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The Day Our Daughters Returned

The Day Our Daughters Returned

Inside Dapchi: Before and after the return of the schoolgirls

In this special edition, we had multiple interviews over four weeks with students, parents, and community leaders in Dapchi before and after the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari – and again, after the girls were returned. Their grief, sometimes mingled with anxiety and hope, and finally a sense of relief for most of the parents, will stir your conscience:

Malam Bashir Manzo (Parent and Chairman of Dapchi Abducted School Girls Parent’s Association). His 14-year-old daughter, Fatima, who was in JSS3, was abducted.

What happened on February 19?

We were performing the Magrib prayers at around 6.30pm when we started hearing gunshots all over the town and we later confirmed that it was a group of terrorists that came into our town.

Was there any prior warning?

Yes, we got a report from the neighbouring village before the incident happened; even some of the security agencies were aware of the impending attack. The Chairman of Dapchi Local Government was aware and he said he informed the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Geidam, and the police DPO in Dapchi before the attack, but they did nothing.

When were the parents and families informed?

Up till this moment none of the members of management of the school has officially told us that our daughters were kidnapped. The day after the attack, the school authority took the roll call and asked the students to go back home.

How come all the teachers escaped?

Maybe our children were their target, that’s why.

Did your daughter ever tell you what she hoped to become in future?

My daughter once told me she wanted to become a nurse, to work in our primary health care hospitals in Dapchi to ease the suffering of women in the town when they want to have their babies.

What type of help have you been getting from the government since the kidnap?

No government agency has come to our aid. Only the people around us contributed by giving the parents of the abducted girls some amount of money to ease their suffering.

Exactly how are you missing your daughter?

I cannot say it in words; but I miss my daughter more than you think.

Do you have any new information on their whereabouts?

I don't have any information; no one is giving us any information.

Do you regret sending her to school?

I don't have any regrets at all.

How many children do you have?

I have 29 children; two of them were in the same school and one is missing.

Tell us how her friends who escaped described to you what happened on February 19?

One of her friends told me that she was the first person to enter their car, but immediately escaped when she suspected foul play and raised the alarm, but help did not come. Many other girls were not lucky to escape.

Did you know that Buhari was coming?

Yes, I was aware. The Chairman of Dapchi Local Government informed me two days to his visit that the President would visit us and he wanted me to mobilise the parents of the girls that were abducted to come and welcome him and hear what he will tell us.

Did they allow you to go and see the president during the visit?

Yes, they asked all the parents of the abducted girls to gather at the school’s dining hall, so we all gathered there to welcome him.

Did any of the affected parents get a chance to tell Buhari how they feel and what they expect the government to do?

They gave me the chance to talk, since I am the Chairman of the parents of the Dapchi Abducted Girls and I spoke on behalf of the whole parents. I told him (Buhari) that as all what we need from him is to help us and rescue our children from the hands of the terrorists. Even though they did not gave me enough time to say what was on my mind.

Did he make any promise to you? And what was the promise?

There was some kind of anxiety on his face and he told us that he has set up a committee to rescue our children and that they are working day-in-day-out to make sure that our children return back to us. He urged us to continue praying and promised to bring back our children to us.

Do you think Buhari's government has done enough so far?

No. We just want our children back and we haven't seen them yet. The government is delaying and telling us stories and stories. That will not work. We want to have our girls back. No more stories.

What is the current security situation in Dapchi?

The Security situation in Dapchi is OK.

Mallam Garba Tela (His 14-year-old daughter who was in JSS3, Zainab, abducted):

What happened on the February 19?

We were performing the Magrib prayers and we started hearing gunshots all over. Later it was confirmed that the Boko Haram bandits had entered our town and reached the school around 6:00pm in military uniform with nine lorries. They left the town around 7:00pm with many of our children.

How did you feel when you received the information of the abduction?

I was extremely disturbed. My wife was also very disturbed.

What will you tell the captors of the girls, if they could hear you now?

What they are doing is un-Islamic. They should think of when we will all be resurrected by God because no one bear the burden of another.

Did your daughter ever tell you what she would become in future?

My daughter’s future plan was to become a medical doctor. I used to encourage her all the time to study hard even though my daughter was brilliant. She used come first in their class.

Exactly how are you missing her?

I remember my daughter because of her good character, kindness, and neatness. Anytime I come back home and see her brothers, I think about her; it makes me cry.

Do you have any new information on their whereabouts?

I don't know where my daughter is now. No one has come out and tell us that our daughters were been abducted. We leave everything in the hands of God.

How many children do you have?

I have fifteen children – seven boys and eight girls. Five are in the school and one is missing now.

Do you regret sending her to school?

I don't have any regret because I know everything is in the will of God.

Did you have any feeling that your daughter would be abducted on that day?

Yes, I felt somehow throughout that day. It seemed like something bad will happen to me, but I prayed to God to protect me from evil and other bad things.

Tell us how her friends who escaped described to you what happen on February 19?

Her friends told me that throughout that day she was fasting. She went to fetch water around that evening time to break her fast and unfortunately the terrorists came and took her away.

Abdullahi Kawi (Father of Aisha, abducted JSS2 student):

What sort of impact do you think the attack will have on the school?

Only God knows what those children will become now. Some had developed interest to study medical courses, some engineers, journalists, while others wanted to become lawyers.

Will you still take your daughter to the school if they bring them back to you?

Yes, I will take her once we get security in the school.

What type of help have you been getting from the government since the abduction?

The President said he has assigned a committee that will help us find the abducted students. We pray to the Almighty Allah to grant them the zeal to work hard and bring back our girls.

Are other groups (apart from government) helping out?

Right now, I don't know of any.

Why do you think parents stoned the governor's convoy?

People like me stoned Governor's convoy because he lied to us when we were upset and I never regret of stoning him.

Did your daughter ever tell you what she would become in future?

No. She didn't tell me but all what I know is that my daughter was very brilliant, she use to come second in her class always.

How are you missing her?

Anytime I enter my house and find out that she is not there, I feel like crying. It’s usually more difficult for me when her junior sister is asking me about of her whereabouts.

How many children do you have?

I have five children – one boy and five girls. Aisha (the abducted girl) was the only one at Dapchi secondary school.

Do you regret sending her to school?

I don't have any regret because in the first place I want my daughter to be educated before she will be getting married.

Did you know that Buhari was coming?

They told us that he would be coming to Damaturu, and later they told us to go to the school and wait for him to welcome him.

Where you allowed to see him during the visit?

Yes, they allowed us to go and see him.

Did any of the affected parents get a chance to talk to Buhari?

No, they did not allow us to talk to him, even though we had many things we wanted to say. Did he make any promises to you?

He told us that he has set up a committee to investigate our abducted girls and they are trying their best.

Do you think Buhari government has done enough so far?

Yes. He promised us that he will rescue our abducted children and he showed us that he cares by visiting us.

Do you think his visit will make any difference?

No, it will not. All what we need is for him to rescue our abducted children from the hands of the terrorists.

Malam Kawi, (after the girls were returned):

Can you tell us what happened today 21 March (day when the girls were returned)?

I was sitting inside my house in the morning around 8am then I started hearing shouts from outside that our children are back. I went out to confirm only to hear my daughter calling my name.

Did anybody tell you that your daughters would return today?

No. Because up till this moment, even the school management has not us officially that our daughters were abducted. We were just praying for their safe return and, Alhamdulillah, they have arrived back to us.

How did the terrorists enter Dapchi with the girls?

They came through the road that they used the first time. They just brought our daughters; they didn't talk to anybody nor did they allow anyone to get very close to them.

Did they terrorist stay long in the town?

No. They stayed for just less than 30 minutes.

How is your daughter now?

She looks fine on the outside, but I don't know what may be wrong with her except when she goes to the hospital and they are not with us now. We’re told that the President has asked that they should be taken to the hospital for examination.

Is Dapchi safe now?

Nothing special. The security people are not doing anything special. Even when the terrorists brought our daughters back we didn’t see them.

Rakiya Adamu, SS2 student of Government Girls Science and Technical College Dapchi, was among the students that escaped when Boko Haram struck on February 19:

What happened on that day?

We were in school waiting for the Magrib prayer, when we started hearing gunshots all over our school. We started running with our teachers also looking for where to hide. We ran and jumped the fence of the school and started running towards the bush. As we became tired, we saw one village and asked them for help. They gave us accommodation and we stayed over. By Tuesday morning, the school management got the information about where we were and sent a bus to take us all back to school.

Can you describe how the terrorists looked like?

The terrorists wore Nigerian Army uniform and some of them were running toward us, shouting, ‘Come to us, we will help you!’ We ignored them and just continued to run and run.

Will you go back to the school if your friends were back?

No. I will not go back to Dapchi again, but I will continue with my education in another school.

Did you know that Buhari was coming?

I didn’t know. On Wednesday morning my mother told me to go to Dapchi with her (I am from Jakusko). I didn’t know it had to do with the President’s visit.

Where you allowed to see him during the visit?

Yes. We waited for him in the dining hall of the school; that was where we saw him.

Did you get to talk with him?

