19th October, 2010
In the early hours ofÂ Sunday, 19 October 1986, exactly 24 years today, Nigerians were jolted with an unimaginable shock with the macabre and vicious bomb blast that killed Dele Giwa, the erstwhile founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine. It was the first letter bomb used by the then military government to exterminate a perceived enemy who allegedly had some damning evidence against the top hierarchy of the then military administration.
Even today Dele Giwaâ€™s killers have not been officially pronounced. In Nigeria such dastardly assassinations are never investigated. Chief Bola Ige, Chief Alfred Dikibo to mention just a few, are victims of gruesome murder yet to be solved several years after it happened.
But the Abuja bombings of 1 October 2010 on our 50th Independence Anniversary was a crime against and an affront on the sovereignty of this great country â€“Nigeria. And Nigerians have risen in unison to condemn this act of treasonable felony for which the perpetrators must be punished fully. These politically sponsored criminals must be fished out from wherever they are hiding.
But fortunately Henry Okah, the unrepentant factional leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has tacitly taken responsibility for the Abuja bombing that killed 12 people and injured about 40 others. Henry Okah who spoke to Al Jazeera News Agency on 05/10/2010 said that President Goodluck Jonathan did not understand the problems of the Niger Delta people as did the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. How naÃ¯ve and how puerile! Does Okah expect Nigerians and the international community to believe that President Goodluck Jonathan who was born, raised, schooled, worked in the Niger Delta throughout his life before becoming the Nigerian President does not know the problems afflicting the people of the Niger Delta?
Okah also told Al Jazeera News Network that a top aide of President Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with him on phone to retract his earlier statement of claiming responsibility for the bombings and implicate some Northern politicians. Okah who is an intelligent 5th columnist and renegade would have gleefully spilled the beans by naming the top Presidential Aide if indeed there was any as Okah in his precarious position is only clinging to a tiny, slimy mesh of straw which will surely give way soon.
Okah was born in Ikorodu a suburb of Lagos and only had mental photographs of his Bayelsan home which he only visited in 1986 â€“ at the age of 19 when his mother died. How can Okah claim to know Niger Delta problems more than the president who is even referred to as a â€œhome boyâ€?
Okah was never domiciled in Bayelsa State. He was a licensed gun merchant selling his wares from door-to-door at a very young age in Lagos. In 2007 he was arrested in Angola in connection with gun running. He was deported to face trial in Nigeria in February 2008. He was charged on 62 counts including treason, terrorism and gunrunning offences carrying the death penalty. But surprisingly on 13 July 2009 Okah was released by the Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan government as part of a general amnesty for the Niger Delta militants.
Unrepentant and impatient Okah has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being too slow and not understanding the problems of the Niger Delta. He also accused President Goodluck of not putting enough money on the table.
Okah is a professional gun-merchant in the hue of Victor Bout, the most notorious and heartless Russian arms dealer in the world. Coincidentally, Okah and Bout share the same year of birth â€“ 1967. On March 6th 2008, American undercover agents posed as Colombian FARC rebels to sign a deal for over 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and aeroplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles at a five-star hotel in Bangkok-Thailand. It was almost a â€œdone dealâ€ when Thai police arrested Viktor Bout on the spot. He is presently fighting extradition to the United States in Thailand.
In fact such criminals as Okah deserve no mercy or public sympathy. He was saved from imminent death penalty when the President Yarâ€™Adua/Goodluck Jonathan Government unconditionally released him on amnesty on 13 July 2009. Henry Okah has bitten more than he can chew. He was released from â€œdeath rowâ€ just to placate the Niger Deltans he has now stabbed, not at the back this time, but brazenly in the face. Okah must be made to pay for his crimes.
On the 5 October 2010 the New York Time Square Bomber-Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to jail for life by a New York court. In May 2010 Shahzad set up a car bomb in the Broadway area of New York during a busy lunch hour period. Fortunately for Americans the car bomb failed to explode as only smoke emitted from the bomb. Even though the Pakistani-American failed to accomplish his mission the Judge did not fail to give the unrepentant Shahzad the maximum penalty carried by the offence.
The President Goodluck Jonathan government must henceforth invest fully in security. The bombings of 1 October 2010 did not take us unawares. Okah informed the whole world five days to the D-day. And even immediately before the explosion he warned everyone. If we did not take Okahâ€™s warning seriously, what about the security alert from the USA? In Nigeria we have various security arms of the various services. The Defence Intelligence Agency, the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, the State Security Services. Also, all the services including the Nigerian Police have Bomb Detection/Disposal Units. It was so disgusting to hear from the SSS spokesman that their operation was hampered by rain.
It is comforting to note that Jonathan swung into action immediately by appointing a new National Security Adviser with a view to overhauling the entire security system. This restructuring of national security must be holistic. It must incorporate aggressive training and acquisition of modern hi-tech gadgets to â€œjamâ€ explosions and render them ineffective. There must be a new orientation to security matters especially investment in state-of-the-art information gathering techniques.
Apart from all these, security chiefs must be allowed to be independent minded without any pressure or constraints from the top. They must be trained to work and achieve results and with the highest level of professional discipline.
Government must tackle security matters without fear or favour. No consideration must be given to the offenderâ€™s stature, state, religion or the political clout he or she wields. For sometime now, some Northern Elders have dared President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s government through so many uncharitable statements, some of them bordering on treason. And even after the bomb blasts, Alhaji Lawan Kaita had this to say: â€œthe North should not be blamed for the calamity that will befall the country, if Jonathan emerges president next year.â€
What calamity does the Northern Elders Forum want to bring upon Nigeria if President Goodluck Jonathan wins next year? Both the connotative and denotative implications of their statement is too weighty and for keen observers of politics, it is a security breach. Other Northern elders who have spoken in this vein are Tanko Yakassai, Adamu Ciroma, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, etc. Northern elders must not overheat the polity as findings on the Abuja bombings is already pointing to the direction of one of the Presidential candidates from the North. â€œMaking Nigeria ungovernableâ€ for President Goodluck Jonathan is already an acceptance of complicity in the Abuja bombing by some Northern elders.
If Nigeria can no longer remain as one nation, let us peacefully embrace the Sudanese option of separation through referendum. Let us not shed innocent blood because the chances of the North to produce the next president are getting slimmer by the day. And anyway with all these threats of pogrom coming from the so-called Northern elders, do they know that the North cannot survive as a nation for one day without getting survival loaves from the World Bank or Saudi Arabia, etc?
The North has ruled this country for 38 years out of its 50 years of existence without any progress whatsoever. The zoning formula of the PDP which the North now holds sacrosanct is not part of the Nigerian Constitution. Or is the PDP saying that their partyâ€™s constitution takes precedence over the Nigerian Constitution?
The first letter bomb in Nigeria that killed Dele Giwa was delivered during the administration of a Northern military president. That letter bomb has reincarnated and metamorphosed into a violent explosion that rocked the Eagle Square on the Golden Jubilee celebration of our dear country. The Nigerian security agencies are already investigating the source of this treasonable disaster. However, most Nigerians know that these bombs have come a long way from 19 October 1986.
Nigerians must be very vigilant. Nigeria belongs to all of us â€“ both the majority and minority.
Nigerians be vigilant. God bless Nigeria.
â€¢Ben Nanaghan writes from Lagos.