Before Monday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 15, 2014, when about 300 female students were kidnapped from their Government Secondary School hostel in the town of Chibok, Borno State, very little was known about the Christian community. The kidnappings were claimed by Boko Haram. Although some of the girls escaped, more than 200 female students are still missing. The Islamic group said it wants to sell the girls. The Nigerian government has been heavily criticised for failing to protect the population and end Boko Haram terrorist actions.
In the absence of a coordinated official figures, reports indicate that out of the initial number of girls in the hostel on fateful night, eight girls escaped from the kidnappers and have since been reconciled with their parents. Sunday Vanguard met with four of the escapee girls whose heroic accounts are recorded below.
First is Saratu Isa, 19, who wants to become a teacher some day. Narrating her story, she told Sunday Vanguard that after their SSCE papers on the fateful day, they retired to their hostel to rest and prepare for the next day?s papers.
In the night, they slept. She woke sometime later. She also woke up her friend, Comfort Ayuba (born on March 28, 1997), and asked her if she heard the rumour that Boko Haram was about to invade the school. The friend said it was a lie, yet they attempted to locate a safe corner within the hostel to use as hideout if the Islamic terrorists eventually entered the school.
But before they could secure a hideout, they started hearing barking orders to other girls in the hostel. ?The claim of people saying that the jihadists came to the school with so many vehicles is not true. No! Their vehicles were packed far away inside the bush. They came in and told us they had come to protect us from an impending danger, since there was no security in the school and immediately they started assembling us in a single file and marching us to the bush.?
It was at that point that some of the girls started having hunches but it was too late to do anything because the invaders, armed to the teeth and dressed in army uniform, were barking orders that any girl who attempted to play games would be killed and it was obvious that they were not joking.
CHIBOK GIRLS?Schoolgirls who have escaped from Boko Haram kidnappers in the village of Chibok, arrive at the Government House to speak with Governor Kashim Shettima in Maiduguri, yesterday. Shettima met with 28 schoolgirls that escaped from the abductors, their parents and parents of more than 200 missing girls to seek ways of assisting them.
CHIBOK GIRLS?Schoolgirls who have escaped from Boko Haram kidnappers in the village of Chibok,
Three girls were saved by divine intervention. According to Saratu, two Christians and one Muslim who arrived the park late and wanted to play a fast one. The insurgents asked them their religion and one of the Christians said she was a Muslim. The Muslim identified herself but the third girl didn?t deny her religion. She said she was a Christian. They asked her to change her religion or be killed; she said she would rather die than change her religion.
This dialogue ensued:
Boko Haram: Didn?t we ask you not to go to English School?
Christian Girl: I was born here in Chibok and have never been to any Taboc School. I was born into a Christian home and will remain a Christian.
So the three girls were asked to lie down and that they were going to kill them, beginning with the unrepentant Christian. Without displaying any emotion, the Christian girl was the first to lie down saying they should go ahead and kill her.
And a debate among the Boko Haram men, with some of them saying they should kill the kafir (infidel) while others argued against it. So she was asked to get up. We were all still in the bush where the vehicles were. The Boko Haram men continued their argument as to whether to kill or not to kill the Christian. Soon the vehicles the men brought were full and there was no space for the three girls. So they were asked to go. So the three of them left and started heading home.
?We trekked the long distance into the bush where they had parked their lorries and other vehicles. Soon after, the vehicles began a voyage into the forest. We were five that were locked up in the booth of a car and we had no means of knowing how long; the journey took. We were just there until God knows how long; then they came to a final stop. While we were moving, the five of us were praying and hoping that people or the army would pursue and catch up with them. Eventually we entered Sambisa. When we entered Sambisa, we were given bread and water and told to eat. Of course, the girls were too angry to accept the offer of food. So, they refused to eat. The men attempted to persuade them to eat.
?On arrival, we discovered that an earlier batch had arrived the same destination that looked like the camp of militants. As soon as we arrived, Comfort came up with an idea that we look for a convenient place to ease ourselves. We told the men that we needed to ease ourselves and they allowed the three of us to go. After we walked some distance from the camp, Comfort said we should make haste and run away.
?The third girl, a Muslim, with fear written all over her, said we should not run away when we had not eaten and weak; but Comfort insisted that that was the only chance we had to escape. She added that she would not die in this forest?.
Saratu followed her while the third girl returned to the camp.
?We kept walking away from Sambisa forest. As we progressed in the escape bid, we met one man. He didn?t say anything to us. We didn?t know what he was doing inside the forest but we were too afraid to find out. Later, we met another woman who also didn?t talk to us.
