LAGOS – Concerned by Leah Sharibu’s long stay in Boko Haram’s captivity, an American preacher, Pastor Zakaria, has offered to submit himself to the abductors, so that the girl can regain her freedom.
Sharibu, who is one of the abducted students in Government Girls’ Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State abducted three years ago, is still being held after she reportedly refused to renounce her Christian faith.
Zakaria disclosed his intention while meeting with journalists in the company of a universal human rights Nigerian lawyer, based in the United States, Emmanuel Ogebe, at the VIP Lounge of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.
The New York-based pastor, who is on a humanitarian mission to Nigeria, said: “I have met with senior government officials from Sokoto State and in Abuja and asked if they will be willing to bring me to Boko Haram so I can negotiate Sharibu’s release.
“They said that nobody knows where they are and it is very difficult to deliver the message. Then I came back in December, and went as far as Jos in Plateau State and again, tried to find out where she is so I see if I can plead with them.”
Zakaria said he informed the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria of his mission in the country, adding that he has the permission of his wife of 41 years, five children, and nine grandchildren.
The Emotional Trauma Depressants Rehabilitation specialist noted that he has been following the case of the teenager since her abduction, adding that this is his third visit in four months to negotiate the girl’s release.
“Am here to negotiate the release of Leah Sharibu, exchange me for her and go into captivity. I have sought assistance from top government agents to meet with the Boko Haram captors,” he said.
Pledging to offer money or lay his life for Sharibu, Zakaria said: “Take me and release Leah. Am sure they will want a Westerner much more than Leah Sharibu.
“What are they going to get hurt her? It is better to take a Westerner and release her. I believe there must be something to negotiate, whether it is money or whatever they may want,” the preacher emphasised.
Ogebe, however, used the third anniversary of the abduction of the 16-year-old girl to appeal to those who have held her in captivity to consider the possibility of exchanging her with this pastor.
“But even if they don’t want to exchange her with the pastor, they should just have the feeling of human decency; you have done the worst possible, if she has had a child for you, leave her and let her go.
“There is no point for you to continue keeping her. As far as we know that there is no compulsion in Islam. What they are doing is clearly not even consistent with the tenets of the Islam religion. Since there is a shadow of that, they should lose her and let her go.”
According to Zakaria, “What am offering to them is to exchange Leah for me and I will go into their captivity. Wherever she is, I am willing to go there and exchange for me. The basis of this is John 15:13 in the gospel “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his brother and his sister.
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