Africa viewpoint: The blame game

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan waves during a military parade marking Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary in Abuja 1 October 2010

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos considers when it is best for politicians to shut up.

It is 19 days now since the Abuja bomb outrage which claimed at least 12 lives and injured scores of other innocent people, all of whom were savouring the nationwide celebration of Nigeria's golden jubilee.

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It made no sense to us... their kinsman was now president”

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The noon incident very close to the Eagle Square venue of the military march-past in the capital city took the shine off the celebrations and opened a new chapter in Nigeria's chequered political history.

All through that day some friends and I sat in front of a large-screen television set and simultaneously kept an ear on a shortwave radio on the coffee table, seeking information on the explosions and their aftermath.

We changed stations frequently to find out answers to the numerous questions we were raising.

Did the blast affect anyone or the programme at the packed venue? Who did it? How heavy were the casualties? Was there a hint of ethnic conspiracy?

It was such an ominous event as to disturb any serious observer.

Confusion
Nigerian sailors march during 50th anniversary celebrations of Nigerian independence, in Abuja The anniversary bombings did not disturb the march-past events at Eagle Square in Abuja

Our first relief was that the march-past went on undisturbed after the explosions - it was re-assuring to know that the bombs were not close enough to cause a stampede, otherwise the immediate reaction could have been that of a raging mob.

We were confused that the claim of responsibility was alleged to have been made by oil militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

It made no sense to us: Most of militants had signed an agreement with the government last year to hand in their arms. What would they be agitating for or against at this time?

After all - their kinsman from the Niger Delta, Goodluck Jonathan, was now president and he had a strong chance of retaining the position for the next four years.

So, we were sure the culprits were not Mend.

Whoever they were, they were not bold enough to identify themselves openly; they would rather hide in someone else's shadow.

Such a group could only be a band of mercenary criminals under sponsorship.

Everywhere in Lagos that evening everybody was discussing the bombing and looking forward to the government to come out with a bold, re-assuring statement that all was well and that the perpetrators would be hunted down.

More questions than answers

Two days later, President Jonathan came close to giving that assurance but he went too far.

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His actions were confusing and his statement was capable of being given a partisan political interpretation”

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Rightly, he mourned with the bereaved. His pain was palpable as he consoled the victims on their hospital beds.

He carried the nation with him when he directed the security services to fish out those responsible for the bombing.

He said it was not for him to clear or defend any possible suspect without specific clearance from the national security executives.

But although the investigations were just beginning, he then gave Mend a clean clearance certificate over the bombing and he said that the perpetrators were known.

Known to whom? Who gave him the information?

And a day or two later he warmly received a delegation of Mend leaders, who had signed the peace deal, at State House, but to what purpose?

His actions were confusing and his statement was capable of being given a partisan political interpretation - and it was given exactly that.

The four northern candidates contesting the ruling PDP's presidential nomination against Mr Jonathan issued a joint statement accusing the government of playing politics with the security and lives of Nigerians.

Since then President Jonathan and his aides have been trying to minimise the damage his earlier utterances were perceived to have made, especially to his image as a unifying, detribalised leader.

He has met with leading traditional rulers in the north and received a delegation of friendly northern politicians.

Last week, he made what I consider a very sensible statement: He said that he would not comment on the bombings any more until the security services had completed their investigations.

What a relief!

If you would like to comment on Sola Odunfa's latest column, please use the form below. A selection of views will be published.

The president said he knows the culprits and two days later he wants to wait for the security operatives to do their job.....it's a bit difficult to take him seriously right now.

Ooligee,

I love your write up Sola. Although I watch some parts of the programme on TV on that day, independence day, I turned to watch some thing else, because there is absolutely nothing to celebrate. I think Govt should learn from this bomb blast that many Nigerians are crying because there are hungry while their celebrating with 6.9 billion naira. Thanks I love BBC.

Okereke Nicholas, Lagos, Nigeria

Being Nigerian makes me remarkably proud. Nigeria regardless of the madness going on and we have come a long way and have grown in leaps and bounds however to borrow a popular quote: "Yesterday is experience, tomorrow is hope... today is getting from one to the other". Let us all join hands together for the progressive good of the country today so as to embrace the hopes and dreams of tomorrow. God bless Nigeria. President Goodluck be firm and leave Nigerians with no doubt in our minds that you have the capability and capacity to govern and lead us.

IHEANYI CHUKU EGBUTA, CARDIFF WALES

I think any perceptive mind following Nigerian issues consistently over the past 12-24 months cannot fault Mr. President's statement.And strangely, some persons have made the President the issue rather than these murderous stealth bombers. We should be careful not to "take our eyes off the ball" and stand with Mr. President. Nigerian lives have been brutally wasted and the killers have no right or justification to ever do this. Keep your eyes on the ball and stand with Mr. President.

Adedamola Azeez Kadiri, Abuja, Nigeria

For me the episode of the bomb blast was unfortunate and an eye opener to the authorities. Regardless of who or group behind it, one really have to ask how equip are our personels to deal with the 21st century security matters. The answer is a big unequivoal "NO". So Mr. President changing guards might not be enough. In fact, pitch in training, communication equipments, surveliance cameras and raising entry standards into the security forces might serve the populace better

Osaretin Umweni, Lagos, Nigeria

Thank you Odunfa for this interesting write-up. There is definitely going to be blame game in a society where the security forces are not united and intelligence is trial and error. It is unfortunate that people who came to celebrate our independence lost their lives due to the actions of some heartless individuals. Will the federal government compensate the families of the dead, injured and maimed? All the units of the armed forces needs a total restructuring and better intelligence gathering in order for history not to repeat itself.

Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

The President's inarticulate and silly statemnts on the bombing should speak clearly of his childish and his upreparedness to be Mr. President for the next presidential term . By every indication, all what Jonathan has done since that infamous moment of bombing is nothing short o the old tricks of his mentor - Obasanjo. The project is about the possible elimination of opponents by every means necessary and nothingseemed to dim that pursuit from Jonathan and his 'eguwei' club. Has anyone asked why Goodluck endeavoured to sheepishly exonorate MEND despite the latters public pronouncement on the occurence. It seems Nigerians are stil not prepared fo any meaningful change in Nigeria, and Goodluck could just be that symbol of the ugly phenomenom. May God save the people.

Hashim Daboh, London

Being a Nigerian is a blessing of which am proud of, regardless of the fact that our political system is defiant to the constitution giving a deface to the country's status. Regarding the incindent on oct 1st which lead to the loss of lives and casaulties, we should not be blind to the fact that the supposed millitants who have been charged as the culprits have their kinsman as the head of the federation. in spite of the Niger Delta dispute, they are no fools to tarnish their gorvenment so i would call it. it's so obvious that this was all setup by political rivals to abuse Mr President's leadership of which he is certain of but should he comment on this NO. Nigerians let's not beat around the bush, hit the nail on the head. It's high time we make our home a sweet One. Goodluck Nigerians.

Hamza Shey Tobi, Jalingo, Nigeria

I think some people just want to use the bomb explosions in abuja to divert attention from the real issue,thereby giving a dog a bad name in other to hang it.The real MEND as recognised by President Jonathan had denounced voilence and embraced the amnesty and couldn't have been responsible for incident. I don't know where the President erred.

Ime Ikpeh, abuja - nigeria

What a beautiful and balanced write up, many thanks. I suppose President Jonathans political inexperience and leadership skill was exposed afterall.I hope he has learnt from this experience!

Deji Daramola, Cape Town, South Africa

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