Monday, December 21, 2020 6:11 am
By Dons Eze
When we consider the kidnap of hundreds of students at Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, penultimate week, we begin to see that many things did not add up well. There were many loose ends, which have made us begin to think twice about the whole issue.
First, President Muhammadu Buhari arrived his home state, Katsina, on a holiday. The same day he arrived, bandits stormed the Kankara school in the same Katsina State and took away hundreds of boys. They travelled hundreds of kilometers on foot with the boys, and nobody noticed the movement, even with high security beef up in Katsina State following the President’s presence there.
Again, when they decided to let us know about the kidnap, they began to sing different tunes. The Presidency, through the loquacious Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said only 10 students were kidnapped from the school. The Chief Security Officer of the state, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, said the number of students abducted from Kankara, were 333.
Again, they paraded one student said to be among those abducted, but who miraculously escaped, and the boy told us that their abductors had asked him to count the number of abductees in their den, and he counted 540 of them.
The authoritative Northern Nigeria based newspaper, the Daily Trust, said their correspondent visited Kankara, and through the school register, was able to establish that the number of students missing were 668.
But when later news about the rescue of the students was released, they put the number at 344; not 10, not 333, not 540, and not 668, as variously bandied. Interestingly, all the abducted students were returned safely, with no scratch, no injury, nobody fainted, nobody died, in spite of the fact that the boys travelled hundreds of kilometers on foot, and might have gone through serious trauma, emotional breakdown, and perhaps, inhuman treatments in the hands of their captors.
At first, when news abiut the kidnap of the students were announced, the Minister of Defence said they knew where the boys were kept, and that the military would soon storm the place to rescue them, while Governor Masari said he was in contact with the abductors and were negotiating with them for the release of the boys.
While all these things were going on, the Commander-in-Chief was not disturbed. He was fully relaxed and enjoying his holiday. He even took out time to visit his cows, but spurned those who wanted him to visit Kankara and have first hand information about what happened, or give comforting words to traumatized parents of the abductees.
Six days later, Governor Masari told us that the abducted students have been released and that it was Miyetti Allah, a group of cattle rears, that facilitated their release. Everybody was happy, and began to sing alleluia.
But the Nigerian military was not happy about the claim that it was Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria that facilitated the release of the boys.
A Defence Headquarters spokesman, John Enenche, posited that it was the military that rescued the captives, stating that “the members of general public who volunteered information are also appreciated. He said the students were rescued “on the heels of credible intelligence by the gallant troops”, with high degree of professionalism to ensure they were all rescued alive.
His words: “Keeping to its promise to ensure the safe return of all abducted students of Government Science Secondary School Kankara, Katsina State, troops of Operation HADARIN DAJI rescued all 344 abducted students on Thursday 17 December 2020. The Military High Command commends troops of Operation Hadarin Daji, including all security agencies for their dexterity.”
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, came with his own bombshell. According to him, it was through foreign support that the abducted schoolboys were released, but however declined to give details about those foreign individuals or countries that supported Nigeria during the process of rescuing the schoolboys, and the type of help given.
Probably, as a result of these discordant tunes, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere described the Kankara school kidnap episode as a “practical joke” that points to the direction that “Nigeria is finished.”
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, the group said: “We in Afenifere are in serious pain that we are called fellow Nigerians with some people at this sad period when human lives have been made to be totally worthless officially.
“We are not in doubt that the lives of these boys must have been used to swipe the card once again and more money will be available to terrorise Nigerians.”
On our part, we would like to pose the following questions that would help clear some doubts currently raging in our mind, if properly answered.
Were the Kankara boys actually abducted, or was it a stage-managed affair? If it happened, who did the abduction? Boko Haram initially claimed responsibility, but the government said no, that it was done by bandits. Who were these bandits, and what was their purpose for abducting the boys?
Governor Masari had earlier claimed that they were negotiating for the release of the boys. Was it the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria that they were negotiating with, or was it any other body? In other words, were the Miyetti Allah the bandits that abducted the boys?
Between the Miyetti Allah and the Nigerian military, who actually secured the release of the boys? Each is claiming the glory. Let those who know better tell us.
Also, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that foreign countries were involved in securing the release of the boys, who were those foreign countries, and the type of help they rendered?
Until these loose ends were properly tied, we would continue to see the Kankara kidnap saga as a hoax. May be the administration was anxious to redeem their toterring image for not facing squarely the security challenges in the country, or that some terrorist groups were hard-pressed financially, and wanted to make more money from government.
This appears plausible, because we had hardly done away with the Kankara episode when bandits again swooped on another secondary school in Katsina State and took away 84 students. We have just got news that the students have been rescued, perhaps, after paying some heavy ransom, even though the government will continue to deny that no such thing ever happened, even after they have told us that they “negotiated”, for the release of the captives, which in our own thinking, involved the process of give and take.
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI, is a public affairs analyst