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The Courageous American and the cowardly – inside story of Buhari’s bogus operation against the “American father” of the Chibok schoolgirls

By Emmanuel Ogebe

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Howie called with concern in his voice, “the girls got up at 4am, packed their things and dumped out their trash. I don’t know what to make of it.”

He was an ATTENTIVE American host parent to several Nigerian schoolgirls one of whom had escaped from Boko Haram abduction in the world’s longest running school mass kidnapping in Chibok, Nigeria whom I’d brought to the US.

He was PRAGMATIC. Howie had said to me before, “ the girls say they want to be doctors but frankly based on their schoolwork, I don’t see that happening.”

Human Rights lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S. Nigeria Law Group
The author, Human Rights lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S. Nigeria Law Group

I consoled him saying, “I know they don’t seem to be applying themselves but you can take comfort in the fact that at least you provided them safety and shelter in a new country.”

He was PERCEPTIVE. This time, he seemed very concerned. We had had a meeting with the girls recently to explain that we were putting their summer holiday travel plans on hold after we received intel that the Nigerian government was planning to capture them when they went home.

I phoned the FBI and reported to them the concern Howie had that the girls might be being indoctrinated by someone and were up to something.

It was their last day of school and I was there to pick them to my house to collect some of their stuff that they wanted. While I was still on the phone with the FBI, a vehicle arrived with a strange man and woman who tried to take away the girls.

I called campus security and asked my team to call the police. By the time the police got there, the strange duo had left with two Chibok schoolgirls. We provided the police their vehicle’s license number and they sped off after them.

What I share now are sides to this saga that have never been told before.

All we knew was that the last communication the girls had was with a woman named Somiari Demm who had infiltrated my team as a volunteer but was secretly working with the Buhari regime to sabotage us.

I phoned Howie, “you need to leave now. The girls have been taken from school by some people and we think they’re coming your way. Leave now!”

I didn’t want Howie to be harassed in front of his wife and grandkids the way I had been by the mysterious duo who had tried to snatch my phone as I recorded them.

Months later, I requested and obtained a freedom of information release of the police report and learned that the police were able to catch the vehicle that had taken the girls on the way to Howie’s home as I suspected. But we didn’t know this then.

Howie called and I asked him to meet me at the place we’d had dinner previously. There, I showed him the video of what happened and he was shocked.

“Now do you see how desperate and evil the Nigerian government is? Someone must have leaked to them that the girls were not coming for summer break so they decided to take them here instead.”

We had to whisk two other Chibok girls at the same school, who had not been taken, to safety elsewhere so I left.

He was COURAGEOUS. Howie phoned that he’d got a call from someone saying they needed him at home and that he was going back. It was his choice.

Later he told how he arrived at his house and saw it was surrounded with agents. He introduced himself and asked what they wanted and they said to pick up the girl’s belongings.

He asked for identification and they said there were the anti-trafficking unit of Homeland Security. He asked if the girls were suspected of being trafficked but they said no that they do other things beside anti-trafficking too.

He asked the male agent where the girls were going and he said an NGO trafficking shelter.

Howie saw the two girls. One was crying on realizing the import of what they had done to this man who had shown them nothing but kind generosity. They hugged and left with eight suitcases of belongings in company of a lady he learnt was the daughter of Doug Wead – another American Buhari agent who had been trolling me.

Howie was PERSISTENT. The next day,he contacted staff of the Anti-trafficking charity he headed and asked for their DHS liaison’s contact. It was the female of the pair who came to his home the previous day.

He phoned her explaining how he got her number from his anti-trafficking staff member whom she knew and asked where the girls were.

She said they were in the home of Doug Wead. “But your colleague said they were going to an NGO shelter?”. She said that was an error.

Howie was COMMITTED. He stayed faithful in parenting another Nigerian schoolgirl who had stayed with him before relocating when the Nigerian embassy came to her school and asked if she was a Muslim convert…

He and his wife flew across the US for her college graduation and even mentored another schoolgirl both of whom he saw were intelligent and hardworking – setting up laptops etc. He even mentored me and other adult volunteers on how to run charitable organizations.

