Message to October 1st Bombers

On the night of September 30, 2010, I was my regular disenchanted self. My fortunes as a self-employed journalist were yet to meet my high standards, my car was still making those jerky movements that always made me uneasy on the highway, and I was just generally upset with a whole lot of things. And that included the hoopla that our nation’s 50th Independence anniversary was generating: nearly every where you went in Abuja’s central area, you could feel the intense heat of the preparations, and that feat was not too different from the normal one that wraps itself around the city most times. Around 830pm on that night, I had driven past the spot where some firework display was to be carried out but I drove past anyway. No firework lover like me could have committed this sin but I did, eyeing some of the sleek cars that were already parked close to the Central Mosque and its environs. The road ahead of me was lit thankfully, and bereft of the heavy traffic that was characteristic of my homeward journey daily. It was while I was driving home on that semi-empty road that I began to reflect both on my journey as a Nigerian and on the fortunes of my beloved fatherland. Here is one country so well endowed. But as well, here is one endowed country and her people who have slaughtered the futures of succeeding generations on the altars of ethnicity, personal aggrandizement and by playing the ethnic and religious cards. Here is one endowed country that has consistently frittered every opportunity to achieve greatness and stand tall in the international community. Here is one country whose leaders in 50 years could & have not guarantee power supply. Here is one country were the people, for 50 years, have provided their own water, their own roads, their own schools and their own hospitals. Here is one country whose leaders shamelessly travel abroad for medical treatment even as our hospitals remain the consulting clinics they really are.

As I reflected, I made up my mind that night not to attend the festivities, first as a gesture of personal protest but more as an expression of disgust at our inability to harness our potentials for the good of all. As a journalist, staying away from such a celebration highlighting Nigeria’s 50 years of independence posed enormous challenges of self abnegation because of the immense opportunities that that occasion presents. I could expand my network of contacts and meet prospective clients one on one. I knew that if I stayed away or attended nobody would notice. But I stuck to my heart instead of my head however. I spent the night in a friend’s house, thinking that since the occasion of the independence was a work day, I could spend it in the office doing something productive instead of attending a jamboree.

On my way to the office, a bit close to the Yar’Adua centre, I notice that the ground shook after a thunderous blast – twice. I looked up in the sky. Unusual helicopters looking like giant dragonflies sped past. But I continued on my way however and only to get near the central mosque to realize that something was really wrong – there was quiet pandemonium at the precincts of the Eagle Square and vehicles were being diverted quietly. From where I was stuck [now in a massive traffic], it should take only 2 minutes to reach my office but I spent over 2hours there, and wondering what the hell was going on.

I got to my office eventually but my nosey instincts began to buzz. I decided to investigate and what I saw was not too different from the London Bombings of July 7, 2005. Apparently, while some of us decided to stay away because of our anger that our country had not made the kind of progress we expected at 50 years as a nation, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta made a strong presence and statement, albeit, with some dry irony and sarcasm. At the last count, more than ten innocent Nigerians paid the supreme price for the failures of those who had been at the helm in 50 years.

I had been an avid monitor & follower of MEND activities. In 1996, when they adopted the Mau-Mau guerilla tactics of fighting for the emancipation of the Niger Delta from the hegemony of the rest of Nigeria, I took an interest mostly because of my dislike for injustice anywhere. They came out with a political ideology akin to that of the Irish Republican Army, IRA, and when you listened attentively whenever they articulated their rue for the Nigerian state, you get a feel that these are very well educated people, that know and are experts in using ancient and modern modes of guerilla warfare. I took my turn to defend their attack on the Atlas Cove in Lagos, mostly because that attack [I surmise] was carried out to establish that the fight to emancipate Nigeria was not confined to the Niger Delta, and that the emancipation was not a ‘militant’ affair. But I took exception to the kidnapping of expatriates working with the multinationals in the Niger Delta. My suggestion then was for them to focus more on our own people who have contribute to the atrocities in the Niger Delta and taken monies accruable to the Niger delta either to buy houses in Europe and America, or used them to develop other parts of Nigeria, at the expense of the Niger Delta.

For me as an individual, I think the Abuja attack was needless. The timing was imperfect and the execution was dastardly, to say the least. It not only embarrassed Niger Deltans worldwide, it has presented MEND as an organ that has been infiltrated by politicians and militants who do not recognize the focus and vision of the movement for emancipation. Otherwise, why kill innocent Nigerians who have no hand in the failure of their leaders and country? Why not focus on the leaders of the past 50 years who left us where we are today? If MEND could bomb cars as this close to the Eagle Square, or that close to Government house Asaba, then they must bomb IBB’s house, Buhari’s village and Olusegun Obasanjo’s farm in Otta, if not for anything but to send that message they wanted to send in Abuja.

I recommend to MEND to mend their action by apologizing to President Goodluck Jonathan, to Nigeria and to the families of those who died in that attack of October 1, 2010. It is only after that that they must bomb cars around the homes of our former leaders, if not for anything but to serve as a deterrent to those coming after them. I also recommend that our security forces look a closer into CNN activities in Nigeria. How come they were just there on the spot when the bombings took place?

Written by
MajiriOghene Bob Etemiku
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