* Why President Jonathan is livid
* The ominous signs ahead
It followed the infamous Iraqi pattern. Two blasts. That was all that was needed to turn Nigeria’s 50th independence celebrations into ashes in the mouth of millions of Nigerians.
That was also all that was also needed to send the wrong and condemnable signal to the outside world that things have gotten so bad in Nigeria.
Still, the number of heads of state, diplomats, important dignitaries and political leaders just a few hundred metres from the site of the bomb blasts, could have as well been mortal victims of the twin blasts.
In fact, the African Union, AU, through its chairperson, Peace and Security Council, Dr. Monica Juma, pilloried the act, saying that for it to have happened on the day of the independence celebrations “showed how bad” the situation had become. She continued: “While we condemn the act in its totality, the AU Peace and Security Council wants the Nigerian government to thoroughly investigate the act, arrest and prosecute those behind the bombings so that such unfortunate incident will not occur again in Nigeria and other parts of Africa”.
Following the Iraqi pattern, where a small bomb goes off with a blast that arrests attention as well as creates pandemonium and panic, the Abuja bombers, as they are now referred to, did just that.
The first bomb went off and shortly after, the second went off, leaving in their wake over a dozen deaths and scores injured.
But bad as these developments are, the politicians have since exacerbated an already bad situation by doing what they know how to do best: Foul up things.
Today, there is a growing consensus which suggests that at the end of the day, the muddying of the investigative waters may not lead to a credible arrest and prosecution of those behind the incident.
The reasons are legion.
By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor & Anthonia Onwuka
Whereas President Goodluck Jonathan told Nigerians that “Although the security agencies put in significant efforts to pre-empt the attacks, it is very sad that lives of innocent Nigerians were lost to this heartless act against the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and in the process offering “my condolences to the families of the victims in particular and the nation in general”, he has been savagely attacked, lampooned and threatened.
Still, the noise of all the Vuvuzelas in South Africa can not drown the questions and controversies now trailing the incident.
For instance, how many days notice did the bombers give?
Sunday Vanguard gathered that there was actually a five-day notice.
It was that notice that a diplomatic mission in Nigeria heeded and which made it conspicuously absent from the national day celebrations at the Eagle Square. There was another alert via e-mail to a number of Nigerians and journalists. A senior journalist told Sunday Vanguard that he also got the alert just as he had got another one, similar in content, just hours before the bomb blasts which rocked Vanguard’s Amnesty Summit earlier in the year in Warri, Delta State. The alert was sent by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND.
Therefore, when during a visit to victims of the blasts at the National Hospital, Abuja, President Jonathan made his comment regarding MEND, the latter was also sending a message out regarding the loss of lives.
Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for MEND, in an electronic message said: “Our hearts go to the families of those killed who we know are sympathetic to our cause. The irresponsible attitude of the government security forces is to blame for the loss of lives. They were given five days’ prior notice which led to the harassment of Henry Okah on Thursday, September 30 in South Africa. Okah has never been involved in any MEND operations but has always been blamed for every attack which is strange to us. The security forces were also warned one full hour to the first bomb blast ahead of the general alert sent to the media and told to steer the public from all parked cars which was not done”.
Although President Jonathan reportedly said he knew those who could have done it, indicating that the MEND he knows has embraced amnesty and, therefore, some other elements may be at work, he was deemed to have exonerated MEND.
However, some members of MEND repudiated the Amnesty Programme and even went a step further by setting off bombs at the Vanguard event in Warri, also in the South South geo-political zone.
That statement has since been clarified but another bomb shell was to be allegedly dropped on Tuesday by Henry Okah via a telephone conversation with Al Jezeera news network. Okah had alleged that somebody from the presidency called him and told him that if he could implicate some northern leaders in the bomb blasts the South African government would go easy on him. That statement, too, is being said not to be true – see box on time lines.
Yet, more questions persist.
Chima Orlu and Ben Jessy were immediately declared wanted.
That is besides the nine people arrested, including Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Director General of the Ibrahim Babangida Campaign Organisation. He has since been released.
Dokpesi’s arrest was soon to enjoy the negative complements of political colouration.
First, the IBB organization said it was part of a witch hunt.
Government responded by saying the campaign organization was playing an unsympathetic political game which has no respects for the lost lives – see quotes and statements from politicians.
The way it is being politicized, it may be difficult to catch the perpetrators just as the dangers ahead are grave.
For instance, Abuja was thrown into chaos last week following fresh text messages about possible bombings of the National Assembly, NNPC headquarters and the Federal Secretariat. And because of the security nature, national in scope, of the investigations going on, conclusions can not be reached just as speculations would be dangerous.
One thing which is certain, however, is that the manner in which the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, commented on the issue, even threatening President Jonathan with possible impeachment proceedings.
