Nigeria: Matters arising from the 1st oct, 2010 bomb blasts in Abuja

carbombNigeria’s Golden jubilee celebration was surrounded by some unpalatable events. A few days to the D-Day, the kidnap of fifteen school pupils aged between five and ten took place in Osisioma, Abia state. They were later released on the day of the celebration. There was joy in Umuahia, the capital city of Abia as the helpless, hapless and innocent children were taken to the Government House to be received by the state governor, Theodore Orji, Ochendo I of Abia. I have not heard the details of how their release was secured. But those kids have obviously been thrown to the national light by that act of terrorism. They are now national heroes for being kidnapped and released.

On that same day, as Nigerians and foreign visitors thronged to the Eagle Square, Abuja, no one ever imagined the internal construct of the terrorists and their sponsors. The victims themselves never imagined that they would move from the venue to the mortuary as corpses to cool their heads for some time before being committed to the mother earth. Those who were injured by the emissaries of death never gave it the faintest imagination that they would end up in the hospital beds. But it happened! Two heavy bangs left them in their pitiable conditions. Vehicles and human beings were charred and the celebration was turned to mourning. However, the government spokespersons still described the celebration as successful because the perpetrators’ intention of disrupting the celebration did not materialize. Secondly perhaps, no children of theirs lost their lives.

It must be noted that the celebration of a country’s independence always showcases its military might. We saw such in abundance as the country’s military displayed their weapons of warfare and combatant readiness. Significantly, the October 1 celebration of this year was the country’s Golden Jubilee. Biblically, the jubilee is the year of freedom (Lev.25). However, in our own case, it turned out to be bondage for the country. It was not the bondage of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It was not the bondage of the colonial masters which is now thought to be better than the present day freedom. It was the bondage of our people, by our people and for our people. The scene of the blast is said to be just about a hundred and fifty metres from the Eagle Square and about twelve people were killed and many others injured. What a way to celebrate the Golden Jubilee.

The bomb blast triggered off a chain of events. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) was said to have claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts. Later, it was said that MEND was not responsible and many leaders of the ex-militants led by their ‘Generals’ went on a solidarity visit to the president and disclaimed the e-mail that attributed the act to them. They also dissociated themselves from the prime suspect and the former leader of MEND, the South-African-based Henry Okah. In their own words, MEND died last year when former President Umar Yar’Adua granted amnesty to the then Niger-Delta militants.

Then came the great twist. A day after the blast, Henry Okah, who was arrested in South-Africa in connection with the October 1 mayhem, shocked the world with an interview he granted to the Arab cable TV, Al-Jazeera. He claimed that an aide to President Goodluck Jonathan had called him to recant the claim that MEND was responsible for the bomb blasts so that the presidency would put the blame on his northern political opponents. Though he did not mention the name of the president’s aide, he said that the president’s hasty exoneration of MEND was in hope that he (Okah) would do his bidding. As the presidency described Okah’s claim as mere fabrication of his criminal imagination, it went on to associate some persons with some text messages believed to be in connection with the Abuja bombing. This led to the arrest and quizzing of the director-general of the IBB Campaign Organisation, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the CEO of Daar Communications Ltd. by the State Security Service (SSS). Dokpesi had earlier alleged a threat to his life for accepting to work with the former head-of-state and the presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP, General Ibrahim Babangida. The arrest of Dokpesi attracted some press statements from the IBB Campaign Organization which described the act as intimidation and political intolerance. Coming at the heels of this was the call of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) on President Goodluck Jonathan to resign or be impeached for his inability to protect the lives of the citizens and for exonerating the MEND.

Another dimension to the bomb blasts was that immediately after the incident, text messages were alleged to have been sent threatening that if Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra State does not bring an end to the lingering strike of the south-eastern state universities, the Anambra State Government House would be next target within sixty hours. This generated some ripples in the state in spite of the state government’s assurance that all was under control. Apart from this, the Three Arms Zone (TAZ) which houses the National Assembly and the Judiciary was also said to be under the bomb threat. Again, at the National Secretariat, Abuja, there was another bomb scare which led to a stampede. The NNPC Headquarters, also at Abuja was rumoured to be another target and there was another stampede. In fact, since October 1, many people have carefully avoided some public gatherings and areas for fear of losing their dear lives to bomb blasts. Any slightest noise is now attributed to bomb blast and leads to people running for safety. We now live out the popular children’s song, “There is fire on the mountain, run, run, run!”

President Goodluck Jonathan, in various speeches after the blast, has assured the citizens that the perpetrators of the dastardly act must be brought to book. The law enforcement agents also said that the investigations are in full force to uncover those behind the unfortunate incident. However, if there is anything our people have learnt, it is never to trust the law enforcement agents especially the police. Be that as it may, many people have noted the political coloration to the incident. That is why there are accusations and counter-accusations which definitely may influence the outcome of the investigation, negatively or positively. Some people have also begun to doubt the ability of the law enforcement agents to unravel such acts of criminality. They cited the deaths of Dele Giwa through a parcel bomb; the assassination of the former minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, Chief Bola Ige; the assassinations of Dikibo and Harry Marshal as some of the mysteries that the police have not unraveled. Some however were of the view that since the casualties were mainly law enforcement agents, they may be forced to work this time. We just watch them

As all these happened, I was able to come up with just one conclusion. Whether we want to admit it or not, Nigeria is preparing for the 2011 general elections with vigour and the gladiators are up in arms. As the elections approach, there is an obvious graduation from politically-motivated kidnapping to politically-motivated bombing and innocent citizens suffer the dire consequences and the country is portrayed in bad light. Writing on this, Chidiebere Onyemaizu said that with the recent bombing, Nigeria has “… joined the likes of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan in the club of countries where street and car bombing has been elevated to an art” (The Source, October 18, 2010, p.15).  What then does it take to brand a country “terrorist”?

Another perplexity is that the security agents got the intelligence report five days before the incident and could not stop it. Marilyn Ogar, the SSS spokeswoman claimed that the security agents did their best and that was why it ended the way it did. The antecedents have shown that the country’s security remains porous and that the security agents’ best is almost zero. Right now, MEND is threatening another bomb blast to show their might over our country’s trained security agents. Will they succeed again? I have learned to take my destiny in my own hands. Whenever I hear any blast, whether of a balloon or a toy gun, I will bail myself with my legs. Frankly speaking, the 2011 general elections is pregnant and at the same time, nursing a baby. May God save Nigeria from the threatening chaos. Who killed and maimed innocent Nigerians on October 1, 2010?

*Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba writes from Awka, Anambra State. 07060843010

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