2011: Abuja Bombing and the security challenges
In few months time, Nigeria, the giant of Africa is expected to conduct general election to usher in a new set of political leadership for the country. Already, billions of human and material resources have been earmarked for this exercise. As part of the various
efforts for the government to have smooth conduct of the 2011 general elections, some security measures are being taken to forestall any thing that would negatively affect the election, which is expected to be free, fair and credible. We believe that part of the security measures adopted by the government was the recent overhauling of its security chiefs and the appointment of new ones.
In spite of these developments, it appears that all is still not well with the country security system. Even after the security measure, fear still permeates the air of insecurity as kidnapping of innocent citizens, children and adults continued unabated and with reckless abandon. The recent sporadic kidnapping in Abia state should be an eye opener to all of us. Before this, kidnapping of high magnitude have also taken place. We have not forgotten the kidnapping of four prominent journalists, which our Senate President had described as a sign of "irresponsible government" It is not long time ago when large number of buses filled with militants from the Niger Delta came all the way to Abuja to demand what they described as abandonment of amnesty granted to them by the government. It took the security personnel tooth and nail to persuade and get them back. And nothing happened thereafter. This was again after the reported bombing that took place in Delta State during a south-south governors' meeting, which the MEND claimed its authorship.
The Jos palaver where hundreds of souls were killed in the name of ethnic intolerance is still a recalling decimal. What about the Boko Haram inferno that ransacked the north-east of the country? It was also not long ago hundreds of prison inmates in Bauchi were forcibly let loose due to security lapses. What about the First lady, Mrs. Dame Patient Jonathan anniversary rice that people scrambled upon to get in Abuja but also recorded some fracas and death? We do not know if any concrete step had been taken by the government to forestall any future occurrence on all these wanton insecurity in the country. Still, on 1 st October, 2010, it marked exactly the country's 50 years of her nationhood. Even though 'nothing' is said to have been tangibly achieved, the government and her political surrogates believe that there is still the need to jubilate over the country's 50 years of existence. At least, it affords the government the opportunity to remember and award both the leaving and the dead heroes and heroines of the past.
At the federal level, a whooping sum of N7Billion was budgeted for the anniversary for a lavished celebration. The Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the region Mr. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan comes from felt that such amount of money budgeted for the 50 years anniversary of the country should have been used for settlement of the amnesty deal with the South-South militants. Perhaps, the movement is also not happy that in spite of the deplorable condition of its region, another whooping sum of N24 Billion was diverted for the purchase of the presidential jets and in addition to the N16 billion power sector money that went down the throat of Obasanjo government. It should also be recalled that during the hay days of Obasanjo, there was also a purchase of presidential jet. The MEND did not hide her feelings about the 50 years anniversary of the country as we are told that it warned that it would disrupt the anniversary activities. This threat made it possible for the heavy security presence within the eagle square where the anniversary took place.
We are further informed that if not the intervention of Mr. President Jonathan, the United State FIB would have issued red alert signal, telling people to stay away from the Eagle Square for the anniversary because of the security threat issued by the al-Qaeda network or the MEND as the case might be. At about 11.00hours in the morning of 1 st October, at the venue of the anniversary celebration and while Mr. President was reviewing Parade, there was sporadic bombing outside the Eagle Square, about 800 metres away from the venue. At least, twelve people have been so far confirmed dead and about one hundred and one people were seriously affected by the bombing. These are in addition to many parked cars affected by the detonation of the bomb. The government sources immediately blamed this dastardly act on Mr. Henry Okah, the leader of the MEND who was in far away South Africa and that there are some politicians in Nigeria who have hands in the sponsorship of the deadly incidence.
Mr. President Jonathan also described the incidence as wicked, dastardly act and the worst gift any nation can get. The government then vowed to track down the perpetrators and bring them to book. Mr. President Jonathan was also quoted as saying that whoever thinks that because of his 2011 presidential declaration, he would foment trouble, he (Jonathan) would deal with them decisively. The government is also contemplating of severing relationship with South Africa for releasing and harbouring the alleged MEND leader. With this, the government of Nigeria led by Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan seems to have many forces to contend with, in addition to the forthcoming presidential election , in which he is aspiring to be a candidate at all costs.
