The United States of America has faulted the handling of the October 1, 2010 bomb blasts in Abuja by the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonatghan.
While also expressing worry over the 2011 elections, the United States of America said the President mishandled the detonation of the bombs on the day Nigeria celebrated its 50th independence anniversary.
The position of the United States of America was contained in a document released by its foreign policy think tank, the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) on October 18, 2010.
The CFR blamed Jonathan â€œof mishandling the aftermath of the October 1 bomb blast in Abuja.â€
The CFR, like its previous position document published on August 16, 2010, also expressed concern that the 2011 elections could lead to tension across the country.
The October 18, 2010 newsletter, authored by John Campbell, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, said, â€œThe mishandling of the aftermath of the bombings threatens to exacerbate regional tensions.â€
The document reads in full, â€œThe car bombs detonated near Abujaâ€™s Eagle Square on October 1 ruined a high-profile military ceremony celebrating Nigeriaâ€™s fifty years of independence and put President Goodluck Jonathan and other senior political figures at risk.
â€œThough the politicians were unhurt, there were sixteen deaths â€“ including security operatives â€“ and sixty-seven injured. President Jonathanâ€™s mishandling of the aftermath of the bombings threatens to exacerbate regional tensions.
â€œIt has also likely reduced Jonathanâ€™s stature as a presidential candidate with the political elites in the run-up to the 2011 national elections either in January or April. Nevertheless, he continues to influence the security services and the electoral process, and it is premature to count him out.
â€œJomo Gbomo, the Internet spokesperson for the inchoate Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was part of its campaign for the Delta to benefit more from the petroleum it produces. While violence associated with MEND has been ubiquitous in the Delta, the recent attack was the first such terrorist act in Abuja, located hundreds of miles away.
â€œDespite MENDâ€™s claim, Jonathan put the terrorist attack in the context of presidential rivalries, especially with Ibrahim Babangida â€“ a Northern Muslim, former military head of state and Jonathanâ€™s primary presidential challenger. Jonathan denied that the bombing was linked to the Delta or MEND. Ex-Delta militants now on the government payroll joined the chorus that MEND could not have been responsible.
â€œInstead, the security services brought in Raymond Dokpesi, Babangidaâ€™s Chief of Staff, for questioning. At the request of the Nigerians, South African authorities also arrested former gunrunner and MEND affiliate Henry Okah, who now lives there.
â€œPolice in Nigeria attempted to link Okah to Dokpesi based on a cryptic text message about payments being made. But attempts to connect Babangida to the bombing through Dokpesi and Okah lacked credibility, not least because Babangida would have had little to gain by involvement with terrorism. Dokpesi has since been released.
â€œOkah alleged in an al-Jazeera interview that Jonathanâ€™s office urged him to implicate Northern political leaders in the bombings. While Jonathanâ€™s supporters accuse Okah of lying, in the North his al-Jazeera interview tends to be taken at face value and feeds a deepening suspicion that Jonathan is shifting the blame away from constituents in the Niger Delta for short-term political gain within the Peoples Democratic Party, whose presidential nomination he seeks.
â€œWith no indictments to date, Jonathanâ€™s political rivals have also sought to exploit the bombings by questioning his ability to provide even minimal security.
â€œBabangida and certain Northern politicians are calling for the National Assembly to impeach Jonathan based on Okahâ€™s interview in al-Jazeera, and Dokpesi has filed a lawsuit against the State Security Services.
â€œThough these initiatives will certainly fail, Jonathanâ€™s response to the bombings is nudging Nigerian politics further in a North versus South direction dangerous in a country where the line between Christians and Muslims runs east to west through the middle of the country, intermingled with hundreds of ethnic groups.
â€œThe report of British intelligence was not the only indicator. There was an email from an account associated with Jomo Gbomo that was sent at least an hour prior to the bombings, warning of an impending attack. It was apparently ignored by the security services, though the American and British delegations to the celebrations prudently stayed away. So did Babangida, who subsequently explained his absence as a protest against the excessive costs of the celebration. While the president has said that there was an â€œintelligence failure,â€ it remains baffling that the Nigerian political establishment would fail to heed the warnings and put itself at risk.
â€œThe likelihood that the Abuja bombings were the work of Delta militants has also damaged Jonathanâ€™s political credentials. As a Christian Ijaw from the Bayelsa State in the Delta, Jonathan often claims political credit for reducing violence in the Delta and restoring oil production. And Jonathanâ€™s attraction to the elite kingmakers that will determine the governing Peoples Democratic Partyâ€™s (PDP) presidential candidate for 2011 is based at least in part on his alleged control of the Delta, which has been brought into question by these bombings.
â€œJonathan recently appears to be backing away from his early assertion that the bombings had nothing to do with the Delta. But the damage is done. Some in the North believe Jonathan is promoting his political interests at their expense. And there are raw nerves.
â€œSince 1999, Nigeria appears to have been well-served by an informal power sharing understanding among elites to reduce religious, ethnic, and regional conflict by rotating the presidency regionally â€“ and, in effect, religiously â€“ between North and South, and their Muslim and Christian majorities, every eight years.
â€œElected vice president, Jonathan is president now only because of the death of Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, a Muslim from the North who was elected President in 2007. As it is the Northâ€™s turn for the presidency until 2015, many Nigerians expected that Jonathan would not run in 2011 and bide his time. However, Jonathan announced in September that he would be a presidential candidate in 2011, thereby suspending power-sharing.
â€œStill, the Abuja bombings and the controversies surrounding them have not knocked Jonathan out of the presidential race.
â€œAs the incumbent and through his influence over the security services and the electoral machinery, his chances of emerging as the PDP presidential candidate remain strong. Still, his willingness to cast aside a power-sharing mechanism and his apparent effort to play on regional differences do not bode well for the future.
â€œBeyond presidential politics, Nigeriaâ€™s friends hope the Abuja bombings do not signal a new round of violence as the election season approaches. While remaining scrupulously neutral among the candidates, Nigeriaâ€™s friends should also continue to encourage Nigerian civil organisations working for free, fair, and credible elections conducted according to the rule of law.â€
Still on the independence day bomb blast, a former Minister of Information and prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, has warned that the utterances of a former Minister of Finance, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, on the October 1, 2010 bomb blast is provocative.
Clark also said that Ciroma has converted a major national calamity into a political comedy.
Clark said these in a letter addressed to Ciroma titled, â€œAn open letter to Mallam Adamu Ciroma on his provocative utterances on recent national issues.â€
Clark said in the letter that this was not the first time violent crisis has erupted in the country.
He wrote, â€œDuring President (Shehu) Shagariâ€™s administration, there was the Maitasine riot in Kano in 1981 which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed properties worth millions of naira.â€
He said Kaduna has been a hotbed for series of religious riots, which had claimed the lives of numerous innocent Nigerians and properties, including churches and mosques.
He added, â€œMost of the victims had to be protected in Army Barracks.
â€œThe President Olusegun Obasanjo administration invaded Odi in Bayelsa State where the military wiped off the entire community, leveling every structure including sacred places like churches, graves and ancestral monuments. There was the Jukuns and Zaki Biam crisis in Benue State where innocent citizens and properties were destroyed. We all heard the futile cry of General (Victor) Malu who hails from that community, calling for justice.â€
He said that Presidents Shagari, Obasanjo and (late Umaru) Yarâ€™Adua whose administrations also presided over violent incidences all swore to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and protect lives and properties of Nigerians, just like the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
He added, â€œI have always regarded you as an intelligent, matured statesman but your statement on the bomb blast exposes you as an enemy, narrow minded and self centred bigot, with no restraint in viscous outbursts. Hence you could attempt to convert a major national calamity into political comedy.â€
Clark said the minimum expectation from a statesman like Ciroma would have been for him to urge the law enforcement agencies to pursue the common criminal who perpetrated the latest dastardly and unpatriotic act in the country, on the countryâ€™s most significant day till date, adding, â€œBut sadly because you were insensitively in the voyage of casting aspersions, even after the President had assured the victims on the payment of adequate compensation and care for the families left behind by the dead, you went on to admonish Mr. president to score cheap political points. The Methuselah of our time.â€
Also, he said as Ciroma attempted to suggest, â€œif they are allowed to go unpunished, as they have been in the past, Nigeria and Nigerians may never see peace again as the spectre of kidnapping, which emanated from the activities of criminal gangs in the Niger Delta continue to illustrate. May I ask you and your ilk of anti-Niger Delta prejudice: is violence peculiar to only one region? Is it only the Niger Delta that crisis have brewed in the country? Is it only in the administration of President Jonathan Nigeria has witnessed major security lapses as you wont to ridicule him as incapable of protecting the territorial integrity of the country?â€