Monday 4 October 2010

Nigeria: The president should keep his counsel

At Nero’s fiddle concerto

I find myself writing today not to praise President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan but to contemn certain of his views because at this point he stands accused of a naïveté that is unbecoming of a leader, talk less of a country like Nigeria.

As we all prepared for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Nigerian Independence all the eyes of global news outlets were focused on the most populous country in Africa.

This offered a time for the elite of Nigeria to congregate in Abuja with invited “Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen” the continual phrase that prefixed every sentence of the Masters of Ceremonies on the 1st of October.

On the Internet, I found a live stream of the event and could not help but notice amongst the guests people who have no example to give like the First Hair of Cameroon Chantal Biya, Former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and King Mswati III of Swaziland who might have visited with any number of wives to keep his manhood fully occupied.

Fireworks of disruption

During the ceremony two car bombs went off hardly a kilometre from the festivities to which the militant and nominally terrorist brigandage called the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) assumed responsibility having first warned important news outlets and then later apologised for the unfortunate loss of life.

Apparently, the government had been forewarned of this impending terrorist attack and the home of the heretofore mistaken leader of MEND, Henry Okah had been raided in South Africa the day before on Thursday.

In my view, the fully mobilised terrorist plan in Nigeria could not have been stopped within 24 hours from whatever would have been discovered in South Africa, the authorities were well behind the curve on this.

MEND in the frame

In essence, as the government began their investigations, their spotlight should have been beamed on MEND and its leadership with the view to capturing all the miscreants and bringing them to swift justice.

To any thinking person, MEND had purpose, opportunity, motive and means to perpetrate that attack even though it was the first time that an IRA-style car bomb had been deployed in a terrorist attack on Nigerian soil and also now, the fight had moved from the Niger Delta to the federal capital in Abuja.

Making amends for MEND

However, at an ECOWAS meeting of states celebrating their 50th Independence anniversaries in 2010, the President made these statements [1].

What happened yesterday was a terrorist act and MEND was just used as a straw; MEND is not a terrorist group. The Niger Delta people are aware of the government's noble efforts to assuage the suffering and deprivation in that region.

I am from the Niger Delta, my father's house is few metres from an oil-well, so nobody can claim to be a Niger Deltan than myself.

He went on to say, “It is erroneous to think that my people who have been agitating for good living will deliberately blow up the opportunity they have now, I pray for the souls of those who died to attain peace and fervently pray for those who sustain injuries in the blast to be healed.

He’s lost the plot

The Twitterverse and Facebook literally went into meltdown after this speech and not one of the comments and views I read were charitable.

I have always given President Jonathan the benefit of the doubt and suggested many a time that his PhD in zoology gives him an interesting insight into the behaviour of animals, organisms, primates or to put a finer point on it, simians.

In this case, I suggested he go back and dust his books and swot up on this because whilst he might know the difference between apes and monkeys, this was a different kind of monkey.

The straw man burns

If I were to take apart his statements of yesterday there are some interesting points to note about what he said.

+ We can all agree that the attack was a terrorist act.

+ He saying the MEND was being used as a straw is terminologically wrong, I presume he mean straw man and was deploying the straw man argument which involves ignoring the facts and offering fallacious claims.

+ MEND with its subversive and ruinous activities in the Niger Delta is at the minimum terrorist group though it might not yet have the outlay that Al Qaeda has.

+ Indeed, he is from the Niger Delta and though his father’s house is a few meters from an oil well, his properties were attacked twice in 2007 [2] when he was selected to be the running mate of late President Yar’Adua.

+ Whilst the acronym MEND suggests the agitation for good living standards for the people of the Niger Delta it is incredulous to suggest that the activities of MEND have really been about activism for social welfare, that view is both delusionary and dishonest.

The Aftermath

To buttress the points he made, the President has now suggested that the terrorist attack was launched by some foreign-based group [3] despite the fact that no other group has come forward to claim responsibility nor apologise for the carnage but MEND itself.

Meanwhile, two suspects have been named [4] as masterminds of the bomb plot whilst the President continues to plumb the depths of incredulity with fallacies begging the question about his reasoning.

This was for the global news

For all the attention the Golden Jubilee garnered in two car bombings the focus was snatched from the jollity of the elite to a festering problem that does not seem to have a solution or game plan in sight.

It can be said that the bombing was staged on that particular day to gain maximum publicity which is why the perpetrators sent out an IRA-style warning for Eagle Square to be evacuated but the way the president is handling this matter rather might well lead to an almighty bungle.

Handling the matter

This is not to say all lines of inquiry and investigation should be not tapped to their conclusive ends but taking the focus off the obvious, the deliberate and the facts serves to give the so-called masterminds a head-start with the possibility of that trail going cold.

The greater issue for all is this new development of car bombs in Nigeria and two in succession; the idea that foreign groups can come into our federal capital on an auspicious day to wreak havoc with bombs is concern.

The President is not helping the situation with these unverified and uncorroborated theories of casting blame elsewhere despite the telling lapse in our security and the seeming poor response to handling the disaster after it happened.

Keep your counsel

The information minister failed to capture the mood of the moment dismissing the attack in favour of the supposed success of the celebrations but before the whole world the party was marred by this.

If I had President Jonathan’s ear, I would say, keep your counsel, it is not compulsory to be seen to talk and then when you talk you are viewed with expressions that range from incredulity to derision the risk for an almighty bungle looms.

If foreigners terrorise you, you have a problem, if your people are the terrorists, suspend your disbelief and handle the catastrophe before some sarcastic security analyst says they had all the data and messed it up, so typically Nigerian.


[1] Jonathan says MEND not responsible for Abuja attacks |

[2] Is Goodluck suffering a run of bad luck? []

[3] Foreign-based group behind bomb attacks – President |

[4] Nigeria: Police Name Suspects in Dual Car Bombings - ABC News


CodLiverOil said...

Let me start by saying this, I was not in favour of any "celebrations" to start off with.

We know the security apparatus also known as the "state intelligence" are completely useless. The leadership is bankrupt and the state is withering on a vine.

With the warnings, why did they not call off the "celebations"? (If they had any regard for human lives) Those British dignatories who declined the invitation were completely vindicated. The foreign embassies who advised their staff in Abuja to remain indoors were right. They displayed more sense than Nigeria's very own state authorities.

President Jonathan is in a unique position to capitalise on his background ie being from the Niger Delta and sort out the resource control issue with the people's of that region. Instead he has proved to be as insensitive and callous as all his other predecessors. (Maybe that is what power does to those who wear the crown of leadership in Nigeria).

I think Nigeria should have noted the example of the Niger Republic. They held a simple tree planting ceremony and invited no foreign guests (to mark their 50 years of independence). Perhaps it was the drought and the famine, that knocked some sense into their heads.

Nigeria should have heeded this lesson, and cancelled the "celebrations". A simple sober address by the president and the state governors apologising for the unimaginable failure the last 50 years have been and pledging themselves to improving the lives of the people would have been more appropriate.

I've yet to see any other nation that can blow an estimated $400 billion dollars in the last century and be in the bottom tier for development,this is quite unparalleled. This is why I'm not in favour of any celebrations, marking the event modestly and in a serious manner would have been more appropriate.

Akin Akintayo said...

Hello CodLiverOil,

You know that Nigerians would never suspend the opportunity to party for a more serious issue of life and death.

The Information Minister said as much about the success of the celebrations over the attacks - I was aghast, to put it mildly.

Somehow, we each have to step forward to prove that Nigerians can be sensible, right-thinking and not be carried away with sentiment.



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