It is however sad and unfortunate that at 50 years of our nationhood, we have not truly discover our selves to ascertain our needs for the country's development. It is ignoble, condemnable as it is stupid the bombing and disruption of the 50 years anniversary celebration of our independence. No matter how erratic we think about the golden jubilee, it is not enough for any one of us to engage or be engaged in the art of violence, knowing full well that dialogue is mightier than sword. Likewise, I do not expect any one, not even the opposition of the government, to thumb up the senseless, misguided, barbaric and terrorist act of the recent Abuja bombing that resulted in the loss of lives and injuries. The casualties of the incidence are Nigerians and there is no way progress can be made from such act of violence and wanton insecurity.
The problem of Nigeria today is bad leadership and we have the means of changing the ugly scenario for the better without resulting to violence, anarchy or bloodbath. While commiserating with the government and people of Nigeria over the 1 st October bombing in Abuja, we must not fail to do proper investigation to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the bomb blasts and those behind the inferno. While urging no stone unturned, we must not look at the incidence from the political angle alone by rushing to conclusion as the government sources did the first day of the incidence, where it claimed that the opposition politicians are the culprits.
The immediate first impression created by the government source was the attribution of the bombing to South Africa, Henry Okah, leader of the MEND and some unnamed politicians. As at Saturday 3, 2010, it was reported in the Sunday Trust that Mr. President Jonathan said, terrorist was responsible for the bomb attacks and not MEND even though two alleged suspects and MEND leader, Mr. Henry Okah have been declared wanted and docked over the case respectively. In any case, what is the difference between the past activities of the MEND and that of terrorist is what one cannot fathom. This is why the consistent inconsistencies in the statements credited to presidency over the bomb attacks indicate the level of insincerity at which the government wants to look at the issue. As a matter of fact, Mr. President should not have allowed his political sentiment to becloud his judgment on matter that touches national security. If the President had claimed that MEND was not responsible at the same time that the group claimed responsibility, what does this portend? It is either that Mr. President is fully aware of those behind the unfortunate incidence and wants to hang it on political opponents to score cheap political goal or is taking the serious matter with levity. MEND is not responsible for the bomb attacks and who is responsible? It is the terrorist and who is the terrorist? Incidentally, those that have been so far allegedly linked to the attacks are those who believe in the emancipation of the Niger Delta. Perhaps, what the government is searching in Sokoto (place) might be in its shokoto (trouser)? What are we then saying?
It is not a good politics for a father who knows the culpability of his son in a criminal case, only to pretend that his son is not guilty of the offence. It shows that such a father is causing more harm than good to himself because sooner or later, his son would not have a hiding place for him. Now that the pot is getting hotter for the MEND leader, Mr. Henry Okah, he was quoted by Al-jazeera news and Nigerian media of 5 th and 6 th October respectively that he was arrested because he had refused to accede to presidency instruction of telling his group to retract its statement of being responsible for the bomb attacks, thereby collaborating with the earlier assertion from the presidency. As it is now, the matter has been made to fall squarely on presidency and the MEND. This is the resultant effect of the hide and seeks game by those whose responsibility was to have taken the bull by the horn.
While the controversy of who is the actual culprit of the 1 st October bomb attacks in Abuja rages on, we must not fail to make the hale while the sun shines. At the end of the day, the rest of Nigerians must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt, who is the terrorist that sent deadly gift to the 50 anniversary celebration in Abuja. As we await this, we seriously decreed the monsters called corruption, kidnapping, terrorism and insensitivity that have continued to permeate the air of insecurity in Nigeria, which is a serious challenge to the forthcoming 2011 presidential election of the country. With these, PDP and its allies should know that they have really failed the nation and therefore, should await their replacements after the 2011 general election by the special grace of God, the most High and the uncreated creator.
Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: