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From A Reporter’s Diary : The Warri bomb blasts

By Dapo  Olufade , Sunday Editor

There are not many journalists, Lagos-based that is, who will spurn an opportunity of a trip out of the metropolis even if it is all about being far from the ever maddening traffic.  The duration does not have to be long. The important thing is just to get out to let off steam.

This reporter is, by no means, an exception. So, when the opportunity came knocking for me to join the Vanguard team to the Post Amnesty Dialogue in Warri, it was with both hands that I seized it.

Ordinarily, Sunday is my off day much of which I spend to cover lost ground on reading, resting and planning for the next edition of Sunday Vanguard.

But last Sunday was to be an exception. I needed to pack my bag ready for the 11.45 a.m. flight and leave for the airport  on time before worshippers returning from service would take over all the roads.

The plane was hardly airborne before I dozed off only to be woken up some 10 minutes from landing by weather induced jerking by the plane.

People running for dear lives after the explosions.

In 20 minutes or so, I was in the hotel in the company of my colleagues in Vanguard discussing the upcoming dialogue that brought us all to Warri: the topics, the speakers and other guests.  In between, we exchanged banters as we often do.

Then came snacks, and a glass or two of drinks.
With the clock ticking towards 11 p.m. the somewhat small crowd began to disperse, one after the other, to our rooms. It had been a long day.

Monday, 6.30 a.m., I sent a text message to Jide Ajani, the Sunday Vanguard deputy editor who could not make the trip, sharing with him my ideas on our next edition of the paper.

His reply came in less than two minutes.  We agreed to talk later in the day.  He did not fail to tease that judging from the tone of my text, Sunday must have been “baaadd”. I simply feigned ignorance of what he was driving at.

Next came a call from Eze Anaba, the Saturday Vanguard editor, asking when we would go for breakfast and depart for the venue of the dialogue.

I did not want breakfast, I told him, but said we could leave for the dialogue at 10 a.m.
I called up Victor Omoregie, Vanguard’s Corporate Affairs Manager to confirm our itinerary
We made the journey from our hotel to Government HouseAnnex, venue of the dialogue in about six minutes. Our bus, like others, could only discharge us at the junction of the Govt. House, where about a dozen armed soldiers and policemen were deployed.  Scores of others had taken positions in and around the sprawling premises.

The rest of the journey was done on foot. Good for our health, we thought as we chatted along.
Inside the hall, Victor, Eze and I opted to sit on the third row from behind. The editor-in-chief, Gbenga Adefaye soon joined us and we resumed our discussion on the dialogue that was scheduled to begin in a matter of minutes: who had come, who was being expected.

Adefaye’s eye soon caught a story in the Nation.  It was on General Obasanjo’s encounter with reporters the previous day at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, where he told the newsmen in Yoruba to leave him alone, “so that God will not trouble you”.  Dis Obasanjo sef, I said, whereupon we heard the sound of a siren from outsider, followed by movement of people.

“That must be one of the governors”, someone said.
He was correct.  In came Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo, followed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta.

Simultaneously, there was a bang outside, to which many in the hall paid little or no attention thinking it was a cannon salute to welcome the governors.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Chief Uffot Ekaette, until lately the minister of the Niger Delta and representative of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at the function joined the other dignitaries on the high table.

Unexpectedly, came another bang and this time you could not ignore it.
Adefaye, Eze, Victor and I exchanged glances, followed by silence, then a pandemonium from the front row.
“It must be those militants”, I said, sweating.
“Let’s get out of here”, Eze chipped in.
“Where are you running to?  Do you know where the next one will explode?”, asked Victor.
“But let’s get out of this building before it collapses on us” I warned, to which Adefaye responded: “Gentlemen, be calm”.
“Calm ke?  We’ll see later”, I replied as I made for the door.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.