All was well for the Ismails until a strange phone call the in the morning of Saturday, December 12. It was a day after over 300 schoolboys were seized from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State.
Sixteen-year-old Musa Ismail, their son is a Secondary Secondary School student 2 in the school.
“On Saturday morning, his father was called by the school authorities to ask if our son Musa had come back home to which he replied no,” said Hadiza Aliyu, Musa’s mother as she narrates her experience to HumAngle.
The couple, before that morning and indeed the call from the school management, was not aware of the incident.
“That was when we were informed of the horrible incident,” Mama Musa as she is called in her neighbourhood in Kaduna recalled. “Words cannot express the confusion I felt, many thoughts were running through my head and I felt sick after crying for long. I lost my appetite and couldn’t eat nor sleep.”
Many Thoughts, Many Possibilities And Lost Hope
With the breaking of the sad news, their family home became a “Mecca” of sort to sympathisers.
But as they came to console with the family, so they brought with them terrifying thoughts and possibilities – what could have happened to Musa and the remaining boys in the hands of their abductors.
More than being consoled, the family was more depressed and traumatised.
“Many people started trooping in to console me and they brought along rumours which worsened my fear, some people said the school children were recruited by Boko Haram and we will never set eyes on our son again,” said Musa’s mother.
For a mother whose son is in the hand of notorious terror group, Boko Haram, the thought of him being alive is a slim chance- he and others are more likely dead, the visitors had suggested and the family also did not have many alternatives on the fate of their ward.
“While others said they were killed already. After hearing all these and knowing the story of previous abducted school children like Dapchi and Chibok girls, I became too weak to even pray, I lost all hope of ever seeing my son again,” she lamented.
While the terror group came out to claim responsibility for the abduction of the schoolboys as it did for the Chibok girls and Dapchi girls to discourage patronage of Western education, the government said it was negotiating with the terrorists to secure their release.
But the Ismails like many other families were regretting sending their children to a boarding school. Musa, they thought, should have been enrolled in a nearby school in Kaduna.
“That night, when my husband came back, he said that the government were in talks with the abductors and we should just be prayerful. I regretted sending my son to a boarding school in another state, had I known we would have enrolled him in any school close to us here in Kaduna.”
On the third day, the government had begun negotiations with the abductors. Musa’s parents organised special prayers and fasting for the safe return of their child. They were in serious panic and fear.
“By the third day, I told my husband to sell our house and any other things we have in order to pay any ransom they request because I did not trust the government, even though that would have amounted to us being homeless. All I wanted at all cost, was just the safe return of my child” Mama Musa said..
The Much Awaited Return
No one expected the quick return of the abducted boys or all of them returning alive, particularly when it was difficult to establish how many of them were abducted.
Aminu Masari, Governor of Katsina State had said 330 boys were taken by their abductors, Abubakar Shekau led faction of Boko Haram that claimed responsibility for their abduction said it had 523 boys in its captivity.
After spending four gruelling days in captivity, the schoolboys were released, each parent was asked to come and pick their wards.
As for this family, Musa was already dead, they had thought and the government only wanted them to come for his body- both the husband and wife never believed their son could come back home again.
” When my husband received a call from the school authorities to come and pick his son, I was sceptical about it,” she narrated.
“I told him maybe they were lying and they just wanted him to collect the corpse, all my thoughts were that the children had been killed and the corpses recovered because it is unbelievable in Nigeria for school children to be abducted and released within a week, not to forget that some of the Chibok schoolgirls are still in captivity.”
Nevertheless, Mrs Ismail said she to her husband ‘not come back unless he receives the corpse and bring it back home’. The optimistic father admonished her on saying “such rubbish.”
The Reunion, The Fear
After spending a night in Katsina, both father and son came back alive. The mother’s joy knew no bounds as she reunited with her son again but not with some fears of unknown.
“When both my husband and son came into the house, I was overfilled with joy that I almost fainted, but deep down I was scared. Scared that they must have initiated my son and brainwashed him into terrorism”
I kept the thoughts aside as I hurriedly prepared his bathing water. He took his bath and ate, although he couldn’t eat much. His legs were sore with bruises and on his back were bruised whiplashes, she narrated.
The days after were marked by visitations from families and friends on the safe arrival of Musa.
” The next day, we began treating him using both modern and traditional medicines because he was weak and had a low appetite.”
The family she said did special prayers were done for Musa as people from far and near came to felicitate with them on the safe arrival of their son.
Then came the moment Musa shared part of his ordeals in the hands of the terrorists in the following day.
“After the next day, he felt stronger and narrated his ordeals in the hands of the abductors. He said they walked for the whole night and the next day,” she narrated.
“They were whipped with lashes and hit with the butt of big rifles as they walked in a row. Every morning they were given one raw sweet potato to be shared by three people which served as the only food for the whole day.”
In the days that followed, the terrified mother still observed her son’s movements and behaviour. She needed to be sure Musa is completely free from any influence from the group.
“During the following days, I monitored all his activities because I was still terrified that he might have been brainwashed. Fortunately, so far, I can say that nothing has changed in his habits and I feel a little at ease.”
When asked if she can allow him to go back to school, she says “I won’t allow him to go back to a boarding school, we will look for any school nearby and enrol him into. I’ll never forget the pain and agony I went through during this trying period”.
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