Monday, October 4, 2010

Independence celebrations are meant to be joyful occasions. And for a country like Nigeria that faces significant challenges, even the most cynical can opt to find something to be joyful for on independence day. Unfortunately, on October 1st, 2010, a day signifying 50 years of independence from Great Britain, Nigerians had much to be sorrowful for. A series of bomb blasts ripped through sections of the capital, Abuja, leaving the dead, injured and shaken in it's wake. Hours after the incident, it became clear that the media and even individuals were forewarned of the impending explosions. Yet, the Nigerian government argues that it was caught unaware. The inconsistency of that position, in light of further evidence, reiterates the failure of leadership that continues to destroy Nigeria. A failure of leadership that, once again, resulted in death.

Nigeria's security forces were warned of an impending attack at least five days before October 1st. Additionally, the perpetrators sent a warning to members of the media and other individuals on the day of the attack. The warning indicated the time and specifically mentioned that Eagle Square should be evacuated as an attack would happen. Given such information, it is unacceptable that the government did not do more to anticipate and prepare for the attack. There was no reason to not consider the warnings credible especially considering that MEND has blown up pipelines in the Niger Delta and even did the same in Lagos in 2009. As a result of the government's failure, many were injured and at least 12 died. Adding insult to injury is the fact that at least one foreign government alerted Nigerian authorities of a potential attack. And after the attack, Nigeria's Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, stated that the government was "caught unawares" but that the attacks "failed because the celebrations were a resounding success." This statement was absolutely inappropriate. Consequently, the failure to prepare does little to instill confidence in the government's ability to protect Nigerian and in fact reflects a failure of leadership at all levels.

Picture of a victim taken by @kyanabyoma via Amara Nwankpa

After the blast, an indigenous militant group, MEND claimed responsibility for the attack and seemingly apologized for the loss of life. Despite that, President Jonathan declared that MEND did not carry out the bombings. Instead, the president insisted that a "foreign-based" group planned it. While it is possible that the president is correct, the disregard for MEND's acknowledgment of responsibility creates more confusion than is necessary. And yet, security forces have allegedly captured at least on suspect and are searching for at least two Nigerian, and not non-Nigerian, suspects whose faces have been shown on television. Rather than participate in speculation, President Jonathan need only reinforce that the government would be focused on finding whoever committed the crime. By adding to the confusing speculation, President Jonathan and his handlers appear inept. This again does not encourage confidence in the government.

These examples highlight what can only be described as ineffectiveness on the part of the administration to prepare for a forewarned attack and the fallout the resulted. Although President Jonathan has wisely announced that the government will handle the health costs of all those injured, the bomb blasts have reinforced some troubling beliefs so many already have. One, that Nigeria is run by people who have no business controlling the destiny of 150 million people. And, two, that the nation's leaders have little regard for the people they are meant to serve. Hopefully, this most recent incident of insecurity will be a wake up call to citizens and a reminder that things must indeed change in Nigeria because to continue the way things are would be folly. The upcoming elections provide an excellent opportunity to put the country on the right track by electing the right political representatives to work tirelessly on solving the nation's issues. In the meantime, one can only hope that the despicable perpetrators of this horrible incident will be found and brought to justice.

From The Archives:
- Abysmal Handling of the Hajj Ban
- Bomb Blasts in Abuja, Nigeria
- A Not So Lustrous Golden Jubilee

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