Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab became a household name on Christmas Day, 2009 when he attempted to explode a plane carrying 278 people to Detroit, MI. Since then, there has been considerable fallout for Nigerian and non-Nigerian travelers the world over. From long security lines, to extra scrutiny for Nigerians traveling into the United States and other countries. And, Nigeria was recently placed on a list of "Terror Prone" countries, putting it in far too close proximity with countries on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list - Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. During the days that have passed, the reaction from Nigerian authorities has been less than organized and far from effective. But, even more disturbing is the fact that Nigeria's President Yar'Adua, has been not just silent, but entirely absent from the resulting discourse and activity. This begs the question - Where is Nigeria's President during this time of incredible diplomatic crisis?

Even before he became President, Yar'Adua was known to be a sick politician. While governor of Katsina State, it was believed that he had a kidney condition, but that information was, and still has, never been officially confirmed. As President, Yar'Adua made several impromptu medical trips to Germany and Saudi Arabia. He even failed to attend a scheduled diplomatic trip to meet with Brazil's President in 2008 due to an apparent health emergency. Public discussion of his health resulted in the unlawful arrest of bloggers and journalists, and even the temporary shut down of a local independent news channel. The irony of these actions is significant because Yar'Adua came to power touting the importance of the "rule of law" and, he became President in the first successful transition of one democratic government to another in modern Nigerian history.

Although he had once been criticized for leaving the country impromptu and not following Constitutional requirements to leave the Vice President in power, all be it temporarily, on November 23rd, Yar'Adua was again rushed to Saudi Arabia without following protocols. And, once again, Nigerians were not informed when he would return. Foreign media outlets soon began to report that the President suffered a heart condition, in addition to his rumored kidney problem. Despite calls for his resignation, as at the date of publication of this article, Yar'Adua has been away and not seen or directly heard from for exactly 6 weeks and 3 days. That is a total of 44 days, costing N30 million* and counting.

In the days after the 9/11 terrorist attack, Saudi officials of all kinds, from Princes to diplomats, were on multiple international networks working hard to deflect the negative attention the kingdom and its royals were receiving. As more details of the 9/11 suicide terrorists emerged, Saudi Arabia took steps to let the world know that it was cooperating with American authorities in the investigation and hunt for those connected to the tragedy.

Unlike Saudi Arabia's prompt handling of its international image and public message after 9/11, only a few Nigerian officials initially spoke publicly about the event. Instead, the various heads of responsible agencies and other authorities are busy playing the blame game, but they have no boss - no President - to require and demand that key steps be taken to address the growing diplomatic consequences of Abdulmutallab's terrorist attempt. The Vice President has taken executive action in instructing Nigerian officials to work with American authorities following the terrorist attempt. However, he is yet to follow the necessary steps to be officially declared acting President and apparently, he is loathe to do so.

Although a formal statement was issued on behalf of the federal government, it was not until Nigeria's inclusion on the "Terror Prone" countries list that authorities began to react with vigor. Nigeria's Minister of Information and national rebranding manager, Dora Akunyili, publicly exclaimed that the list was "discriminating" against Nigerian nationals and Nigeria's Senators expressed that they were "unhappy" with the list but would not do anything about it until they return from their vacation.

Alas, it is little surprise that Nigeria failed to launch an adequate offensive in the days since the 'knicker bomber' incident. And so, while Nigerians endure embarrassing treatment at airports the world over, their President is somewhere only he knows (hopefully recovering), their legislators are on holiday and those officials who speak on the incident and its fallout, have little to no diplomatic authority to engage international allies and persuade them and Nigerians themselves that steps are being taken to address valid concerns. Granted, Abdulmutallab only spent 23 minutes in Nigeria en route to Detroit. Yes, his radicalization likely began in England and obviously was completed in Yemen. Of course, valuable information from his father, Great Britain, and other informants was not shared/acted upon efficiently by US agencies. Also, it cannot be ignored that the Bush Administration actually released from Guantanamo the alleged masterminds of this terrorist attempt, allowing them to attempt to kill so many through Abdulmutallab. And, of course, Nigerians, as a people, are not known for such extremism as suicide bombings and such - key points that should be stressed by Nigeria's mouthpiece - its government.

But, despite these facts, the reality is that Nigerians are directly impacted by Abdulmutallab's attempt and their government should be on the offensive, not the defensive in addressing these and other related issues. Nigeria's placement on the "Terror Prone" list is very damaging for the nation's reputation and the ability of its citizens and businesses to travel and conduct commerce abroad. Serious diplomatic and public efforts are necessary to remedy the situation before things get worse. Unfortunately, Nigeria's President is missing in action, the national ship has no official captain and during a time of international crisis, shipmates flounder with little to no direction.

* Link to the source, Punch Newspaper (NG) is inactive/dead, but is available here. The link will be updated once the Punch website is up and running again.

Hattip to BabaJide Salu whose recent statement - "How on earth will any country take Nigeria serious when a serious issue such as the “Xmas g-string failed bomber” has failed to bring out our President into the open" prompted this article.

From the Archives:
- Nigeria Placed on "Terror Prone" List
- African Travel Post Abdulmutallab
- A Nigerian Terrorist & A People's Passivity
- 'Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground For Terrorism' (May 2007)
- America Speaks...Does Nigeria Respond?
- How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot With Al Qaeda
- More Yar'Adua Health Uncertainty
- Yar'Adua Health, Resignation & Nigerian Cost
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health

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14 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Beauty said...

"Nigeria failed to launch an adequate offensive" is another reason to weep for our people as it moves towards a failed State status. The leadership challenge is the fundamental problem and it is time for like minded people come together. How can we work with those unable to see beyond the crumbs they feed off like maggots and flies? The current leaders have threatened to sever ties with America is the news on 234Next as the screams from the vacuum becomes unbearable. The US will simply answer "we find you irrelevant" according to a new informative video on Saharatv via

N.I.M.M.O said...

Come on!

Was he ever 'present' at any thing? IMO, the only thing Yar Adua has done in the last three years was to sign that Amnesty Proclamation and I say so because he signed it on television. At least, I saw him do so and television no dey lie (unless that one too na 'film-trick').

What could he have done that his AG is not doing? Even when he was on ground, he was 'short-one'. Most of the stuff that have been credited to him were done behind his back while he slept off his medications.

Unpalatable as this is, Yar Adua does not surprise me; the one I find disturbing is that National Assemble did not consider anything - not the fuel crisis, not the Kato Kalo crisis, not even Mouttallab's misadventure not to talk of the US listing of Nigeria - worthy or weighty enough to cut short their holidays for.

That to me is the tragedy.

Zoe Believer said...

Thanks Solomonsydelle, the whole handling of the issue has been a hot mess in my opinion! I asked my sister recently whether there is anything like PR in Nigeria, how to package what needs to be said the way it should be said, firm and diplomatic.

Nigeria does not condone terrorism, we haven't even finished solving our own issues! It's interesting to see how the press deflected the UK link, a Nigerian born man who spent the majority of his life outside the country has now been used to label the other hundred millions most of whom don't even have a passport, talk less of stepping out of the country. So what is the way forward?

Putting Nigeria on that list makes no sense whatsoever, just more Naija bashing for the west. Interesting how our oil has always been good enough but not we ourselves. I'm just getting upset as I'm typing this so I'll sign out.

Mr President, where art thou?

Anonymous said...

Have u heard that the National Assembly has just given the US govt 7-day ultimatum? What a joke!

- Heal Nigeria

Anonymous said...

@babajide's statement- 'gstring failed bomber' lwkmd. Ehn ehn (frowns face) to b candid,we dont need yardy to be around for this stigma to be mitigated.what if yardy surfaces and reacts d same way other govt. Officials have been acting?bottom line,d problem is not d absence of yardy but d inefficiency dat has always plagued our govt.a govt has ministries bcos d president cant do everything.minister of information,foreign affiars n american ambassador should b d busiest right now

- Wellsbaba from Facebook

Anonymous said...

@ Seyi.. the joke of the justice minister appealing the terror-listing is another annoying one...

- S.O. from Facebook

Anonymous said...

@ sissy solo lol u rily don yarn but u sef check am now,durin d district9 n ps saga yardy yarn anything?no b 9ja blogosphere scatter ground b4 dora open mouth?d british airways one nko?d electoral fiascos nko?even d rebranding dey claim to be doing they aint doin it effectively.9ja was reppin@d MAMA,dey sud av made sure CNN or inside africa caught ...

- Wellsbaba from Facebook

Anonymous said...

OMG is that him in the picture??? Is dude hanging on to dear life or what??? Geesh, now I'm scared!!!! When is another elections coming?? One is needed quick before Mr. Goodluck whachamacallit becomes President.

- Yemi A. from Facebook

Anonymous said...

@Seyi, the National Assembly has just given the US govt 7-day ultimatum to do what? What will the repercussions be for what.... perhaps more business with China instead? What is the National Assembly planning on doing??

- Yemi A. from Facebook

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to open ur link on my lapy for wks now hence I have missed all the intereting discussion.

I don't think Yardy needs to be around, like someone mentioned, his being around may not have made any difference.Did he not once shake former president Bush's hand and say that that was the most memorable day of his life. This from a Nigerian president. Thinking about it now, I think its better Yardy is not around who knows what nonsense he would have uttered. My frustration is at Nigeria's apparent lack of a well articulated person either for minister of information or whatever relevnt position.

I heard Dora say our name will be delisted by THE GRACE OF GOD, in other words, we will do nothing but hope on the grace of God, Is America suppossed to take us with such jokers as frontiers for govt serious. Goodluck also mentions God and prayers as frequently in his statements. While I am a firm believer in God, I think the way our people are quick to call his name on national matters shows that we really know not what to do. What steps are they taking to address or redress the situation. The answer is simple: PRAYER.

For the Love of me.

md_KG said...

There are a lot of issues raised in your post and it's pretty darn dismal that Nigeria is acting like a failed state. The disorganzation and mentality running through the minds of our leaders is just so pitiful.

As a president, Yar'Adua is supposed to issue a statement on a matter as big as this and the fact that he hasn't speaks volumes. Big volumes.
As for all the other officials, the ineptitude and non-reaction is disturbing but did we expect any less?

Nigeria is relevant to the U.S. in a lot of ways but it's not a do or die affair.

Anonymous said...

@yemi.... A diplomatic row! Severe diplomatic ties... Hmmm... Come to think of it,pls everyone answer me,whose more benefited in d US n Nigeria relationship.are they gettin more from us or are we gettin more from them?

- Wellsbaba from Facebook

Anonymous said...

@Oyeniyi, I did not say sever diplomatic ties...I merely hinted at perhaps doing more business with countries that are not so quick to embrass Nigeria by putting it on a terror special interest etc.. etc..list. I mean the man was radicalized in the U.K. and the U.K. has had incidents associated with religious fundamentalism (subway bombing, those ... See Morewere British citizens who did that) as have Nigeria (religious riots). Yet Nigeria goes down on this list and the U.K. does not.

That is a very good question you asked, "who benefits more from the US/Nigeria relationship?" What is your answer. I have mine. I don't think its Nigeria.

- Yemi A from Facebook

JL said...

America had another similar problem when Bill Clinton declined to take Bin Laden into custody. That led directly to the USS Cole bombing then 9/11.

Tis a small world.
a fan,

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