He was LOYAL. Howie refused a request by my treacherous volunteer to join the board of a rival organization she was forming behind my back.

He refused to shun me like they asked him and others to do. We kept in touch to discuss God, politics, faith and developments.

He CARED. On one occasion, I was shocked when he informed me that one of the Chibok girls was working as a sales girl in a second hand goods store. I hadn’t kept up on her status apart from hearing that she was hospitalized after attempting suicide when the Nigerian government dumped them in an apartment in the ghetto of Bronx New York since leaving his million dollar mansion and Doug Wead’s place. Prior to that, she had converted to Islam shocking Howie even more…

He was a PEACEMAKER. When I first told Howie about Doug Wead, he offered to mediate but I told him Wead was an irredeemable maniac. When Wead died weeks after being charged with fraud by the Department of Justice five years later, I spoke with Howie about God’s divine retribution of this evil actor. Howie asked if I would reconcile with one of our treacherous volunteers. I told him she had rebuffed all outreach so I had done my part. That was to be my last conversation with him.

When we went for his funeral last month, I found out more about Howie than before. The two runaway girls didn’t show up but the one who finished college, got married and had two kids left them to fly down to pay her final respects.

Before pastoring, he had been a rocket scientist working at NASA etc. He wanted to sell his mansion and downsize until he heard about our need for host parents for the Nigerian schoolgirls’ continuing education.

With Nigerian schoolgirl who was first to graduate from university
With Nigerian schoolgirl who was first to graduate from university

Below is my Facebook post the day I heard of Howie’s passing:

“Months ago, I heard a worship song which reminded me of an American pastor who was host to the girls. I wanted to call him but didn’t because I thought it was silly to say I was calling him just because I associated him with a song.

Today one of the girls called us that he passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer…

He was a great guy. He invested so much time trying to mentor and build up not just the girls but even we the adults who were helping them. This was apart from driving and picking them up from school daily and taking them shopping at weekends.

He’s the only American Christian I knew who recognized that gossip was a sin and not encourage it.

Despite the attacks upon me, he stayed in touch and refused to ostracize me like even some Nigerians ganged up to do. He’s the only American that when I felt like chatting about something God was doing or Christians were not doing, I would call.

I was saddened by the way the Chibok girls betrayed him and his generosity by bringing police to his house to pack their things at instigation of Buhari.

I thought he would never be hospitable to strangers again after they disparaged his million dollar home for an apartment in the Bronx ghetto that Buhari then placed them in.

However I learnt that rather, he sold his home and bought a shelter for refugees. Thank God he didn’t let the Chibok experience embitter him but stayed faithful helping other foreigners. In fact I was surprised to hear he was current with situation of one of the betrayers and was concerned that she was working a minimum wage job trying to make her rent…

He’s one of the finer Christians I have seen in this land. O that there were more…Even after the police incident, he would travel across country for graduations of the faithful girls.

Yesterday we prayed for him during devotions not knowing that he had preceded the prayers to their destination.”

After the fact, I realized he was a FRIEND and a MENTOR. We had been in New York together for the girls to watch an off broadway play about girls in war zones; we were all the way in Los Angeles together for a girl’s graduation.

He got me traveling to Manila for a conference I didn’t want to go to but fortunately didn’t have a visa and flew right back which I always teased him about…

But even in death, Howie’s networking gift shone on. Last month, I had a mission trip to Nigeria with hundreds of pounds of medical supplies from a charity. Just by chance I found out the week of his burial it was the same organization Howie had introduced me to years ago before it changed names!

The young mother who came for the funeral told how he offered to come help last year after a complicated childbirth when she and the baby were high risk. That’s just who he was.

He died honorably not like Wead who died suddenly and disgracefully. It was a great blessing to know him and this thanksgiving I am grateful for that privilege. He was a streak of sunshine in a cloudy season. Howie showed us how to live and how to die.

And as we see some of the 250 hostages being released after 50 days of abduction in Gaza, let us remember 80 of the 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok in captivity for over nine and a half years.

Emmanuel Ogebe, Esq.

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