Senate President David Mark was to charge at them: “I am disappointed at the comment being made by elder statesmen concerning these bomb explosions. We have lost lives and the nation’s unity is being threatened and we are politicising it. This is unfortunate and uncalled for, the issue before us is far threatening and serious, and we should stop politicising it and think of ways to make sure that this needless act does not happen again. All the culprits must be punished. This is not time for us to hold sentiments, people must be punished for destroying the beautiful celebration that was marred by this needless act”.
October 1, 2010
Bomb Blasts Rock 50th Anniversary.
*16 killed, 50 injured.
*It is a wicked independence anniversary gift – Jonathan
….Vows to get bombers
*MEND sent bomb alert shortly before blasts.
*Henry Okah arrested, released in South-Africa over incident.
October 2, 2010
MEND says it regrets loss of lives
*Jonathan visits bomb blasts victims in hospital.
…. Hails Nigerians’ heroism
*Police launch probe.
*President admits security blunder
*No arrest made yet
*Security on red alert nationwide
October 3, 2010
Ex-militant leaders visit bomb blast site
*We’re closing in on terrorists – Jonathan
*No time for forgiveness – Mark
*Police declare two persons-Ben Jessy and Chima Orlu-wanted in connection with the blasts
*Tough screening at airports commences
October 4, 2010
SSS arrests 9 over Abuja blasts.
*Henry Okah charged to court in S/Africa
*It’s reprehensible says UN
*Dokpesi held over alleged SMS with suspects
*IBB calls for Dokpesi’s immediate release.
October 5, 2010
*Okah on Al Jazeera, claims presidency wants him to implicate northern leaders
Presidency denies Okah’s claims on blasts.
*Bomb scare in Abuja
*Workers evacuated from office
*National Assembly stops shuttle vehicles
*MEND didn’t bomb Abuja – Ex- militant leaders
*Dokpesi freed, reports to SSS.
October 6, 2010
Senators accuse politicians of fueling crisis
*ACF calls for judicial probe
*Jonathan fights back as Abuja bomb row grows
*President knocks Ciroma, IBB, others
*Babangida: It’s idiotic to link me with bombs
*Senate, Suswam condemn attack on President.
October 7, 2010
*Dep. Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, visits the residence of Donatus Aruah, who lost four family members in the bomb blasts in Abuja
*Fresh doubts over Okah’s interview on Al Jazeera; but TV Station stands by its story
*Edwin Clark, Dalhatu Tafida, take on Northern leaders over call on President Jonathan to resign.
*African Union, AU, cautions Nigeria’s political leaders
Who said what
“Our hearts go to the families of those killed who we know are sympathetic to our cause. The irresponsible attitude of the government security forces is to blame for the loss of lives. They were given five days’ prior notice which led to the harassment of Henry Okah on Thursday, September 30 in South Africa. Okah has never been involved in any MEND operations but has always been blamed for every attack which is strange to us. The security forces were also warned one full hour to the first bomb blast ahead of the general alert sent to the media and told to steer the public from all parked cars which was not done”. — Jomo Gbomo, MEND, via electronic message
“The President was misunderstood by many people. Don’t forget that English language is sometimes confusing. The issue of trying to use that to mean the President has absolved MEND is like what you see in football. If you don’t want your opponents to defeat you, you put a stud in his stride. The President is not losing focus at all. The President is on track and no amount of blackmail, or trying to bring religious or ethnic sentiments will stop the President from moving forward. A presidential election is not a game of life and death and I wish to counsel all our political and national leaders to be watchful, to be temperate and to be sober in their pronouncements, during this very trying period. In fact, all men of good sense, and matured and patriotic disposition out to rally round the president and federal government in this period”. — Amb. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, DG, Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation
“Recent statements by some of our political opponents over the terrorist bombing near Eagle Square in Abuja on October 1 have tended to politicize what is a simple matter of crime and its investigation.
When President Goodluck Jonathan, during a visit to the National Hospital to commiserate with victims of the bombing, said the terrorist act should not merely be ascribed to MEND, what he was simply saying was that nobody should use the name of any organization to cover up a heinous crime. He was not absolving MEND or any other group of blame or culpability”. — Sully Abu, Director of Media and Publicity
“At this critical time, we should be mourning the dead and praying for the families left behind. What they need at this sad hour is not politics but compassion and empathy.
Finally, the Federal Government will do everything possible to share in the pains of the bereaved and the injured. We will give the best medical care possible to the injured. We recognise that nothing can compensate for the loss of a loved one. But we offer our shoulders to the bereaved in this moment of need.
