No One Can Blame America For The Way They Reacted Towards Farouk's Misadventure - Mbadinuju


Is the activity of Mutallab enough reason Nigeria should be designated a terrorist state, and can the Federal Government be rightly accused of sponsoring terrorism?

Ans.. There is a young man of 23 years old by name Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and a Nigerian born who on 25th December 2009 allegedly attempted the bombing of an American Delta Airline which took off from Amsterdam in Europe and headed to Detroit in Michigan USA. We are told the young Farouk in 2005 enrolled as a student at the University College London and graduated in Engineering in 2008.

During the time he lived and studied in London we are told by one al-Alimi, Deputy Prime Minister of a small and poor nation of Yemen , that Farouk was recruited by al-Qaeda in London and was sent to his country Yemen for training in terrorism. He further revealed that the young Umar Farouk in Yemen met one radical cleric named Anwar-al-Awlaki who happened to be an American- born and linked to one US Army Major Hasan who was an alleged gun man accused of killing 13 soldiers at Fort Hood last November.

What I have said is to help establish the fact that the offence alleged to have been committed by Farouk has absolutely nothing to do with Nigeria . Even on the eventful 25th day of December 2009, the young man in question flew from Ghana , where it is said he has been for some weeks, into Lagos just to catch his KLM flight to Amsterdam . Information has it that he must have spent about 23 minutes at the airport trying to check in with other boarding procedures. This was a rare time Farouk was touching Nigeria since 2005 when he re-located to London . If he traveled with any explosive devices he would not have gotten it from Lagos International Airport where he was in a rush to try to catch his flight. Nigeria 's Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mike Aondoakaa explained in details the departure checks and procedures Farouk passed through. The young man was not given any preferential treatment to suggest that Federal Government of Nigeria might have had any interest in his trip or movements.

So the inference any reasonable man can draw from this short analysis of events is that Nigeria as a country had nothing to do with the events of 25th December as regards the attempted bombing of the said aircraft. And if this is the case Nigeria should not have been placed in this contentious America 's list of terrorist nations because Farouk's action could not have been said to be Nigeria 's action. In this case there must be a distinction between Farouk's action and Nigeria 's action. Just as the American born Anwar-al-Awlaki, a well known terrorist who helped to train Farouk in Yemen was on his own and no one would argue that because he was an American his country has therefore become a terrorist nation. That would be absurd, won't it? But that is the way it should be for Farouk and Nigeria , for what is good for the "American goose" is also good for the "Nigerian gander".

And perhaps just for purpose of argument, if Nigeria must be on the terrorist list because Farouk is Nigerian-born , Ghana too should be in the list as Farouk's journey had started from there, and who knows if the suspected bomb materials were assembled there and or in Togo where the young man frequently visited. If America is not biased against Nigeria there should have been more names on their list. Even London should make the terrorist list because it has been established that Farouk was recruited in London by al-Qaeda. Why in the first place should London harbor al-Qaeda whose job is to recruit, train, and ship terrorists to other nations including Yemen from where Farouk got his assignment?

And finally the Netherlands/Holland ( Amsterdam airport) from where Farouk took off to US, is it not fair that this country should also make the American terrorist list... To place Nigeria on that list without these other nations mentioned would be utterly unjust and un-American. There is compelling case for Nigeria 's name to be deleted forthwith from the American list since the country does not harbor, train, or export terrorists.

Does youthful Farouk with all the overseas influences around him symbolize the true Nigerian character?

Ans. I don't know if there is now a general agreement on what you call "Nigerian Character" but I wish there will be one by the time the rebranding exercise bears fruit. But it is important, given the level of disappointment of Nigerians, that we don't throw away the baby with the bath water, Farouk still remains a bona fide citizen of Nigeria . The crime he is alleged to have committed is quite unfortunate and the whole world including Nigeria have condemned his action. But the young man is still our son, and even as a suspected criminal he should be allowed the rights, privileges and protection due to him. This is where America is second to none, for they can go to any length to protect any US citizen anywhere in the world no matter the type of problem the person ran into. So any attempt by any Nigerian to disown Farouk because of his present predicament will be wrong to say the least. But it must be admitted that the young man's foreign friends and influences while studying and living in London to a large extent helped to destroy not only his character but his life. It was so disappointing that at a time he chose to write his parents cutting himself off from their family ties. He preferred associates from Egypt , Yemen , Togo , Ghana and others, but hardly visited Nigeria . I'm not surprised he boycotted Nigeria because he would not have gotten in Nigeria the type of terrorist companies he kept and enjoyed abroad. I believe that whatever our political failings may be in this country, Nigerians still compare favorably with citizens of whatever country on earth in terms of good nature, industry, and endeavoring to be our brother's keeper. Not that we have got there, or perfect, but every effort is being made. And there must necessarily be bad eggs as can be found in all other countries. But in spite of everything else I still find Nigeria the best place to live, and best country to belong to.

In fact when sometimes I sit down in reflection, my thoughts did go to this young Farouk and I used to wonder what his feelings were as he prepared to undertake this assignment. And perhaps while inside the plane as he sat there he would be counting how many hours more he had to live on this earth before the explosion. In that mood I also believed he has conscience as an average human being. If so he must have thought twice about the mission that would take his life, and the life of other 300 innocent people with him in the flight. Can you ask yourself why he appeared to have failed in trying to detonate the bomb? There must have been several rehearsals as to how to handle everything at every stage. Even with the powder and liquid in his underpants, did his trainers not drill him of how to keep everything safe till the time of explosion?

The question is whether it was not possible that Farouk at a time changed his mind and must have decided not to go ahead with the assignment? And will that not explain why he did not follow the instructions and procedure as rehearsed? And having deliberately done everything wrong to save his life, then all they got was fire without explosion. And to lend credence to this hypothesis those in the flight observed that the young man never struggled against those who rallied round to put off the fire. To Farouk being alive with possibility of jail in America must have been a better option than being burnt alive. If this were so it would have been a great lesson in repentance. He may not have confessed before those holding him prisoner with all the intimidations thereto. But if he remembered to ask God for forgiveness God will have forgiven him even as he still faced man's own judgment. So let's pray that God may have mercy upon this "prodigal" son of Nigeria .

Is the whole Abdulmutallab episode not frustrating anti-climax for Prof Akunyili's rebranding Nigeria project?

Ans. Of course this whole story of young Umar Farouk is a great embarrassment not just for Akunyili's effort at rebranding the country, it is also a set-back for Nigeria , socially, politically, diplomatically and even economically. We don't have the time in this interview for me to examine in details what Nigeria has lost both at home and in the international circle just because of a useless and thoughtless action of one young brat. But be it as it may rebranding should go on except that emphasis should be more on attitudinal behavior of Nigerians in general. In fact it seems to me that the much talked about constitutional amendments and reforms will be a wasted effort if we cannot first reform and rebrand ourselves. And in rebranding ourselves the most important attitude should be to "DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD WANT THEM DO TO YOU". With this there can be no better constitution or law in our interpersonal relationships.

With by-monthly religious crisis in the Northern part of the country, is the Nigerian government attentive enough to the origin of this terrorist labeling?

Ans. I'm not aware of this "by-monthly religious crisis in the North", but I'm aware that once in a while there have been disturbances or what you may call crisis in different parts of the country be it North or South, and they have either been religious, economic, ethnic, political, electoral crisis, youth restiveness and others. This is true of what happens in very many countries. I will not leave any impression that these occasional uprisings and disturbances are native of Nigeria alone, they are universal... In fact Nigerian government is very much aware and is also concerned with such crisis situations.

In its official response to these developments, the Federal Government last October (2009) forwarded a bill on this subject to the National assembly which is presently receiving attention. The fact that Nigeria on her own decided to fight terrorism and its attendant ills by promulgating relevant laws should have been commended, and should not be an occasion to denigrate the country by putting her up as a terrorist nation. I maintain that this categorization is unfortunate as well as a mistake by relevant American policy makers. If indeed Americans admitted that their intelligence network failed as they could not use all the information available to them to stop Farouk from making the Delta airline flight of 25th December 2009, it means that no man or no country is infallible or incapable of making mistakes. Nigeria may have been labeled a terrorist country but we know we are not, and all other nations including America know that Nigeria is not a terrorist country. The labeling is a mistake waiting to be corrected. We know that many nations are jealous of Nigeria the way the country took giant strides in its developmental efforts despite some man-made problems. So if these jealous nations fail to praise our effort and give us the credit we deserve, God and posterity shall surely do so.

Is Ojo Maduekwe's approach of summoning the American envoy to offer explanation appropriate? How would you advise that this delicate relationship with the US be handled?

Ans. Of course the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Maduekwe was right and it is within his prerogative to invite or summon the American Ambassador in Nigeria as he did on this matter. This is normal protocol and diplomatic procedure. For Nigeria and America which two countries have had the best of friendly relations to now begin to quarrel or disagree so openly means a failure of diplomacy and cordiality. It is true that once in a while there is a rubbing of shoulders even by friendly nations but it is usually seen among super-powers, or smaller powers with some minor clashes of interest. But when a super power like America squares up with a middle-power like Nigeria then it is serious, the "game" will in no way be balanced, nor will the two be on the same level playing ground.

My worry in the present Nigeria-American face-off is not so much as who will win or who will lose but rather the sour taste it will leave in the mouth of both countries. It may be an ill-wind that blows no one any good.

