The Day The Chibok Girls Were Abducted: An Eye Witness Account
It began while we were sleeping. My husband, Dr. Danladi Saleh, a medical doctor from Chibok, and I had been married just nine days earlier and had spent the day making a long journey to visit his family. We returned to Chibok late and went straight to bed, leaving our phones in the living room. At first we didn’t hear the frantic phone calls from neighbours who had run from their homes because Boko Haram had just invaded the town. No one could reach us.
Two years ago, I woke up at 11pm that night. My husband had stepped outside to turn off the standby generator, but he immediately rushed back inside. He whispered: “The men are in town. Boko Haram are in town.”
The sporadic pops we heard were gunshots. “I guess they are not far from us, judging from the sound,” he said. The shooting grew worse as time passed. We laid flat on the floor of our house. I fainted twice and my body shivered. My life flashed before my eyes. I wondered if this was the end of life for me – for my husband.
After some time, we tried to find the quickest route to safety. We cut across compounds and jumped over walls. At one point I found myself face-to-face with a young man who was clearly a member of the extremist sect. He couldn’t have been older than 15. To this day, I still cannot understand why he didn’t harm me.
Finally we ran low through the farmlands to a rocky hill where most of the village had gathered. I was terrified and confused. From the rock where we hid, we could see torchlights and small fires. We could hear the heavy sounds of shooting. They may have had a rocket launcher too, because the ground beneath us shook countless times. We waited through the night.
In the early hours when it appeared safe, the men ran towards the market and the local college, which was on fire. It was only then we confirmed that not only had Boko Haram destroyed many properties in the town, they had also kidnapped the now famous school girls – our daughters, sisters, cousins and friends.
In the Nigerian media, a lot of conspiracy theories have circulated, questioning whether the kidnapping was real. I can say as a first-hand witness, who saw the trucks leave the town, that this is real.
But two years on since this tragic day, there is hope.
The first glimmer came when 53 of the 267 women who were kidnapped that night, escaped and found their way back home.
Alongside my husband, I have worked to provide psycho-social counselling to the young women who have returned. Though they have shown immense resilience, such a terrifying experience can cause trauma that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
They face the burden of guilt as they ask themselves why they were able to escape when their schoolmates are still in captivity. But the Chibok community is also traumatised – many members who have lost children have no idea where they are or if they are alive.
Recently, I worked as a producer on a soon to be released short documentary, tentatively titled Still We Wait. It focuses on the strength of the girls who escaped while giving them a platform to tell their stories. What is startlingly clear from these testimonies is that despite the trauma, they are not simply victims. They are actively pursuing their education in defiance of the people who wish to prevent northern Nigerian women from attending school.
For me, 14 April is not just a day on the calendar. For the girls abducted and their families, for those of us who witnessed the tragedy, 14 April is every day until the war is over, Boko Haram is crushed, and our captive girls are freed.
It’s great to have hashtags that capture attention, but the only way we’re going to get these young women back is if we continue to put pressure on the Nigerian government, even when the world isn’t watching.
We must keep fighting for the freedom of the Chibok women, and for the countless others who have experienced trauma and loss at the hands of Boko Haram.
Source: Ventures Africa