The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, today, 19 October 2010, issued a fresh threat to bomb any campaign gathering President Goodluck Jonathan might plan to address. Why will this “MEND” be targeting one of their own? President Goodluck Jonathan is an Ijaw, from the Niger Delta.
An email on behalf of MEND, signed by Jomo Gbomo warned of the October 1 attacks about an hour before they occurred. Another one later claimed responsibility.
On Friday, another message was sent in the same manner on behalf of MEND warning of a new attack in the capital.
Text messages from “MEND” also threatened to set off another bomb blast in Zamfara state as Jonathan visited the North-Eastern Nigeria State on Tuesday October 12, 2010. MEND Warned innocent people to stay away from the venue.
The statement on Tuesday (Today) said “we hereby repeat our warnings to the residents of Abuja, the heart of the country, and to all persons who will be interested in attending the political campaign organized by the president, Goodluck Jonathan.”
“Out of security concerns, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta MEND until further notice will no longer entertain any enquires,” it said. “Henceforth, we will release to the media only warnings and statements of claim.”
Two car bombs exploded near a parade marking Nigeria’s 50th anniversary of independence on Friday, killing at least 16 people. In a swift reaction, MEND took responsibility for the deadly bomb blasts which rocked the FCT.
Again, we ask; why will this “MEND” be targeting one of their own? Is this MEND still fighting for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, or some other subterranean motives?
It is simply too far-fetched to believe that people from the Niger Delta will be carrying out bombing to thwart Jonathan’s ambition. I listened carefully to several AIT interviews by the leaders of MEND. I have spoken with some Ijaw friends on facebook, on Ijawforums and elsewhere. Their support for Goodluck Jonathan is almost total!
Jonathan said investigations had revealed MEND members knew nothing about the attacks and they had been carried out by a small group based outside Nigeria, sponsored by “unpatriotic elements within the country.” What Jonathan failed to add was what was clearly evident to him: This “MEND” carrying out this attack was being sponsored by elements of entrenched Nigerian power structure vehemently opposed to his emergence as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
If any evidence was needed to support this assertion, today’s fresh threat from MEND to bomb any campaign gathering President Goodluck Jonathan might plan to address, clearly proves that today’s bombing campaigns is no longer an agitation or fighting for a fairer share of the natural wealth for the vast Niger Delta region, whose villages remain mired in poverty despite five decades of crude oil extraction. Rather its singular aim is to embarrass President Jonathan, expose him as incapable of stopping the Niger Delta crisis, and generally show him up as a weak leader, incapable of solving Nigeria’s security crisis.
Indeed, if the intention of the Abuja bomb blast is to weaken Goodluck Jonathan as stated above and expose his inexperience, the bombers and their backers actually succeeded. For a few days after the bombing, President Jonathan almost lost his bearing, the same way he was left shocked when late Umaru Yar’adua was brought back from Saudi Arabia in the middle of the night.
Under heavy criticism from Nigerians because of the heavy causalities despite being forewarned of the bombing and for hastily absolving MEND, the president wilted. He quickly backtracked. The image that emerged before Nigerians is that of a weak, stuttering, inexperienced President, incapable of presiding over a very complex country like Nigeria.
The burden fell on the president and his handlers to issue subsequent statements claiming: WE SHALL NOT BE INTIMIDATED! But many Nigerians chorused: THIS YOUNG MAN NEEDS HELP!
Nigerians can no longer afford to continue to pretend they are unaware that a political struggle power struggle is taking place in the country using, Bomb attacks, armed robbery and kidnapping as weapons. There are occasions when statesmen and women must speak with one voice in defense of their nation, regardless of party affiliations and ideological persuasions. When the US came under the 9/11attack, the republicans and democrats came out as one body in backing President George Bush to face their nation’s common enemy.
President Jonathan came under the hammer for absolving MEND of the act when he paid the surviving victims a visit at the national hospital. But what one should understand the president to mean is that the uncompromising faction are terrorists and not MEND since to him, the real MEND has accepted Amnesty, dropped their weapons and therefore is not a terrorist organization.
Indeed, a few days later, the “real MEND”, comprising about 60 commanders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, paid a solidarity visit to President Jonathan where they denied any involvement in the bombings that rocked the nation’s capital city.
They were led by former militant leaders, who declared their total support for President Jonathan and rained curses on all those seeking to link them with the bombings which they described as’ wicked, heinous and dastardly’.
Nigerian’s should avoid condemning President Jonathan for saying this attack was not done by “the MEND he knew”. There were intelligence reports available to the President and the security agencies before this attack. No surprise therefore that barely 72 hour after Abuja bomb explosions; the Nigeria Police confirmed the arrest of suspects and declared two persons wanted. Just as Henry Okah, a senior MEND figure was arrested in South Africa under counter-terrorism laws.
A look at the comment by President George Bush after 9/11 is instructive. Bush was also widely condemned for saying Al Qaeda carried out the attack immediately after 9/11. But he could do that because there were intelligence reports available to him but not available to the people, which while not entirely precise said Al Qaeda was planning an airborne attack.
Same with this Abuja attack; Jonathan and the intelligence services have information available to him but were not available to the rest of us before October 1.
It has since emerged that immediately they got a wind of the attack, efforts was made to get Okah to stop the attack, but he couldn’t. South Afican authorities were asked to arrest Okah before October 1, but they arrested and released him because all the information then was ‘mere speculation’, since no attack had taken place. He was then arrested again after the October 1 attack.
Jonathan inherited the presidency this year after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. One of his main achievements while serving as Yar’Adua’s deputy had been helping to cement the amnesty deal in the Niger Delta.
There has never been a time when a policy or road map to solve Niger Delta militancy or for the development of the Niger Delta was mapped out until Late Yar’adua and Jonathan came onboard. Before this period the region has been raped like a spoil of battle, forgetting that they lay the golden egg that sustains the nation.
MEND carried out attacks on oilfields and pipelines in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, for years until accepting an amnesty in 2009.
They have always been a nebulous organization and the line between militancy and criminality has long been blurred. They went on to thrive on a lucrative trade in stolen oil and on kidnapping for ransom and effectively work as guns-for-hire.
Many of the gangs that carried out attacks in the group’s name were originally set up as sabotage squads to help rig elections. Many were sponsored by politicians from all parts of the country.
Militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, once said mighty government officials and wealthy people are behind oil bunkering in the Niger-Delta region.
President Yar’adua performed a disservice to this country when he allowed evidence gathered by soldiers that invaded Gbaramantu Kingdom to be destroyed. An eyewitness, a Soldier told me that the number of Politicians implicated when they ransacked Gbaramantu was a national scandal.
Jonathan’s special adviser on the Niger Delta, Timi Alaibe, was quoted as saying MEND’s leaders were cooperating with the government and that Okah was using the group’s name. “The bombing) has nothing to do with the amnesty, but it has everything to do with politics,” Jonathan advisor Alaibe said.
A few days after the bomb blasts, coordinator of the Babaginda Campaign Organisation, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, was arrested by operatives of the State Security Service, SSS. He was questioned in connection with an alleged text message that one of the suspected bombers sent to him.
Dokpesi was later released. But he denied sponsoring the attacks.
In Tuesday’s email “MEND attributed its position to what it called a split in the country that was once united and the disunity in the Niger Delta region, which it said was sponsored by the President”.
The arrest and detention of its member, MEND claimed, also informed its stance stressing, “The arrest and detention of our respected brothers and the assassination of their characters have become of great concern to us. This we cannot ignore.”
Nigerian’s were shocked to witness the Al Jazera cable TV network documentary which ostensibly shows that MEND is alive, stockpiling arms and planning further atrocities. This was further reechoed in a documentary, “Who Bombed Abuja?” On the AIT some days ago, where the group was seen fully rearmed.
Curiously 48 hours after that Al Jazeera documentary, the Abuja bomb blast occurred. A few days afterwards Mr. Henry Okah, granted an interview to the same Al Jazeera claiming that a close associate of President Goodluck Jonathan asked him to implicate Northerners as the brain behind the twin bombings.
Someone must have to convince me that all these activities are not choreographed in furtherance of some political objectives.
Henry Okah who accepted the government amnesty last year after gun-running and treason charges against him were dropped was at one time the brains behind MEND, although he has denied ever being its leader.
In court affidavits and subsequent interviews, Henry Okah went further to say that is arrest was “a devious political ploy by politicians in Nigeria to gain the upper hand over their political opponents,”
“The fact of the matter is simply that I was arrested after the bomb attacks to appease the Nigerian government…Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the attacks has caused the leader “serious embarrassments”, Okah said.
He then said that Jonathan is deceiving himself to believe that the entire people of Niger Delta are behind him. He made it clear that he opposes Jonathan emerging as the president next year and implied that many people in Niger Delta feels the same.
Yet the question remains: why has Okah taken this position?
The fact also remains: Goodluck Jonathan faces an election next year and many believe that the Abuja bombs were intended to undermine his credibility by showing the Niger Delta issue is unresolved.
Henry Okah has played his hand of opposition to Goodluck Jonathan thus placing himself as a major player in this dangerous game. This MEND is gradually showing its hands. This “MEND” also overplays their hand. Very soon, Okah and his MEND would inadvertently unmask their sponsors.
“we are extremely worried that our party’s failure to deliver justice in this matter, may ignite a series of events, the scope and magnitude of which we can neither proximate nor contain.”….The Malam Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Leaders Political Forum, in a letter to PDP Chairman Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, requesting the party leadership to restrain President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting 2011 elections under PDP.
“…Anything short of a Northern President is tantamount to stealing our Presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses the incumbency power to get the PDP ticket, he’d be frustrated out. The North is determined to make the country ungovernable for him or any other Southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the party’s zoning policy.” – Senator Kaita