Prior to the latest bomb blast incident at the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigerians had been indifferent and laid-back about the happenings in the Northeastern region. This one had everyone panicking. It was one of those rare moments, where Nigerians abandoned their dichotomous relationships; ranging from religious, ethnic and social class differences, to show solidarity and ask questions about security and also pile more pressure on Abuja for a swift response, to the already exploding, national tragedy.
As the people would expect, the state owned TV, NTA, rather became too political about it, although, the international media and social media weren’t kind with words. There was immense pressure from those at the helm of global affairs to bring solutions to this tragedy. The Commissioner of Police pleaded with the Inspector General to deploy another 145 troops to mount round the most volatile and crime-ridden parts of the state. Helicopters, binoculars, AK47 guns, bullets and vests were supplied in abundance, as the 207 policemen were getting poised to launch a full scale attack on the hoodlums. The grand plan was to not only kill them, but to destroy their leader. The aim was to get those girls out alive, so that there will be less pressure and unwanted publicity by the western media. The following day, the policemen were divided into groups of ten, meaning that about twenty groups were deployed to different areas of the State. News had it that the areas closer to the borders with Chad and Niger, were the most porous.
Halima felt so sore and weak. She hadn’t eaten for two days. One would think they had enough to eat. They mostly ate bread and drank water – stream water, and sometimes, rain water. Zainab had a conviction that the suffering would be over. Halima and the girls often wondered what kind of person she was. Also through their perils, she had never been mournful or teary-eyed. She had been the most optimistic one among the group. That day, she was selected to fetch water at the stream and obediently, she followed one of the terrorists, who had a scruffy goaty. She picked two 25 litre rubber kegs, as the man looked carefully. In order not to allow any discrepancies, the men usually monitored the girls when they fetched water from the stream. Hardly had they gone far, when Zainab started hearing some rattling sounds. Minor sounds of trucks were beaming from afar. Luckily for her, the terrorist who escorted her to the stream couldn’t hear the sounds. It was possible he had CAPD(Central auditory processing disorder). He usually found it difficult to make meanings out of sounds, unless, they were significantly close by.
Zainab’s curiosity increased as the decibels of sound from the trucks increased. Could that be another group of militants converging to their site? Could it be that same truck being used by their abductors? “Wait a minute!”, she exclaimed in her mind, while scooping water into the buckets. This could be a war tank or even police vehicles. As the terrorist escort started hearing the sound of different trucks revving towards them, he started firing in the air, to alarm his mates and in less than five seconds, disperse sounds of gun fire was in the air. Alarmed at this, Zainab ran away into the upper part of the stream, which was covered with thick bush. The continuous firing put fear into her mind, as she ran further into the bushy part. The trucks eventually caught up with them.
“Do not shoot, I beg you in the name of God”. “Lie down”, yelled one of the sergeants, named Okoro. “They kidnapped us, the Boko Haram militants”, Zainab said, in a shaky voice. As she lay down flat, she muttered the word “terrorist” continually. Soon a sporadic shooting broke out between two police men and the guy who escorted Zainab to the stream. It was at the seventh shot, that the bullet scraped his left hip. As he got tired, he was captured, handcuffed and chained on the legs, then an inquisition followed suite. The policemen in their characteristic manner, tried to beat the truth out of the captured militant. Eventually, he threw in the towel and showed them where the rest of the terrorists were.
Halima had almost died of fear. She couldn’t withstand the perils anymore. She felt it was high time death came nearer and devoured her. The endless gunshots kept reminding her of what had happened in the last few weeks. Poor Halima, she may have not fully recovered from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Similar events, which happened that day at the market, triggered the condition. “If you move, I shoot”, yelled Sergeant Okoro. His men had already ambushed the part of the forest, where the militants stayed. Handcuffs clinked against each other, until they became separate and tied the hands of each hoodlum. Chains rattled simultaneously, as the did what the handcuffs did, now, on their feet. Some other police men went into the batchers (shanty), and finally rescued the 18 girls. Relief aids like food and water were provided and clothes were given to them as well. The militants in their foolishness (which was the gain of the society) got tracked through some of their member’s mobile phones. The telecommunications companies tracked mobile devices in unusual locations, and some of their results matched with areas which were under scrutiny by the security authorities. This gave the police a clue about the whereabouts of the hoodlums.
Uhuru at last! The police assured the girls of their safety, as they were led into the trucks. Halima kept quiet in shock and disbelief, as she must have to undergo therapy, in order to get over with the trauma. Those must have been the worst few weeks of her life, and one to forget. Zainab and the other girls could only shed tears, while they covered their heads. The sun shined on the milliner trees, as the trucks navigated the forest tracks. Steadily, they rode into the sunset, and the girls had hope at last. It proved that the security officials were still useful to the average Nigerian, but in real sense, the battle against Boko had just begun.