By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
POLITICIANS have a way of wanting to make political point and the old trick did not change with the early morning attack, Tuesday, on a military base, near the residence of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan at his country home, Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
The media did not also help matters with its mistaken narrative of the focus of attack, driving home the notion that that the gunmen came for former President Jonathan, whereas, the object of attack was different.
Because of the unstated cold war between the state governor, Seriake Dickson and Jonathan, especially with the loss of the last governorship election to the rival All Progressives Congress, APC, the story in town was that authorities at Government House, Yenagoa, have their hands in it.
Reacting to the attack, APC in a statement by National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, called on security agencies to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack on the Otuoke country home of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Issa-Onilu said: “Following reports that gunmen attacked the country home of former President Goodluck Jonathan in Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, APC demands from security and intelligence agencies a swift, sweeping and thorough probe of the shocking incident.
“The APC joins other well-meaning Nigerians in condemning the attack in its entirety. We call on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and their sponsors. We extend condolences to the family of the soldier who reportedly died in the attack. The party also wishes the other injured soldier a full and speedy recovery,” he said.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also in its bid to be on top of the situation, said, “our party insists that the gun attack is a direct threat on the life and safety of the former President and members of his family and as such the assailants must be tracked down.”
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party charged the Federal Government to immediately track and apprehend the gunmen that violently attacked the country home of former President Goodluck Jonathan, in Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
The party also commiserated with the families of the security personnel killed in the attack and urged security agencies to go after the assailants as well as rescue those reportedly abducted during the attack.
Though the attack was on the hometown of Jonathan, it was not his residence as media reports portrayed, painting an entirely different picture of the incident.
Both the political class and media would not have lost anything if they crosschecked information properly before propagation.
Those against Governor Dickson, especially over the outcome of the last governorship election, rejected his attempt through one of his aides to explain that the targets of the gunmen’s were the soldiers and a military gunboat.
Like other persons, who condoled with the Army for its loss during the attack, they misread his commiseration with the Army, accusing him of insensitivity for not empathizing with Dr. Jonathan.
Attack not on my residence- Jonathan
In a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Ikechukwu Eze, Jonathan said the attackers came to steal a gunboat stationed 100 meters away from the residence.
He said: “A security post stationed near the Otuoke residence of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa State was attacked by unknown gunmen, early Tuesday morning.
“The hoodlums who came in about five engine boats stormed the security post located about 100 metres away from former President Jonathan’s residence in his hometown, Otuoke by 1:30 am on Tuesday and attempted to take away a gunboat belonging to the military stationed at the creek beside the residence. They were however resisted by gallant soldiers who engaged them in a fire fight. The gunmen who couldn’t stand the firepower of the military were forced to beat a retreat.
“One soldier, unfortunately, lost his life in the fight while another was injured.
“The injured soldier who is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility in Yenagoa is in a stable state. The former President, who was not in Otuoke at the time of the attack, however, returned to his village, early this morning, to assess the situation. Dr. Jonathan promptly condemned the attack and reassured his people that there was no cause for alarm. The former President has also condoled with the family of the deceased soldier, the military and has urged the concerned security authorities to swing into action and bring the culprits to book,” the statement said.
Assailants attacked our gunboat – JTF
On its part, the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, deployed to the Niger Delta, explained that “at about 3 a.m. today, unknown gunmen attacked our gunboat deployed close to the house of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Spokesperson for JTF, Operation Delta Safe, Major Jonah Unuakhalu, said, “The vigilant troops repelled the attack, while some of the assailants escaped with gunshot wounds.”
“However, during the attack, one soldier paid the supreme price and another was wounded in action. The wounded has been evacuated to the hospital and is responding to treatment,” he stated.
According to him, “Preliminary investigation is ongoing to identify the persons or groups behind the attack. The people are advised to go about their lawful businesses as the security of life and property remains a priority to Operation Delta Safe, during the Yuletide and beyond,” Unuakhalu said.
Attackers are criminals
Findings by Saturday Vanguard indicate that the attackers were among the sea pirates and criminals who trail soldiers in the state and other parts of the region for arms. They usually carry out investigation on the operational efficiency of soldiers without their knowledge and strike with ruthless competence. The gunmen came through the river on five speedboats and opened fire on the soldiers, a community source said.
It was leant that the gunmen came with explosives, which they deployed in the attack.
Two soldiers stationed behind the house confronted the armed men and engaged them in a heavy gun shootout. They equally opened fire on the soldiers
Multiple sources, however, claimed that the gunmen were heading to Jonathan’s house when soldiers confronted them.
One of them, a villager said, “The gunmen were approaching the house when they were sighted by the soldiers. They opened fire on the soldiers and the soldiers repelled. It was a heavy shootout. The Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) positioned in front of the house, made a u-turn blaring siren to join the men behind the house.
The soldiers, while engaging the gunmen at the back of the house were not aware some gunmen were coming into the house on land. Those gunmen on foot shot dead a soldier and shot another in the leg. They escaped after sighting the APC moving for reinforcement. The gunmen abandoned a boat filled with blood. They were seen moving the bodies of some their colleagues into another boat,” the villager said.