ABDULRAHMAN A. ABDULRAUF writes on the politics of the controversies over the Nyanya bomb blast and the desirability or otherwise of the PDP’s Kano rally
Monday, the 14th of April was another sad day in Nigeria’s history. On that day, the security challenge currently facing the country, especially in the northern part, again reared its ugly head in a popular motor park at Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja when scores of innocent commuters, including passers-by, commercial motorcycle riders as well as traders were blown off in an early morning bomb explosion. At the end of the melee, close to 100 people were killed in the process. Also lost to the explosion were 17 mass transit buses owned by the FCTA, mini buses, private/commercial buses as well as Keke NAPEP and motorcycles.
For over four to five hours after the incident, there was pandemonium with people making frantic GSM calls to their friends and relations to really ascertain who and who were involved. In droves, the dead were moved to the mortuaries while the survivors were quickly carried to various hospitals within and around the FCT. Of course, unlike the previous bombings, especially around Abuja, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan promptly visited the scene in company of the Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh and other service chiefs, during which he condemned the act. A sober Jonathan was visibly disorganized and troubled and could hardly mutter out some words.
While the tension generated by this ugly development was yet to simmer, the incident like the ones before it, was to later assume a political dimension with various stakeholders making comments, depending on which side of the divides they belong. For some, it’s a demonstration of the present administration’s incompetence and therefore ruled out Jonathan from the 2015 poll. To others however, the enemies of the administration are at work to discredit and portray the president in bad light ahead of 2015.
PDP hits at Buhari,APC
And in this moment of confusion, the PDP, like it did in the past, blamed the dastardly act on the All Progressives Congress(APC) and its leaders, including General Muhammadu Buhari. The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, threatened to expose sponsors of the Boko Haram, a group it believed was responsible for the Nyanya blast. It variously accused some notable APC leaders crediting to them some ‘inciting’ statements.
He said: “When the PDP, said that the All Progressive Party, (APC) is responsible for the spate of terror in Nigeria, many had an emotional response, but it is now time to dispassionately focus on the facts in order to stop the carnage on innocent Nigerians.
“Whilst we concede that insurgency existed in the nation before the advent of the current administration, we wish to point out that inflammatory utterances from leaders, many of whom by design or otherwise are now chieftains of the APC have succeeded in emboldening them to launch large scale attacks, maiming and killingm our people, believing their actions enjoy the approval of such leaders”, the statement said.
The part queried rather rhetorically: “Are we not now witnessing a foretaste of the bloodbath promised by Buhari and El-Rufai? Is this not the “violent change” promised by Atiku? How many people have to die before Nigerians call a spade a spade and not a farming implement?
“We were not surprised when Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi now a leader in the APC, in inciting his followers recently said, ‘I came to Bori to prove to you that you don’t need to run away from violence. If a man is chasing you with AK-47, you should carry machine gun and the man will call for peace.”
Going further Metuh said: “We also recall recent statement by the Borno state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima wherein he posited that the insurgents were better armed and better motivated than our security forces. This was deliberately directed at weakening and undermining the security forces while emboldening insurgents. No wonder that after Shettima’s statement, insurgents were encouraged to launch more deadly attacks on our security forces and staged a comeback to the Federal Capital Territory.
“This is in addition to statements by Governor Nyako of Adamawa State who continually, ridicules the office and person of the President to portray the administration as weak in fighting terrorism.”
Buhari fires back
And on Thursday, Gen. Buhari, one on of those accused by PDP of aiding insurgency, came up with a legal threat if Metuh and his party fail to withdraw the statement and follow up with an apology.
In a statement personally signed by him in Kaduna, the former head of state said: ‘’I cannot sit back and allow my image, and that of my political party be smeared by falsehood in the name of politics.’’
While saying Metuh’s claim lacked basis, the APC leader stated that ‘to support his claim, Mr. Metuh engaged in twisted logic and outright distortion – which he called facts – in which he said that I, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, beckoned on my ‘supporters to go on lynching spree’ should I lose the 2011 presidential election, as a result of which ‘an unprecedented violence broke out claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
“I take very serious exception to this grave accusation against me by the PDP Publicity Secretary. It is a false allegation aimed at tarnishing my image and reputation in the hope of destroying my political and electoral standings, and that of my party, the APC, in the country.
“He recalled that ‘firstly, it is public knowledge that Boko Haram as a terror organization long preceded the 2011 presidential elections. My utterances or lack of them on the 2011 presidential election could not therefore have created nor sustained the Boko Haram insurgency”.
‘’Secondly, the PDP Government of President Goodluck Jonathan constituted the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu Panel of Inquiry to investigate and report on the post-election violence in some parts of the country. The panel discharged its duties within its terms of reference and
submitted its Report to the President. This Report was accepted by government and a Whitepaper issue.”
“Nowhere in that Report, a product of thorough investigation of that unfortunate incident, was I mentioned in the remotest way to have uttered a word or acted in any form or manner that sparked off the violence. If I had, certainly that investigation would have uncovered it. The truth is that I had not.
‘’Thirdly, 2011 was not the first time I contested a presidential election and was declared defeated, it was the third! If I had had no cause to ‘beckon on my supporters to go on lynching spree’ in the two previous occasions, I would have had no cause to change in 2011 – and I did not,’’ Gen. Buhari said.
Beyond this, the unfortunate development is also generating another round of controversy as the two major parties are bent on making issues out of it.
While Jonathan’s effort could be commended for his promptness, the first of its type since the insurgency broke out, a lot of issues are being raised over the Kano rally organized by the ruling party, just 24 hours after the blast, with the president, senate president and others in attendance. Also, the president upon leaving Kano, flew to Ibadan to felicitate with the Olubadan , Oba Gbade Lana to celebrate with him on his 100 years birthday.
