When terrorists invaded Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, on Thursday, June 17, 2021, the Vice Principal of the school, Mukhtar Abdullahi Gulma, handed himself over to the gunmen in exchange for the release of the 104 students the terrorists wanted to take with them.
“I was ready to die for my students to regain their freedom,” Gulma tells Quest Times exclusively, his voice laden with emotion.
The terrorists didn’t take Gulma’s offer, however.
Gulma and his students were corralled into the heart of a forest in the middle of nowhere, sometimes in blindfolds.
“We thought we were going to die,” he says. “Thankfully, we were treated decently, given food when we were hungry and all of that. But one never knew if each day was going to be the last…” he trails off.
On January 8, 2022, security forces secured the release of 30 of the students, including Gulma.
Another batch of 30 students had been released on October 21, 2021.
Gulma tells Quest Times that 15 of the students remain in captivity and that he is praying that they are released to the warm embraces of their parents and guardians, unscathed.
On if spending six months as a captive of terrorists has shaken his faith in Nigeria, Gulma says; “No, no. Every nation goes through challenges. It’s always darkest before dawn. China, which everyone references today as a great nation, had its own fair share of challenges.
“I believe that the government and security forces are doing their best to improve the security situation across the country,” he says.
On how the students felt inside the terrorists’ den, he says; “of course they were very scared. But I used to tell them that I would rather die, if it came to that, than allow the gunmen to hurt any one of them.”
Mallam Yahaya Sarki, the Special Adviser on Media to Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State says Gulma and the freed students will “undergo medical screening and support while being re-united with their families.”
For the moment, Gulma has been making trips to Government House in Kebbi, to relay what he saw and to share ideas on how a recurrence of that sad day in June, can be forestalled.
He tells Quest Times that details of his meetings with security chiefs in Kebbi remain classified for the moment.
Not all heroes wear capes, they say. Some, like Mallam Gulma, are graduates of English/Education from the Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.