No. None of us children got the chance to speak on that day. All we just want is for him to bring back our friends. There’s nothing to say, let him just rescue them, that’s all.

Harira Halilu Damagum (Mother of Sahura Jibrin abducted SS1 student):

We are in a hectic situation. No one can imagine what we’re feeling or going through. We urge the government to please help us and bring back our girls to us.”

Ibrahim Yusuf (Resident whose house is located near the school):

What did you see on that day?

I heard gunshots all over the town around 6:30pn and later I saw the terrorists wearing Nigerian Army uniforms. They came into the town with nine vehicles: seven Hilux vans and two Tata trucks, full ammunition.

Was there any attempt to reach the army or the security forces before, during or immediately after the attack?

The incident happened immediately after the redeployment of troops from the town. No military or police officer showed up until after the attack.

How long did the operation last?

The operation lasted for just one hour.

Did you know any of the girls kidnapped?

I know six of them; we stay in the same area in Dapchi town.

How do you remember them?

We used to meet in front of the house of the head of our ward for marriage ceremonies or any such social gatherings.

Are you satisfied with the security in Dapchi now?

No. We have not seen anything like this before. There are even rumors that the terrorists may come back and there is still no soldier patrolling the town.

How is Dapchi without the girls?

Let me say Dapchi is half-dead. If you go round the town, there’s hardly any household where a girl is not missing. The town is half-dead.

Was there any attempt by the community to secure itself especially after Buni Yadi and Chibok?

The abduction of over 200 Chibok girls was scary. But what can we do?

Mustapha Mohamed Dapchi (Vice-Chairman Youth Assembly of Nigeria Yobe State chapter and a resident of Dapchi):

What happened on that day, the day the girls were kidnapped?

At around 6.30 in the evening I saw people running all around the town, shouting for help. I saw Hilux buses fully loaded with some people with Nigerian Army uniforms with ammunitions then I saw another cars and Hilux vans and people inside are wearing Nigerian Army uniforms.

Did you try to make any call for help?

No, there was no one to call to. They withdrew them (the soldiers) three weeks to the abduction. When I went to the police station to report as the attack was going on, I found out that the DPO was not around.

How long did the operation last?

The operation lasted for just one hour.

Do you know any of the girls kidnapped?

Yes, up to 20 of them. We stayed in the same area with them; seven of them are my relatives.

How do you remember them?

I used to see two of them everyday when they were home on break. They are my cousins and they used to come to me.

Did you witness the stoning of the governor?

Yes. We stoned him (the governor) because he lied to us that he would bring back our daughters to us the day he will come. When he came, he didn't come with any of the girls. We are frustrated that was why we stoned him and we have no any regrets for doing that.

How is Dapchi now without the girls?

Dapchi is sad; our people are very, very unhappy and you can see in every home, everywhere you go. I’ve tried to see the schoolteachers and the Principal no one is willing to talk. They are saying we should go to the State Commissioner for Education. We’re on our own

Did you know that Buhari was coming?

Yes I knew, four days to his visit. The Chairman of Dapchi Local Government told me that he is coming and asked me to mobilize the youth of the town and discuss on how to welcome him.

Where you allowed to see him during the visit?

Yes, both the parents and some of the members of the town were allowed to enter the hall and see him.

Did any of the affected parents or member of the town get chance to tell Buhari how they feel and what you expect the government to do?

No. Only the principal, the district head and the Chairman of the Dapchi parent abducted girls that spoke on that day.

Did he make any promise to you?

Yes he assured us that our children would soon be rescued because efforts are going on to rescue them.

Do you think Buhari's government has done enough so far?

Actually the administration has done well because the President has shown us concern by sending his representatives immediately the incident.

If you were giving chance to speak with him one on one during his visit to Dapchi, what would you told him?

I will thank him based on the concern he has shown to us and I will also urge him to please recue our girls because their parents are in trouble.

Malam Dapchi (after the release of the girls)

What happened today March 21 (day the girls were returned)?

I was sitting in front of my house when I saw people running up and down. Later I saw nine trucks, full of people and ammunition. The terrorists were saying, “Don't run we didn't come for you!” Three of the trucks were carrying of our daughters. They discharged them and asked them to return to their houses.

Have they returned all the 110 abducted girls?

Yes, most if not all of them.

How is the security situation of Dapchi now?

The situation is OK.

Written by The Interview Magazine

The Interview is a niche publication, targeting leaders and aspiring leaders in business, politics, entertainment, sports, arts, the professions and others within society’s upper middle class and high-end segment.

Tunji Awonusi

Know Your Will Power

Road To The Interview March 2018