Tuesday 5 January 2010

Nigeria: Privileges Umar Farouk Never Had

Childhood building blocks

Readers of my blog would have read a number of childhood themed blogs I have written in the last few years tinged with nostalgia and mostly revolving around my schooldays.

In conversation with a friend yesterday the topic of the underwear bomber came up and I found myself saying that the young man had not affinity with Nigeria and hence there could be no expectation for him to exhibit any form of patriotism regarding Nigeria.

What is developing out of the whole story is the ownership dilemma of how to identify with the young man or completely disown him.

Schooled away from home

An ex-teacher of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [1], identified with him by remembering a schoolboy who was caring, talented and articulate, in fact, Chris Edmunds [2], had this much to say, “You are my former student. I taught you. I played football with you. I visited you in your boarding house. I shared school lunch with you.

This was when he was at the British School in Lome, Togo, a child of great privilege and opportunity but definitely far from home.

Not supported whatsoever

With the inclusion of Nigeria in the US screening list, it is cant to portend that internally with the religious unrests, kidnappings, assassinations and Niger Delta, Nigeria does not represent some terror risk internally already but there is a desperate attempt to disown the young man in order to absolve ourselves.

So the Honourable Minister of Information has been particular about the fact that he was educated outside Nigeria and that he spent less than half an hour in Nigeria. In her words [1], “He was not influenced in Nigeria, he was not recruited or trained in Nigeria, he was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria.”

Therein is the issue; this person from youth had been far away from home, strange places became home, he found succour amongst strangers, other narratives indicate he was lonely and alone, in all, he was in as vulnerable a position to be influenced by anyone or anything that offered care, assurance, comfort and love – a warped kind of gratitude to that love birthed the scenario of being convinced to carry a bomb in his pants – God have mercy.

Always around my parents

However, this is what I am getting at, whilst I was born in England, I returned to Nigeria with my parents and only started schooling in Nigeria, they sent me to very good primary schools where we were taught, inspired, encouraged, challenged and given the opportunity to explore.

Whilst we had house helps, my parents also had time for us, we went on outings and picnics which diminished in frequency as we grew older, we played ball, my father installed a swing [lilo we called it in Hausa] in the garden, my mother got me a bicycle with her salary raise – I was at home, loved, provided for and protected.

When I went to secondary school, I was in a boarding house but close to extended relations who were always on hand and every holiday season, I was jetted back up North to see my parents, when we moved to Lagos, on the last day of school, there was always someone to pick me up and take me back home.

Creating my affinities

The points I am trying to make are, I was always close to home, my parents never delegated their parenting to the ability to throw money at the issue, I had lunch at home and dinner with my parents when they returned home, I was never put in a situation where I felt alone or lonely.

What that did was it gave me an affinity for all the environments I have been in to conserve, to remember, to cherish, to uphold and to promote all the good regardless of how much contrary things have happened or have been experienced.

Missed out, lost out

Unfortunately, the reason why Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab never had the kind of privilege I had was because by the time he reached the age where I enjoyed all this parent guidance and support, his parents did not think schools in Nigeria were good enough to give him the standard of education worthy of status of his family and the consequences are there to see.

This might well be a simplistic analysis but for me, it is very relevant, the minister’s assertion, “He was not influenced in Nigeria, he was not recruited or trained in Nigeria, he was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria.” is a ringing indictment of how our educational systems have failed us that we end up sending our kids to faraway lands and unfortunately far from parental support and control that creates the affinity and compelling desire to preserve rather than destroy.


[1] Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] The Punch: AbdulMutallab: Caring, talented student — Ex-teacher

[3] Nigeria says inclusion on US screening list unfair | Top News | Reuters

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