This paper was published on October 07, 2010 in 234NEXT
Nigerians have been subjected to several years of autocracy, misrule, and serial abuses these past 50 years of flag independence. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other groups has said that Nigeria has no reason to mark this ‘jubilee’.
MEND did not only make the point that there should be no celebration, they went ahead and set off bombs that snuffed the lives of over a dozen Nigerians and maimed many others.That was certainly a strong way to make a point— in broken bodies, spilled blood, shattered families, and stunning the nation to boot.
People have reacted in different ways to the Abuja bombings, a remarkable escalation of the sense of insecurity in a nation where kidnapers do not care a hoot about taking kids, journalists, pastors, oil workers, and just about anyone into captivity. This is a nation where citizens are abandoning their homes, villages, and towns for armed groups to take control and turn them into camps for their ‘armed struggles’. Meanwhile, the security organs are out on road blocks asking ‘wetin you carry?’
The idea of not marking national days in the country crept into the national psyche from the years of military misrule when the dictators did not wish to promote the assembly of peoples to discuss the national state of affairs. It became fashionable to tell Nigerians that occasions such as independence anniversaries, children’s day celebrations, and others were moments for sober reflection.
This was actually a way of camouflaging the fact that the leaders were utterly bereft of any ability or inclination to reflect on much other than their piles of loot. Over the years, this neglect became accepted as times to stay in our homes, mourn the death of dreams built on the ‘labours of our heroes past’ that are now threatened to have been in vain.
By neglecting to mark days such as that of national independence, the remaining threads that give citizens a sense of nationhood kept being pulled out of our multi-coloured national social fabric. Soon, we consolidated our sense of apartness, each looking more to our ethnic nations, regional cleavages, and political cabals.
It is in that trajectory that we read the unfortunate order from MEND that no one was to go to the Eagle Square for the national day celebration. They were kind enough to say that people should avoid dustbins and cars. Pray, where were those who eat out of dustbins going to get their meals from? Or had MEND dropped extra packages for them to gather?
Of all the responses, the one that is perhaps the most poignant is that of President Goodluck Jonathan. In the chorus of voices condemning the assault on all of us, our president reportedly said ‘What happened yesterday was a terrorist act and MEND was just used as a straw; MEND is not a terrorist group.’
By his leadership position, Mr. President certainly has more information on security matters than us ordinary citizens. Two disturbing issues arise from his assertion. The first is his conclusion that ‘MEND was just used as a straw.’ The first assertion is more alarming than the second one which claims ‘MEND is not a terrorist group.’
Perhaps, MEND is a political party or an extension of the Nigerian Army, Mr. President? Or is this an exercise in socio-political engineering to mend MEND?
Straw or pawn?
We return to the first assertion, which suggests that MEND is naive and lent itself to be used as a straw. In trying to read the president’s lips, we assume that he was using the word straw here to mean ‘pawn’, referring to someone used or manipulated to further someone else’s purposes.
If MEND is being used to further the purposes of someone else, then we have reasons to raise more concerns.
The first is that that someone has to be unveiled. Another concern would be to fundamentally question the rise of armed groups in the Niger Delta allegedly fighting for a number of things, including more oil and gas revenues for the region. Have there always been puppeteers behind the scene if the armed groups do not have agenda for their activities? This is disturbing because many came to see MEND as one of the more politically coherent groups that chose the way of violence to make their points.
If MEND is a straw, can we assume that scenario planners, who have predicted that Nigeria will blow into pieces within a short space of time, have an interest in the escalation of violence and insecurity in Nigeria? Are we to say that the violence in the oil fields has not secured sufficient foothold for foreign armed assistance and this needs to be extended to the entire nation and possibly put Nigeria on the path to becoming another Somalia or even Sudan to a degree?
If MEND is a straw, at what point did they metamorphose into this, or were they straws right from start? If the group is a straw or can be used as a straw, what are/were the several others who embraced the amnesty programme of the government? It is time to rethink the amnesty programme and extend it to the damaged environment of the region and indeed of the nation through a national environmental emergency plan.
The president’s assertion requires serious interrogation. With the background that some armed groups began as bands of political thugs, we need to know if this assault on poor Nigerians is linked to the fight for space and displacements in the run for the forthcoming elections. In other words, were these explosions the hands of politicians but the voice of MEND?
What we have here is a deep failure of our security systems and this requires quick action by Mr. President, and not quaint definitions of what constitutes terrorism.
- No longer accessible online ↵
- Nossiter, Adam. (1 October 2010), Bombs by Nigerian Insurgents Kill 8. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/02/world/africa/02nigeria.html (accessed 31 May 2016) ↵
- This was a rather cryptic claim as the President did not explain what made a group 'terrorist' or not. http://www.informationng.com/2010/10/bomb-blasts-terrorists-not-mend-responsible-jonathan.htmlaccessed 31 May 2016 ↵