I want to assure you my friends, brothers and sisters on facebook that the Federal Government is very much aware of its most fundamental responsibility to its citizens: THE DEFENCE OF YOUR RIGHT TO LIFE, THE PROTECTION OF YOUR LIBERTY AND PROPERTY. On this mission, we cannot afford to fail. We will give our utmost, indeed our very best for the peace, unity and progress of Nigeria. May God Almighty bless Nigeria and stand with us”. — President Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook
“We have seen the endless campaign of calumny by way of posters and leaflets being orchestrated by the Presidency and its agents to tarnish the good image of our Presidential Aspirant, Ibrahim Babangida. Barely four days later, High Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi was invited by the State Security Services on allegations of complicity in the unfortunate incident of the Bomb Blasts of Friday, 1st October, 2010. All these issues, happening in quick succession cannot be said to be mere coincidences. They are, at best, deliberate provocations aimed at psychologically destabilizing our Campaign Organization and to rattle the growing population of enthusiastic supporters and followers nation-wide of the IBB candidacy in the build up to the 2011 elections. As law abiding citizens of this great country, we remain undaunted and unprovoked. We are committed to the due process of the political campaigns as enjoined by the Electoral Act 2010, and our Party’s Guidelines for the Primaries and National Convention”. – IBB 2011 Presidential Campaign Organization
“It is pitiful that the Presidency has politicized the gruesome and wanton murder of our fellow citizens. Instead of finding the culprits and perpetrators of this dastardly act, Government and its security agencies appear resolved to dissipate their energy and our national resources in haunting and hunting its opponents. You all know about the bombing that took place in Warri, Delta State when some State Governors, Traditional Rulers, and leaders of the South-South region gathered at the goodwill of the Vanguard Press to deliberate on the future of the zone. Apart from that, the family residence of President Jonathan in Bayelsa State and that of the former Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State were reportedly bombed. Bayelsa is the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan”. – Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello, Deputy Director-General, IBB 2011 Presidential Campaign Organization
“We had earlier warned Nigerians to be vigilant; that the targeting of selected state governors by the EFCC was part of a grand design to intimidate the President’s opponents and make them submit to his desperate agenda to run for President in 2011. We have been vindicated, alas, at the cost of eighteen innocent citizen’s lives. We would like to state, for the umpteenth time, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s desperation to be President again in 2011 can only take Nigeria back to the dark days of President Olusegun Obasabjo’s Third Term with all its attendant instability and the wasting of innocent civilians’ lives. Now that the President has proven that he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly and that he is desperate enough to want to hang mass murder around the neck of unnamed Northerners to achieve his second term, we as citizens of this country have totally lost confidence in his leadership and hereby call on him to immediately resign. If he fails to do so by the end of the week, we call on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him with immediate effect. We state, without any equivocation that, as Northerners and as citizens of this country, we no longer feel safe and secure under his leadership”. – Adamu Ciroma, Madakin Fika, for Northern Political Leaders Forum.
“ I am disappointed at the comment being made by elder statesmen concerning these bomb explosions. We have lost lives and the nation’s unity is being threatened and we are politicising it. This is unfortunate and uncalled for, the issue before us is far threatening and serious, and we should stop politicising it and think of ways to make sure that this needless act does not happen again. All the culprits must be punished. This is not time for us to hold sentiments, people must be punished for destroying the beautiful celebration that was marred by this needless act”. – David Mark, Senate President, in response to politicians and reckless statements
“Why are people like Ciroma against God’s wish? And talking of dark days, if people like Ciroma who had ample opportunity of affecting positively the lives of Nigerians when they were in power, put the interest of the masses before their own, we will not be where we are today. We remain in total darkness; the likes of Ciroma put us into. It is in this light that we are baffled at the inflammatory comments of supposedly statesmen like Alhaji Adamu Ciroma and Senator Kanti Bello. We are making this clarion call to them not to start fanning the embers of war. Instead of joining hands in looking for the culprits and behave like statesmen they claimed to be, they are busy beating the war drums”. – Mallam Lawal Daku, National Coordinator, National Alliance for Credible Leadership
“I wish to formally resign my position as Kebbi State Coordinator of Goodluck Support Group GSG which has been integrated into the Goodluck/Namadi Campaign Organisation with immediate effect. My resignation is as a result of the stand of Mr. President on the issue of zoning and lately his position absolving MEND of responsibility despite their repeated claim of the unfortunate incidence of October 1″, 2010 in which the lives of innocent Nigerians were lost and several others severely injured. I cannot therefore continue to justify my support for his campaign in view of his position on these two issues in particular and the general trend of events which seem to compromise the unity of Nigeria on the altar of political expediency”. – Nasir Isa Abubakar, Kebbi State Coordinator of Goodluck Support Group GSG
“Our checks, however, show that Mr. Abubakar was a member of the Goodluck Support Group, one of the thousands of groups routing for President Goodluck Jonathan’s aspiration to return as President of the country in 2011. For the avoidance of doubt, while the GSG is a support group, it is distinct and completely independent of the campaign.
“Mr. Abubakar’s letter of resignation addressed to the director-general of our campaign is therefore a misconception aimed at the mischief for which it is now being used by a failing opposition campaign organisation. In any case, Mr. Abubakar has always been a close associate of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. All we can do right now is to wish him safe journey back to his Minna base. And on his lame excuse for the purported resignation, we, like every patriot, await the outcome of investigations into the Abuja bomb blast, and won’t be distracted by mischief makers”. – Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation