financially valuable.

British media reports that Madeleine McCann was born May 12, 2003, and
went missing a little more than a week before her fourth birthday.

Since her disappearance from the Ocean Club apartment, a former top
cop has warned that security at the resort, where the little girl went
missing, is still an issue, so says the media reports.

Today, we read a report that the Home Office has agreed to give
£300,000 for the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine
McCann. The search for Maddie, who was three years old when she
vanished while on holiday with her parents, has cost £11,750,000 so
far.  If you convert that to our naira and kobo, you would realise
that that is a year-long budget for 12 police commands put together in

Reports had it that funding was previously reported to have run out,
but the Home Office has now agreed to fund the hunt until March next

Conversely, it was stated that an application was made by the Met
Police for another £300,000 to keep the investigation going throughout

“On Wednesday, the Home Office said that while a final decision on
figures would not be made until October, it had reassured force chiefs
that a ‘similar’ level of funding would be granted for this year as in
2018/19, when £300,000 was given,” reported British media.

The Home Office noted: “We have received a request from the MPS to
extend funding for Operation Grange, until March 31, 2020. Funding for
the investigation is provided by the Home Office through Special Grant
funding, which is usually available to police forces when they face
significant or exceptional costs.

“All applications for Special Grant funding are considered carefully
on their individual merits. However, decisions are made in batches to
allow us to better consider the impact on the overall policing budget.
Due to this, the next round of Special Grant funding will not be
decided until October. However, we have written to Deputy Mayor for
Policing and Crime in the meantime with assurance that the
Metropolitan Police Service will receive a similar level of funding
for Operation Grange for 2019/20, as it did for the previous year.”

This is a country that places the highest premium on the wellbeing of
their citizens, and the police is efficient, and effectively taking
charge. In Nigeria, there are contradictions and conflicts of
interests among rival security outfits; and there is no consensus on
the strategic engagements of these security agencies on how to jointly
coordinate the search for Leah Sharibu and hundreds of other hostages
of Boko Haram terrorists and bandits.

In Yobe State, where Leah comes from, 77.4 per cent of girls are not
in secondary school. That figure is the third highest in the
North-east region and the fifth highest among the 10 northern states
covered in the report, according to an analyst who recently authored
an article to demand the rescue of the abducted school girl.

“The abductions illustrate that Boko Haram remains a menace to
swathes of North-east Nigeria,” the International Crisis Group said in
a report published in April.

“The kidnappings cast a pall over education, particularly of girls,
and thus the prospects for socio-economic development of the region.”

This is even as President Buhari last October reportedly spoke on
telephone with Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, mother of the Dapchi Secondary
schoolgirl, Leah.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,
Garba Shehu, stated this in a statement made available to journalists
in Abuja. He said the President assured Mrs Sharibu that his
administration will do everything it would take to bring her daughter
back home, adding that the President consoled the Sharibu family and
assured the parents that the Federal Government would do its utmost
for the safety and security of their daughter.

“I convey my emotion, the strong commitment of my administration and
the solidarity of all Nigerians to you and your family as we will do
our best to bring your daughter home in peace and safety,” Buhari
reportedly told the distraught mother.

Mrs Sharibu and her husband, Nathan, had recently appealed to Buhari
to ensure the release of their daughter before the October deadline
given by the Boko Haram sect. Many months after, the girl is still in

The difference between the British and the Nigerian scenarios is that
in Britain, government is very transparent, accountable and open
regarding the process and mechanisms it has adopted to search for
their young citizen that was kidnapped.

In Nigeria, the process and methods are muddled up and treated as
state secret. There is no clarity regarding why the government
initially left only the young Christian girl when it struck a deal
with the terrorists.

Section 14 (2) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution states in black and
white that: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the
primary purpose of government.”

Aristotle, the philosopher, stated: “The basis of a democratic state
is liberty. Law is order and good law is good order.”

The Nigerian Constitution is the supreme law, and so there is no
reason to explain the refusal of the government to transparently tell
Nigerians what effort it is making, if any, and how much it has spent
in trying to rescue Leah Sharibu and others in similar circumstances.

Section 22 of the Constitution supports media freedoms. Chapter four
of the constitution is all about the fundamental human rights,
including the freedom of expression, just as the Freedom of
Information Act mandates government to be open, transparent and
accountable to the people of Nigeria.

St Augustine of Hippo (354-430CE) gave us a quote, which is the most
appropriate way to end this reflection. He said: “If justice be taken
away, what are governments but great bands of robbers?"

Source: News Express

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