Wed, 30 Dec 2009 Nigeria


By Festus Edoreh

Sadly, the scary trend of global terrorism seemed to have crept into our dearly beloved country, Nigeria. The issues classifying the nation as a failed state will continue to dominate the public discuss, as the rebranding initiatives of the Federal Government will certainly suffer severe setbacks.

It is all about Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a 23-year-old misguided Islamic extremist from the northern part of Nigeria who tried to blow up a U.S. passenger jet Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with high explosives on a Christmas day while Christians all over the world were busy celebrating – Christmas - a highly prestigious Christian festival, the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ.

According to media report, the Nigerian terrorist was badly burned as he tried to set-off an explosive device aboard the aircraft as it prepares to land in Detroit, from Amsterdam.

During the Yuletide, it is strongly believed that Christians travel far and wide to reach out for loved ones and in the spirit of benevolence. It is also a period to rededicate themselves to the creator of the universe; Almighty - Jehovah God. Yet, that Islamic terrorist chooses to strike on such a day, Friday 25th December, 2009 – Christmas Day. Well, we give God the glory.

On interrogation, the “messenger of death” revealed that he had links to al-Qaeda. The Islamic organization had also taken responsibility for the botched bomb attack, claiming that the mission was in retaliation for an alleged United States strike on Yemen.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has said the suspect boarded a KLM flight from Lagos to Amsterdam on Thursday using an e-ticket bought from KLM in Accra on December 16 with a connection to Detroit. Meanwhile, the US government has admitted some measure of security lapses on its part.

The father of the Nigerian terrorist, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker and immediate past chairman of First Bank of Nigeria is reported to have met with security officials over the terror act of his son whom he claimed has exhibited sudden strange behaviour.

But Michael Rimmer, one of his teachers told the BBC that his former pupil, Umar had supported the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan until they were deposed by a US-led coalition in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

The suspect's father however confirmed that his son left London, but could not precisely determine his destination, possibly Yemen. He said that his son being identified by the U.S. Marshall as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, youngest of 16 children is resident in London where he studied Mechanical Engineering at the University College London. Investigative report has it that the suspect have also schooled at Dubai and at the British International School in the Togo capital, Lome.

Meanwhile, another Nigerian has been reportedly taken into custody in connection with another suspected attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew on same Christmas Day. Although there is no direct link to another terror act, the coincidence of the incidence remained to be properly investigated.

It would be recalled that on December 22nd 2009, just before the Christmas festival, there was an attempt to blow up the Super Screen Television Station in the Onipanu area of Lagos, Nigeria with a parcel bomb during which the suspected bomber, one Olayiwola Ahmed had his hands chopped off in another futile exercise.

Yet, reports emanating from Zango, a suburb of Bauchi state, still of the northern axis of Nigeria confirmed fresh religious crisis when an Islamic sect called Kala-Kato went on rampage demanding for the immediate release of their leader arrested by the authorities.

The theatre of the blood bathe was the Federal Low Cost Housing Estate in the Zango neighbourhood of Bauchi where members of the sect had invaded early in the day maiming, killing and burning uncontrollable to the glory of their religious belief. No fewer than thirty-eight persons have been counted dead while a number of houses were touched.

According to the Commissioner of Police, Atiku Kafur, a soldier was among the dead, and the leader of the sect, one Malam Badamasi is also said to have been gunned down in the crossfire, while about 20 arrests have been made, including nine adults and 11 juveniles. Security agents recovered in the premises of the sect leader, bomb-making tools and explosives, and some AK47 rifles with several rounds of ammunition.

This will be the third time violent religious crisis is erupting from Bauchi state alone this year 2009 when innocent citizens particularly unsuspecting Christians have been cruelly murdered in cold blood across the northern states of Nigeria on the basis of religious divide.

It is still fresh in our minds the havoc wreaked by the dreaded Boko Haram sect which claimed many lives and properties worth several billions of naira until they were subdued by security forces and the leader of the group, one Malam Mohammed Yusuf was captured in Maiduguri but died in Police custody in controversial circumstances.

At the moment, the nation is in a rude shock as stiffer measures await Nigerians in the air travel business. Sadly, the true situation with President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, the supposedly Chief Security Officer of the country who government officials' claim is fast responding to treatment in a Saudi Arabian hospital could not be ascertained. However, this is one grave opportunity that demands Mr. President's statement, even if in a dying voice from his sick bed.