?Eventually, we came to one village and met one Fulani man who gave us water and food. We were too hungry and thirsty and so we ate. He directed us where to follow to our village and so we continued the journey until we met two men . The men were kind; gave us water and clothes to change the ones we wore. Initially, we refused because we were afraid. We kept going, but one of the men followed us, saying they were only trying to help.
?As we went on, we met another man who told us to come and sleep in his house because it was night already and we entered the house, believing God had planted angels on our path to freedom. We entered and slept in his house. The man woke us up at about 3:00 a.m. and told us that the village people were wicked and if they found out we were there, they would kill us. He directed us where to follow, warning that if we saw any motorcycle or vehicle, we should enter the bush.
?He insisted that we should avoid being noticed by anybody. The man told us that when we hear a call to prayers, we should stop wherever we are until the prayer is finished. We saw a man and asked him direction to our village and he told us. We continued until we arrived Chibok where we met the army personnel. After narrating our story, they took us to the barracks where we took our bath and were given food to eat?. Altogether, they spent five days between the time they were captured and the time they returned home.
Rahab Yaya: No food, water for days
Rahab Yaya was born on August 8,
1998 in Chibok. Her escape story: ?Like Saratu and Comfort, we also decided that there was no way the night would meet us in that thick forest. So, we followed the example of our two colleagues, pretending we needed to ease ourselves and, after much pleading, they allowed us thinking that we would be afraid and return in no time because of the fearful nature of the forest. We walked a long distance and always making sure none of the men was trailing us.
?All through the night, we continued our journey to freedom. We went without food and water for several days, hoping we would see persons who would be sympathetic to our plight.
?But no help came until dawn, the next day, when a Good Samaritan who heard our story, out of pity, gave us bread and water. He told us to be careful because the insurgents were operating in the neighborhood, seeking who to kidnap. With renewed strength, we continued even when we didn?t know where we were going.
According to her, after several days of a seemingly unending trauma, without clean up and any change of clothes, they eventually arrived Chibok to the warm embrace of their parents who had searched everywhere for them and immediately people recommended that they go to hospitals for necessary treatment.
I want to be Nigeria?s Malala, says Comfort Ayuba
Comfort Ayuba was born on March 28, 1997. She told Sunday Vanguard that if she had an opportunity to continue her education, she would like to be a lawyer just like her counterpart, Rejoice Yabia, who will be 18 on October 20. Comfort was the heroine of the Saratu Isa?s narration above.
Without displaying any revolutionary mien, Comfort explained why she decided to opt for a life of championing the cause of female members of the society.
?I have decided that, just like the Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, I am 17 years, and will devote the rest of my life to help my fellow womenfolk because the other girls and I were inside the forest together but I just had the opportunity to come out. Others didn?t have the opportunity; only a few of us did.
?So I have made up my mind to speak out against practices against the women and the silent girls who are still languishing in the forest at the mercy of a militant group, so that people will hear and come out like I did. Malala also had a similar experience and she came out,? Comfort boasted, vowing that she hopes to proceed to read law.
She maintained that the only way for the several imbalances in this country would reduced is for people to come out to speak against them, noting ?I want to talk on behalf of the girls so that people will hear and bring the girls out.?
What does she think was the aim of the Boko Haram for abducting the girls?
Her reply: ?The Boko Haram said education is not good for girls. They should go and get married. They told us there in the forest that it was an error for us to go to school instead of matrimonial homes. They also wanted us to convert to Islam.
?Majority of the girls in our school are Christians. Only a few of us are Muslims. They took us there with the aim of converting us to Islam after which they would marry out?.
Asked if she had heard anything from her friends still in the forest; her answer was in the negative, pointing out that nobody has been able to contact them.
Does she know if the girls remaining in the forest are being molested?
She was not in a position to know. ?There are so many stories going around but I cannot tell since I have no communication with them. And none of them has escaped since then besides the eight of us who managed to escape?.
During the journey to the forest, were they being fed? She disclosed that the insurgents gave them bread, milk and malt once but they refused to eat because they were crying.
?The men were calling us idols and all sorts of names. They said their aim was to stop us from going to school?, she stated.
Comfort also confirmed that there were no less than 350 girls in the school that night, saying, however, that some of them ran away when the men entered the school.
Were there no teachers living in the school compound, our correspondent asked.
?There are teachers living in the school but they all ran away. So there was no form of protection at all. They burnt the school completely,? she said.
Do they still want to go to school? The four girls chorused their desire to return to school as soon as possible. Rejoice Yabia and Rahab Yaya would like to read medicine; Comfort is interested in the legal profession while Saratu Isa would settle for teaching.