When Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city lost its innocence in the area of violence and especially bomb blasts on October 1, not a few Nigerians were taken aback.
This was moreso as the twin blasts rocked the city on a day Nigeria and her friends from across the globe were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from colonial rule.
The twin blasts led to the death of 12 persons and inflicted injuries on 40 others. Nearly two dozen cars were also affected by the blasts, some of them still packed at the scene of the dastardly incident a week after.
While many have risen to condemn the incident, some political leaders of thought have however shown different disposition to the tragedy. After the wide condemnations of the incident, politicians, especially Northern presidential aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) believed that they have seen an opportunity to castigate the handling of the bomb blast issue by President Goodluck Jonathan.
One of the events that gave the opposition something to talk about and possibly divert attention from the criminality of October 1 incident was the statement credited to President Jonathan on the event. The President had visited some of the survivors of the bomb blasts at the National Hospital, Abuja on Saturday.
He commiserated with victims of the incidence and their families, while also giving some insights into the bomb incident.
Jonathan at the hospital insisted that crime and criminality components of the bomb blasts should not be set aside to celebrate claims that a particular group in the Niger Delta, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) was responsible for the attacks or not. He declared that the name of MEND was actually used to perpetrate criminality.
He said: “But let me also use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that what happened had nothing to do with the Niger Delta. People just used the name of MEND to camouflage criminality and terrorism. This is similar to the commercial kidnapping taking place in the South and South East, especially. People kidnap for money. They are not struggling for anybody, they are not representing anybody’s interest.
“And the release, purported to be from MEND, attributing it to lack of attention to the Niger Delta is not tenable, because this is the first time somebody from the Niger Delta has opportunity to be President for about four months.
“So, whatever your grievances are, and you have your own here, you should have some hope. Good things don’t happen overnight. For anybody to work with a terrorist organisation and try to use the Niger Delta as a camouflage is totally unacceptable.
“Inform the international media that that was a camouflage. It had nothing to do with the Niger Delta. I attended primary school few kilometers away from the Oloibiri well 1, the first commercial oil well in this country.
So nobody, and I repeat, nobody can claim to be more Niger Delta than myself. Definitely, it has nothing to do with the Niger Delta struggle. These are terrorists. We know them, we know their sponsors, we are on their trail and by God’s grace, some of them will face the law.”
The fireworks started thereafter when the campaign Organisation of General Ibrahim Babangida issued a statement condemning the handling of the bomb incident by the administration of President Jonathan.
According to the group, there has been uncoordinated reactions from the government and the security agencies thus far. The IBB campaign outfit also said it was sure its candidate would better handle such security matters, a line of thinking that was immediately rejected by the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign organization.
Head of Media team of Babangida Campaign group, Mr. Kassim Afegbua said in a statement that Babangida’s experience would have ensured a better management of the security concern.
He said: “We believe in the ability of our presidential aspirant, General Ibrahim Babangida to offer experienced leadership if given the opportunity to preside over the affairs of this nation through the ballot box.
This country needs experienced hand, courageous and bold leadership to contend with our multifarious developmental challenges.”
But the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation immediately countered adding that if security was IBB’s forte, all Nigerians who lost their lives when he was Head of State should have been alive today.
Jonathan’s Campaign Organisation, in a statement by its Media Director, Mr. Sully Abu said it was disgraceful for IBB and others to try to gain political mileage through the ugly incident.
Jonathan’s campaign said in its statement: “Trying to make political mileage from this sad event can only be the provenance of people whose staple is the violation of the lives and property of Nigerians. We are shocked that the IBB campaign organization would use the blood of the victims of the bomb blast to advertise the credentials of IBB.
We all know what the jury on those credentials are. And indeed, if security is the forte of their candidate as so shamelessly advertised, many Nigerians who lost their lives in the IBB years would be living today. Why, if we may ask, was IBB the only former head of state absent from the occasion?”
The brickbrats of Monday effectively opened the doors for more attacks from both sides from Tuesday. Joining IBB on the sides include the campaign organizations of former Vice president Atiku Abubakar, former National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and the governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who jointly issued a statement condemning Jonathan’s handling of the bomb blasts, while the G-15 led by Alhaji Adamu Ciroma also issued a statement calling on Jonathan to resign from office.
Ciroma’s statement places the blame for the blasts on the doorsteps of President Jonathan and the security agencies. It insisted that the government had no excuse to allow the bombs to go off, especially when it had been warned. The group therefore called on Jonathan to resign.
“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,” Ciroma had stated.
Besides calling for Jonathan’s resignation and the condemnation of the bomb incident, some of the Northern aspirants have also been directing the attention of their chief campaigners to perceived lapses in the management of the economy under Jonathan and the perceived slow pace of work on the power sector.
Some of them claimed that the recent drop in the value of the Naira against international currencies was a sign of stress in the economy.
But the comments by a coalition of Northern Presidential aspirants were to attract condemnation of the senate and its leadership.
By Hassan Isa, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja