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It would have been easier to rescue the girls if govt believed the story — Fmr education commissioner

Musa Inuwa Kubo was the Borno State Commissioner for Education when the kidnap of the Chibok school girls happened. In this interview, he speaks on…

Musa Inuwa Kubo was the Borno State Commissioner for Education when the kidnap of the Chibok school girls happened. In this interview, he speaks on circumstances surrounding the abduction, the pressure from federal government officials at that time, who felt that no one was abducted, among others.

 

You were the commissioner for education when the incident occurred, what was it like for you?

It was an unfortunate incident and I was very sad. But I used the opportunity to tell the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, that what happened wasn’t just about insecurity around Chibok, but that the general environment in Borno was not safe, and something needed to be done.

I told him that the security situation at that time was so bad that three military barracks were sacked; Giwa Barrack in the heart of Maiduguri was sacked; another military barrack in Bama was destroyed and a military facility was sacked in Monguno.

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So, one could see that it was not just about providing 20 or 30 soldiers and policemen to guard the school.  The sad part of it all was that the authorities did not believe that the abduction occurred. They felt it was not a real abduction, but that someone wanted to use it for political gains. We can’t use human beings for any political purpose. We saw it all and I am still very sad.

 

What was the general feeling among people in Borno then?

Very sad! Though many of the girls have been recovered, I believe some might have died. I’m privileged to know that some didn’t want to come back because they had been indoctrinated by the insurgents. It is a very sad development.

 

Do you feel there are things you could have done differently; thinking back…

No. I think I did my best under the circumstances. I responded to the issue as a commissioner for education would have done. And I don’t have any ill feeling towards anyone or government. All my actions then were directed towards improving the pursuit of education in Borno State and Nigeria.   What bothered me the most was that the then federal government did not get the right information and as such did not act as we expected. Considering the might of the Nigerian military; what is Sambisa Forest? At the time we reported the abduction, had it been the Commander-in-Chief ordered the military to go into Sambisa and bring back the girls, I believe that they would have been rescued. But it took them about one month before they started acting; you think the insurgents don’t know what they are doing? After two to three days, they started separating the girls. They didn’t leave them in one place, so at that point, it became difficult for anyone to go in and find them all in one place.

These are some of the lapses that I was saying that the federal government didn’t take into consideration. If they had listened to what I told them; that the girls were in the forest and had not gone far; and within one or two days, a rescue team was put together, I believe we would have had a different result.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. However, I thank all those who had open minds about the incident and assisted the Borno State government. You see, the governor then and now, vice president, stood firm, despite all insinuations.

You will not believe that some people were even saying that all the girls were hidden in the government house, Maiduguri. But to the thinking that I would have done things differently; no! What I did was to defend the interest of the state and the interest of the school girls. Unfortunately, a lot of things were beyond me.

 

Was there a problem between the Borno State government and the federal government at that time?

As the commissioner for education then, it happened under my ministry, and I had the zeal to address the issue squarely. But then, the president set up a committee, funny enough, without even informing the state government.  We were only told that a committee had been set up and we went and appeared before it. I told the members what actually happened.  So, it will not be fair to fault the then state government on the issue. If anything, it was the federal government that failed by not providing adequate security. And even when we reported the abduction, the federal government was mute. It did not act immediately.  It only said anyone who wanted to know anything about Chibok should contact the commissioner for education. I was contacted and I told them what I knew. If you remember, there was an announcement that the girls had been recovered. But I said, to my knowledge, the students had not been found. And if they had been found, maybe the story was within the security cycle, which I was not privy to.

Sadly, up to the time the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, left office, he never visited Chibok to find out what really happened.

There was a day I was detailed to go to Chibok, because we heard the president was coming down, only for us to later find out that he was not in the country.

 

Why do you think it was so difficult for the authourities to believe that the abduction took place?

It was because those around the president politicized the issue. There were so many people in the southern part of Nigeria, who sympathized with us over what happened and some of them even visited us here.  Like I said earlier, a committee was set up, but till this day, the report of that committee has not been released. I believe that if you set up a committee, and it completes its assignment, the findings should be made public.

May Allah in His infinite mercies bless the soul of the committee chairman, General Sabo Gusau (rted), who stood his ground. He insisted that the right thing should be done, despite efforts to influence him.

I remember one incident when I was invited by the president and I was telling him what happened. The then senate president said, “look commissioner, you are speaking to Mr President”. I said yes, the president asked me to tell him what happened around Chibok and if I don’t tell him the right thing, I would not be doing service to the assignment given to me. At the end of the day, I was taken to the police headquarters, where I still told them that the right thing was not done and that the security situation around Chibok and the entire state was not okay.

 

What measures did you take to avoid a repeat of such as commissioner?

After the incident occurred, what we did was to close all the schools, because we could not afford to have more of such attacks. We closed the schools in areas we considered unsafe so that we could strategise on way forward.

We created learning centers, where many schools were grouped together in areas, where we felt the security was better. And when the communities became safer, we gradually reopened the schools.

 

The secondary school in Chibok has since re-opened, any idea on how it is faring?

The school is fully in place; except that the girls are no longer sleeping in the school. They come to the school and return to their parents homes after classes.

 

What is the enrollment like now?

People are still enrolling their children/ wards in the school. Because most of the parents were not deterred, their children are still in school. The only thing is that I sympathize with the families of those whose loved ones were abducted. But hope is not lost, because we have been getting reports of recovery of some of the students.

 

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