Horrid Episode of the 344 Kankarans

Paul Onuh

© Copyright 2021 by Paul Onuh


Photo of the abducted boys.

Waking up and hearing the sound of gunshots fired by men, who busted into the boarding school premises, during the night time raid was the scariest thing in my entire life. I broke out in a cold sweat, when they rounded up several hundreds of boys, including myself from the dormitory, and then forced us out of school into a nearby forest. 

After marching for several hours under duress, trekking through the woodland, the gunmen ordered us to stop walking, also giving us a stern warning not to try fleeing. They said, even if you try to escape, or we allowed you to run, you will go nowhere. Rather, you will die in the forest.

At age 16, I accompanied other 343 students kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School Kankara, located at Kankara town of Katsina state, an all-boys boarding school that infamous December 11. Besides, they held us hostage for six days before the security services rescued our ass on Thursday from Rugu forest, a vast woodland area, spanning four out of the country's thirty six states—not until after a sort of negotiation took place, between a few influential persons from the society, and the criminal elements.

Moreover, I was really scared because I didn't know where we were going, and often looked at the ground while walking through the forest. Again, the captors beat up the other boys, who slowed down their pace along the way. 

They took us to a hiding place at first, but when they saw a jet fighter flying over them, they changed their location immediately, hiding us in a different position.

I do not even know how many people held us out there in the forest, but despite everything faced during that horrid period, they gave us little food, hence we resorted to eating leaves and drinking water from pools in the forest, at times.

After spending some days in the forest, the leader of the group asked, who among you boys can speak good English? And I said, I can communicate in English. Then I volunteered myself to speak on behalf of my schoolmates. What is your name? He asked again. My name is Annas Shuaibu, I replied. You will talk to the government concerning the payment of your ransom, but first, tell the government not to send the army and jets, he added further raising his voice, or we will kill you people, kill the army and jet.

Notwithstanding, I and the other abducted students visited the governor, and the president thereafter, at the aftermath of our ordeal on Friday, although, many details surrounding the ugly event remains unclear to this day. As I speak, crucial information such as: who was responsible for the kidnap, whether any payment of ransom took place to secure our release, and how the relevant authorities even secured our release, yet remains a mystery. However, claims of responsibility for the abduction by the Boko Haram Islamist group cannot be far from reality, despite the fact that there has not been any confirmation backing it up.

Emotions filled the atmosphere, during the later hours of that Friday at dusk. At this time, anxious parents of the missing schoolboys reunited with their children. Weeping mothers and fathers hugged their boys in ecstasy; some parents knelt to kiss the ground in gratitude.

Our experience at the forest was really frightening, for I had this strong fear of never seeing my family again. We all feel extremely happy now, because some of us did not expect that we would return someday.

All the same, the joy of being free at last, has not worn-off the face of my 14-year old schoolmate, Muhammed Bello. "Now that I returned back home, I'll continue playing and do what I like," he said with a broad grin, "I'm very happy." 

Nevertheless, the raid made our parents fearful to an extent. For instance, my father said, I would not send you back to school, unless there is "proper security" on ground. Again, I am very grateful to the state governor, Aminu Bello Masari, who assured us of strengthening security at schools across the state.

For the most part, the awful incident surrounding our abduction, stoked anger at various quarters, regarding the insecurity that gripped much of the country, and evoked the sad memories of Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the northeast town of Chibok. 

I had fun for most hours of the day, after reuniting with members of my family. Dressing up in a turquoise kaftan a day after, and wearing a broad smile while playing football with friends near my home in Kankara was really an exciting feeling, considering the hell passed through at the hands of those savages, but such smile often leaves my face when reflecting upon the inhumane conditions, they held me and the other boys.

In fact, I thank God Almighty for bringing us back to our parents alive from the forest. And promise never to allow the recent kidnappings stop me from going to school and reading my books, for it will not deter me from pursuing my dreams of going to school, and securing my future, but instead make me take my studies more seriously.


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