Virginia Man Opens His Home to Boko Haram’s Victims
WASHINGTON – ISIS has dominated the news recently, but the terror group Boko Haram is responsible for the mass kidnapping of students in Nigeria and many other atrocities.
It is hard to forget the images of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram in April of last year, violently awakened and snatched from their boarding school in the dead of the night by the group, which is opposed to Western education.
The global hashtag #BringBackOurGirls became a trending rallying cry that reached all the way to the White House. Now, a year and half later, the headlines have died down, yet 219 girls from the Nigeria town of Chibok remain captive – but 57 managed to escape.
Human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe of Northern Virginia has helped bring more than a dozen girls to the United States. The latest girl arrived just last month.
“Being here reduces the trauma of living in the shadows of the terrorists and the terror threat,” said Ogebe.
A political prisoner himself in Nigeria, he came to the U.S. after being tortured and interrogated over a two-month period.
“We are talking about just abduction off of the street — taken away — no one knows where you are,” he said.
Now, Ogebe’s life calling is to help other victims, like Saalome, who spoke to us about the night she was taken.
“They said that we should say our last prayer. That they’re going to kill all of us,” she said.
Saalome said terrorists loaded the girls onto trucks in the middle of the night and that she had no idea where they were going. It was then that she and a friend decided to risk death to escape.
“I would rather die — jump out and die — than to go with them because I didn’t know where I am going and she said okay – she would jump with me,” Saalome said.
Now, thanks to Ogebe, both girls are back in school here in the United States. Saalome said Ogebe is like a father to her.
“He’s not my biological dad, but my dad now in the United States, and I feel like I can’t even explain how I feel about him,” she said.
Saalome knows she is one of the lucky ones and the fate of her friends weighs heavily on her mind.
“We’ll never forget about them because we don’t know what may be and how it’s going to end,” she said.
As for Ogebe, who already has two children of his own with his wife, he finds joy in his expanding family.
“Frankly, ’til this moment I can’t believe that I have a dozen, you know, kids that I am essentially parenting and supporting. And up ‘til now, I can’t believe that my wife let me do that,” Ogebe said. “I mean it wasn’t in the wedding vows, at last I checked!”
He said it has become a consuming passion for him to be a voice for the victims of terror.
“There are certain situations that you come across where you don’t need to pray because you are the answer to that prayer. You are the answer to an unspoken prayer,” he said.
Ogebe said two of the students he has taken in have been accepted to college.