The abductions of hundreds of students in Kankara of Katsina State has raised a lot of questions and concerns and left many parents in a state of anxiety.
One of them is Hajiya Marwa Hamza, whose son and grandson are among those abducted from their school in Kankara on Friday night. In this interview, she narrates her ordeal and agony over the incident. Excerpts:
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How did you receive news of the incident?
In my lifetime, I have never gone through an agony like this one. I know how it feels when you lost a loved one to death because I lost my father and we all know that death is inevitable and we tend to be patient despite the pain. But this is an entirely different thing because we don’t know the fate of our children.
It was my younger sister who first broke the news to me when she called me on the phone and said there was a serious problem in town as bandits were said to be attacking. I have the contact of our DPO, so I called him and told him that we are under attack, but he told me that they have gone to another area on duty but they will return immediately. From then on, I couldn’t sleep. Around 2 am, I received another call that students of GSSS were taken away and I couldn’t hold back my tears. Immediately after the early morning prayer, I took my torchlight and headed towards the school but we were told that those that escaped have been evacuated by the army to the local government secretariat. We moved to the secretariat and all the children were brought out and ours were not among them.
What infuriated me most was the statement issued by our commissioner of education when he said that it was the gunshot sound that dispersed our children but not that they were kidnapped. I must confess that the governor has done his best and we believe he is still doing his best. He shed tears in our presence and promised to do his utmost best to rescue our children. That was consoling to us, only for the commissioner to utter such words.
One of the boys who returned told us that there are more than 500 students with the kidnappers.
What is your expectation from the armed forces?
Well, to be frank, we know that they are doing their best. We are praying that Allah will save them as well. Those gunmen were allowed to become very strong by having more sophisticated weapons than our armed forces. We heard that when they came, some of them were carrying machine guns.
What is your message to the president who is currently in Katsina?
My message to him is that he should not believe those telling him that this is just ordinary misunderstanding between farmers and herdsmen. It is a lie and it is far beyond that. Those guys are heinous gunmen. I said this because those who surround the president are not telling him the truth. For instance, what Garba Shehu said is very unfortunate. How could he say only 10 children were kidnapped? There are actually more than 500 students who are with the bandits. Is it fair for him to say only 10 children? I believe even if he doesn’t have a child, his relatives must have. Doesn’t he have feelings for such children? No one knows what the future holds for these children. Don’t be surprised if one of them becomes a president one day or an adviser to the president. All these are possible in the sight of God. We are already ageing, these children are our future. So, I am begging all those who inform the president of happenings around the country to always tell him the truth. As we are in Kankara today, these gunmen have done serious harm to us but unfortunately, that does not get into the ears of the president.
Our governor is trying his best we know. He cried more than once in our presence. Our former DPO was a hardworking young man and this current one too is an elderly person, but he always responds to calls.
What do you think should be done to rescue the children?
The best way, I think, since these gunmen are doing it for money, is to negotiate with them and recover our children. We were told yesterday to exercise patience, that the governor will negotiate for our children, we hope that is true not just said to console us. We are against the use of force in this issue because if force is used, these bandits may likely kill our children. So we are pleading with the government to discuss with the kidnappers to rescue our children.
One of the children who escaped said the bandits were saying the government is not serious, so they are taking them to Zamfara State. We are begging them to engage these people peacefully and return our children.