But for Nigeria and US, they have come a long way in their relationship, and I don't think that this thing that looks like storm in a tea cup should be allowed to disrupt the apple-cart.

But now many see it as a good development when Nigeria 's Attorney General and Minister of Justice appeared to have soft-pedaled by announcing that Nigeria had decided to tow the line of dialogue and diplomacy in settling with the US on the issue of terrorist list. Am sure that America being very experienced in diplomacy will reciprocate and get back to normal relationship with Nigeria .

Finally as America needs to be commended for its world-wide role in helping nations leave in peace with each other, so has Nigeria done since her independence in the area of peace-keeping initiatives under the United Nations in every part of the world to restore peace where it has broken down, or preserve it where there is threat or likelihood it may break down. The two countries, Nigeria and America , are like two sides of the same coin in their history, political experiences and outlook. Other nations should not keep quiet, they should mediate, encourage, not discourage.

Has Obama been completely fair to Nigeria since he became the US President?

Ans. What Nigeria , and indeed the rest of Africa should know is that the man Barrack Obama with root in Kenya is not only an American but an American President. Every American President takes an oath not only to defend and protect the constitution of the United States but also to take care of the welfare and security of the citizens of the United States of America wheresoever they can be found all over the world. So for Obama, America comes first, then all other things follow in their order of priority as to how they affect America interest.

When the euphoria of producing the first President of America with African origin died down, the nations of Africa and the Third World came to the sobering knowledge that Obama will not by himself pull up African nations by their bootstrap. In fact in his speeches affecting Africa and her peoples, Obama has always emphasized that Africans must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. No one will do it for them, they will do it themselves.

When Nigerians were busy sweating and collecting funds in "Ghana must go bags" which funds were intended for Obama to assist him win the election a year ago, not only did they realize that Obama had raised more fund that he needed, and that it was unlawful for him to have received foreign funds, Nigerians still remained faithful and hopeful that Obama will not forget them when the chips were down. However the first decision Obama made to visit Ghana first and not Nigeria was an eye-opener and a pointer to what is to come. Soon after that Obama sent his Secretary of State Clinton who practically 'abused' Nigerians in their own home, and told them off without any form of diplomatic nicety. And just as Nigerians were about reconciling these things Obama had done unto them, he chose to visit the sin of one young Farouk upon 150 million innocent Nigerians. Obama as a lawyer of Harvard fame forgot that there is NO VICARIOUS LIABILITY IN CRIME, in terms of visiting the sin of one person upon others. But still Obama went ahead, despite all protestations, to label and libel Nigeria as a terrorist nation. Some people see Obama's unfriendly action as aggression, and a subtle testing of the ground to invade Nigeria at a later date in search of non-existent terrorists in the country, or as some say to try to take control of the Niger Delta and the source of Nigeria's oil wealth, as a kind of repeat of American incursion into Iraq also looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So can it be said that Obama hates Nigeria? Will the answer be "Res Ipsa Loquitor?

However what Nigerians should know is that while this is Obama Presidency, President Obama does not rule alone. And as regards Farouk's misadventure you can hardly find any American who will speak well of Farouk, and if no American could speak well of Farouk why should Obama? What Americans and their President are basing their action or reaction on is the near blowing up of an American Aircraft with about 300 passengers mostly Americans which came on the heels of September 11 2001 with a huge loss of more than 3000 human beings. I dont think anyone can blame America for the way they reacted towards Farouk's misadventure.

But having said that we know the deed has been done, and by God's grace and intervention either young Farouk changed his mind and failed to detonate the bomb as rehearsed, or he was stopped by the timely intervention of God's human agents in the flight. Whatever is the case it was not by might, nor by power of America, or anyone else that the plane was saved. It was indeed an act of God. And I keep remembering America 's inscription on their money which says: "IN GOD WE TRUST". So we can say that it is American trust in God that saved the situation. So we see that Obama does not really hate anybody, not even Nigerians. Just as Nigerians are not happy with what young Farouk did to have become the first example of a Nigerian terrorist, whether he succeeded or not; so also should Americans be unhappy with Nigeria, Farouk being a Nigerian-born. And so not minding whatever good relationship both countries have enjoyed, or even the quantity or quality of Nigeria's oil which America is said to depend upon, it will be unfair not to expect US to show anger as to the events of 25th December. Let's always remember to "do unto others what we would want them do to us".

Having said this much I will urge both Nigeria and US to close rank and keep thanking God that no life or materials were lost. If God allowed any plane to explode it would be so. But in this particular case no one, even America with its might and huge intelligence net-work could have saved the situation. And so none could take the credit for saving the plane and its passengers, but God used his human agents and did a miracle. As the Bible would say in the Book of Psalms 118:23-24 "This is the Lord's doing: it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

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