To some, these visits definitely smack of insensitivity. Ironically, while the president and other party faithful were in their exciting moment in Kano and Ibadan, Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, another PDP member, and Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, were at the National Hospital commiserating and donating blood to victims of the bomb blast.
Condemnation trails rally
To Sulaiman Lawal , a part-time lecturer at the University of Abuja, “the president’s decision to move to Kano for politicking has shown that he only went to Nyanyan to make a mockery of the victims. His mood at the scene of the blast and that displayed at Kano are not comparable. Then something is happening somewhere.
“For God sake, we are talking of human lives. Is he saying if one his wards was involved , he would have still gone ahead to hold that rally as well as visiting Olubadan? With due respect, Mr. President appears to be sending a wrong signal that could suggest that he is not bothered by whatever damage caused by the insurgents to Nigerians. Why not suspend the rally and the visit at least for now? And by the way, what is so significant about it(rally) after all?”
APC rattles PDP
Similar position is shared by the APC , which described Jonathan as exhibiting the traits of an “insensitive and utterly hardhearted leader.” In a statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also renewed its call on the president to urgently convene a stakeholders’ summit and pursue a nonpartisan approach towards ending the insurgency, saying “it is now very obvious that the challenge posed by it is beyond the capacity of the government.”
According to the APC, ‘the message that President Jonathan is sending to Nigerians is that keeping his plum job, at all cost, is more important to him than the security and welfare of the same people who voted him into office.
Otherwise, the President would not have rushed back to his illegal campaign trail at a time he should be leading the nation in mourning the dead.
‘A President who said his ambition is not worth the blood of anyone is now dancing gleefully on the graves of over 70 of his compatriots. What is so important about the illegal campaign stop in Kano on Tuesday that could not have waited for the smoke to clear from the scene of the deadly blast on Monday? Who will President Jonathan rule over when his countrymen and women are being daily mowed down under his watch?”
‘’Without mincing words, President Jonathan erred badly by not showing enough sympathy for the victims of Monday’s blast. More people died in the blast than from Kenya’s mall shooting last September, yet President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning during which flags at public buildings flew at half mast and the people of Kenya prayed for the dead and the injured,” Mohammed recalled.
FG justifies rally
Notwithstanding the condemnation, the Presidency still insisted there was nothing wrong in holding that rally. Justifying the position while addressing journalists at the end of the Federal Executive Council(FEC) meeting last Wednesday, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said it was to prove a point that no group or individual, no matter how powerful could grind government machinery to a halt.
Maku said: “One thing that terrorists want is to paralyse society to make sure that they keep you and I home, frustrate every normal activities of society and they will do it again and again, so that when they strike government stops and everything stops, they will be very happy.
“You will remember that on the day terrorist struck, he cancelled his trip to Ibadan and other engagements, and visited the scene personally and directed all the services to provide support. He appealed to the nation to remain united.
“I think going to Kano, was a loud statement that terrorists will not stop this country from moving and from working. On the day it happened, the president had already suspended all his activities and focused on it.
“Don’t forget that this pain is to the president of this country more than any other person in this nation today. And this president has suffered psychologically as a result of this criminality which terrorists carry out to distract the public, to disrupt the normal activities of government and to set people against government,” he said.
Plea and threat
Further to this, the federal government is also coming up with stick and carrot approach as it assured those terrorists willing to renounce their acts, of forgiveness while also threatening to ruthlessly deal with those who would not have a change of heart. Minister of Special Duties/Inter Governmental Affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki(SAN), stated this when he visited some victims of the blast in the hospital. Turaki who also chairs the presidential committee on continuing dialogue and peaceful resolution of security challenges in the north, said: “A lot of them (insurgents) are talking to us and we are talking to them. For those who think that they don’t want to give peace a chance, who think that they can imprison our collective resolve, for those of them who think that violence pays, then the security agencies are to deal with them.
“I want to assure Nigerians that the government does not only have the capacity to deal with them but indeed the government has the willpower to ensure that the lives and properties of all Nigerians are well protected.”
However, Speaker , House of Representatives, Hon. Tambuwal would not want to be drawn into any political controversy, as according to him, this is not the time to play politics. He spoke when he visited to commiserate with the victims in the National Hospital during which he also donated blood for the quick recovery of those affected by the blast.
He said: “As leaders in this country, we must all come together and support the government in addressing this challenge. We should stop playing politics with issue of insecurity. From what I have seen among the victims, I doubt if they are members of any political party.
“We should stop playing politics, we should address the issue and it is not about any religion. It is unfortunate. We must come together. We must rise to the challenge and address this challenge. We must all work together as a nation to address the issue of security, we should stop playing politics with security.”
The speaker said the humanity in him made him to donate the blood.
And from the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu came an assurance that the ongoing war will end in favour of Nigeria. While lamenting the gruesome act, he said: “The nation must stand together against these blood guzzlers and enemies of state, nature, and sound reasoning.
“Our collective will, to completely snatch our nation and destiny from the jaws of this insanity and barbarism must never waver, just as our socio-cultural orientations that uphold the sanctity of life and the intrinsic dignity in the human person must never be surrendered to the ungodly.”
Beyond Boko Haram
Although some moral issues are being raised on the desirability or otherwise of the federal government’s handling of the situation, one thing that is clear is that the Nyanayan bomb blast may have gone beyond the known Boko Haram insurgents. Except a proper scrutiny is done of some governments’ policies which appear anti-people, the manifestation of the Boko Haram in all may have just started coming to the fore. Above all, the ruling party owes Nigerians the benefit of unveiling those behind these serial attacks. There couldn’t have been any other time than now.