Yet, reports reaching us from Saudi Arabia say the ailing President has disallowed his VP the privileges to act as President. Yar'Adua was said to have preferred the endorsement of a Supplementary Budget on his sick bed in the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to be operated till next March. The Budget is to fast-track development in the Niger Delta, among other things. However, only time will tell if Yar'Adua actually signed the budget.

Following these unfading anomalies in the political atmosphere and the continued palpable fears of his deteriorating health, some political hawks in the Nigerian murky political terrain seemed to be bent on a fresh democratic start rather than have a Goodluck Jonathan as President whom they say “have no political machinery and have overtime benefited politically where he never sowed.” Perhaps, he could not be wholly trusted.

It would be recalled that in Bayelsa state there were accusations of betrayal of former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha by some PDP stooges of Izon aborigines that many believed highly favoured Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, then Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State to political heights before he later replaced the former Governor following a crooked impeachment exercise masterminded by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly in connection with allegations of money laundering in the United Kingdom. The desperate interests, intrigues and involvement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his allies in the pull down syndrome of Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha is strongly suspected in the whole framework.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has described the failed terror attack by a Nigerian as most unfortunate and embarrassing. The Vice President spoke at a church service to mark the last Sunday of the year and thanksgiving service at the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), Durumi in Abuja that government's worry stemmed from the fact that the incident would subject Nigerians to unnecessary checks and hassles by security operatives abroad anytime they travelled out of the country.

Information and Communications Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili, like a fish out of water, continued with her rebranding project, stating that the suspect has been living outside the country for a while and only sneaked into Nigeria on December 24, and left the same day.

The Information Minister, like the Inspector General of Police reiterated stated that Nigerian security agencies are working hand-in-hand with their international counterparts on the matter, assuring all passengers traveling through Nigerian airports of their safety having just passed ICAO Security Audit and the American Transportation Security Administration Audit in November 2009.

Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora have expressed their displeasure by the news of the attempted terrorist attack on the US aircraft by a fellow Nigerian with some fearing it has harmed the image of the West African nation.

The Islamic Council of Nigeria has distanced itself and its doctrine from the terror act of one of its flock. In a statement by the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, Lateef Adegbite stated that the Islamic body is embarrassed by the incident and strongly condemn the alleged action by the young Moslem.

Adegbite cautioned that the terror act should be seen as an isolated incident, and doubted strongly if there was any organized Islamic group in Nigeria that is inclined to such a criminal and violent act, as such an extreme viewpoint and action is condemned wholeheartedly by the Nigerian Islamic body.

The Secretary-General of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Saidu Dogo described the incident an "unfortunate development which the Nigerian government must thoroughly investigate." The Christian body lamented the new phenomenon whereby children of highly-placed people get involved in acts of terrorism, saying it is a setback to Nigeria's image as its citizens will now be subjected to indignity and suspicion abroad.

The National Assembly too, is said to have joined in strong terms in the condemnation of this strange act of terrorism from a Nigerian. But I think that it is a mere academic exercise, and, may be, the usual tradition, as these corruption extremists of economic repression in Nigeria who are lavishing and impoverishing the Nigerian nation with nothing to show for it, and to the detriment of the common masses are in themselves worst than the agents of terrorism which they condemn.

Already, there are speculations that billions of naira is said to be exchanging hands as some notable politicians who are said to be close to the ailing President may have approached some top military personnel to take over power for business as usual and subsequently hand over to them in a short while. But, The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau is said to have warned rank and file of the military to stay clear of the political impasses in Nigeria.

Like a failed state, these unfortunate incidence is coming at a time the country is grappling with the many challenges particularly that posed by artificial fuel scarcity, persistent epileptic power supply, the aged long inadequacy of infrastructure, the outburst arising from the criminal neglect and injustice in the Niger Delta and its shaky post amnesty programme, as well as chains of unresolved cases of incessant kidnapping, general insecurity and ravaging poverty on the land. It is to be noted that the US government has predicted the possible breakage of the country by 2015.

Poor leadership, consequent upon consistent massive electoral grand design has been identified as the bane of the Nigerian state. Credible elections have also been identified as one surest, cheapest and simplest way of rebranding the nation rather than wasting tax payers' money.

While, adequate security arrangements should be urgently put in place to make bold our committed statement and seriousness in this renewed fight against terrorism, credible elections should be genuinely encouraged by the ruling party and the electoral body, instead of the usual selection exercise that has taken us decades back. This is so as the 2011 elections are fast approaching, at least to foster purposeful and qualitative governance that can restore confidence and prestige among the citizenry and to our dearly beloved country, Nigeria. And we pray not to have the likes of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab in the Nigeria of our dream.

Edoreh F. Edoreh
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Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa /