BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN, Kaduna
Barely 24 hours after the students of College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, were released, Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, hinted yesterday that efforts to secure the release of the remaining students of Greenfield University were in top gear.
He spoke when he received parents of the released Afaka students who paid him a thank you visit at his Kaduna residence for the role he played in securing the release of their children.
The parents were led by their chairman, Mallam Usman Abdullahi and secretary, Catherine Y. Saleh.
The parents who met the Islamic cleric behind closed doors thanked him and begged him to help convey their appreciation to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who they said worked alongside the cleric in the struggle to bring back their children from the bandits’ den.
Shiehk Gumi, while fielding questions from journalists after meeting with the parents, said, “The role myself and former President Olusegun Obasanjo played in the release of the 27 Afaka students is the role of mediators because the fight is not between us and them, but between the bandits and the government.
“What we understand is that these people are trying to attack the government by attacking the government institutions and taking innocent children. Having understood that, we came to the conclusion that this is not a hopeless situation. We can really go in and negotiate for the release of these children, which we did after so much ups and downs. But in the long run, a conclusion was reached and these children are out.
“So, we are happy that all of them are out and none was killed”.
On the abducted Greenfield University students, he said, “The talk with the Greenfield University students’ abductors is also going on. You know they threatened to kill all of them after a particular deadline, but after talking to them, they are now lowering their bar.
“So, we are thankful they have stopped killing and we are still negotiating with them. I hope this Afaka case will also encourage them to know that there is hope in negotiation and release the children eventually.”
On the reported swap of a bandit for the released Afaka students, Sheikh Gumi said, “I cannot confirm that, but I can quote the governor of Kaduna State when the children of Chibok were kidnapped by Boko Haram. He said it is the duty of the government to use whatever means possible to save the lives of Chibok girls. This is a general rule that life is more precious. Now, I am happy that 27 lives have been saved.”