Abuja â€” President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday warned that if the aim of those who carried out bomb attacks that killed 16 persons in Abuja on Friday was to create a sense of insecurity and panic across the nation in order to “advance their narrow interests”, Nigerians will stand up to them and make it clear that they cannot be intimidated.
Former military president and PDP presidential aspirant, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), also yesterday said it was “idiotic” to associate him with the October 1 bomb blasts that killed several persons at the Eagle Square, maintaining that government lapses caused the blasts.
“Nigeria is bigger than any individual or any collection of individuals. Nobody can hold a country of 150 million people to ransom any more. The interest of a few conceited, ill-motivated individuals cannot be bigger than our national aspirations”, the president stated in a message he posted to millions of his fans on facebook yesterday.
“My dear friends on facebook, it is with a heavy heart that I read your comments and mails with respect to the sad events that occurred on the day we were celebrating 50 years of our existence as a nation and discussing the need to chart a new course for our future.
“Although the security agencies put in significant efforts to pre-empt the attacks, it is very sad that lives of innocent Nigerians were lost to this heartless act against the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Again I offer my condolences to the families of the victims in particular and the nation in general.”
Jonathan said although the incident was somewhat a new experience for the nation, especially as bombings had never taken place in the Federal Capital Territory before last Friday’s incident, the security agencies have been instructed to leave no stone unturned in securing lives and property.
The president said he was being briefed regularly and very confident that the agencies are on top of the situation imploring Nigerians to go about their normal businesses and should not be intimidated or become paranoid over the “cowardly act of a few Nigerians who obviously do not have the love” of this country at heart.
He added, “I want to report to you that the security agencies are working round the clock in collaboration with other agencies within and outside the country to fish out the master minds and executors of the attacks and subsequently bring them to justice.
“I want to assure Nigerians that blackmail and intimidation will not stop the Federal Government from doing the right thing. Whoever is found culpable will face the full weight of the law. I have requested the security agencies to do their work for our citizens will accept nothing less than justice. We would be failing the past, present and future generations of Nigerians if we do not get to the root of this dastardly act and seek justice the way it should be done in a civilised society such as ours.”
Jonathan is not happy that “an unprecedented national tragedy” of this nature had been politicised by “people whose only interest is what they can get from the country and not what the country can get from them.”
According to him, “They specialise in playing one part of the country against the other and riding on sectional sentiments to promote their narrow ambitions. I believe that Nigerians have grown beyond this parochial mentality.”
“To prove to you that their interests are personal and not for the people they claim to represent you will notice that while this administration has spent considerable time and resources as well as focused attention on the recent floods in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Jigawa states and the cholera epidemic in certain parts of Nigeria, as well as, the lead poisoning that has consumed 400 children in Zamfara State, these so- called concerned people have not been known to address any of these issues nor offer a word of succour to the victims.
“This is irrefutable proof that their only focus is how to get power and not the well-being of the long suffering people of Nigeria whom I have sworn to Almighty God to protect.”
He promised that the Federal Government will do everything possible to share in the pains of the bereaved and the injured. We will give the best medical care possible to the injured recognising that nothing can compensate for the loss of a loved one. But we offer our shoulders to the bereaved in this moment of need.
He added, “I want to assure you my friends, brothers and sisters on facebook that the Federal Government is very much aware of its most fundamental responsibility to its citizens: the defence of your right to life, the protection of your liberty and property.”
“On this mission, we cannot afford to fail. We will give our utmost, indeed our very best for the peace, unity and progress of Nigeria. May God Almighty bless Nigeria and stand with us.”
In a related development, the president has made further clarification over his statement on the bombing. Speaking through his campaign organisation yesterday, he said there was never a time he exonerated anybody from the bomb blast.
According to a statement signed by the spokesman for his campaign organiSation, Mr. Sully Abu, “When President Goodluck Jonathan, during a visit to the hospital to commiserate with victims of the bombing, said the terrorist act should not merely be ascribed to MEND, what he was simply saying was that nobody should use the name of any organisation to cover up a heinous crime. He was not absolving MEND or any other group of blame or culpability.”
“The first time the president spoke on the bombings was at the ECOWAS parliament in Abuja. There, he had pointed out that a heinous crime had been committed against the country and innocent lives had been lost. He thus considered it a gratuitous insult for anyone to claim that it was done by MEND, or had anything to do with the Niger Delta.”
The campaign said this was even more so, since government was in touch with the leadership of MEND (all of whom had renounced violence), and they all agree that the organisation had nothing to do with the blasts.
It added that the president had sought to put the correct emphasis on the urgent need to get to the bottom of that sordid act of terror and to unearth the perpetrators, because after all, anyone can hide under the umbrella of MEND or any other organisation or body for that matter to cover up acts of malfeasance.
The president said it was high time Nigerians did away with the rather lazy approach of explaining away criminal activity by blaming armed robbers or assassins as if such categorisation takes away from the severity of the offence.
He said such an approach has somehow affected the investigation of some high profile murders committed in this country in recent memory including the murder of such prominent citizens as the late Dele Giwa, Alfred Rewane, Bola Ige, Marshal Harry and A. K. Dikibo, amongst others.
On Henry Okah’s allegation, the president said no amount of obfuscation and diversionary tactics will prevent the full investigation of that crime against our fatherland on October 1.
He added, “For those who insist that there was a rush to judgment on the part of the president on this matter, it bears restating that what he sought to do was to reassure Nigerians that the perpetrators will be found, a process which could be hampered by a rather casual attribution of the violence to MEND.”
According to him he was not at the Eagle Square the day of the celebration because he believed that the flamboyant display that was associated with the celebration was unnecessary. “I don’t believe in the whole concept, the expenditure was too much, there are more imaginative and effective way of celebrating to make younger ones know about the past, you could have spent such money on universities and other developmental programmes” he added.
He said because he was not at the Eagle Square, considering the fertility of Nigerians’ mind, they were associating him with the bomb blast.” Some even said the rain that day I caused it”.
The former military president said the bomb blasts occurred because there were lapses. “I don’t want to blame anybody but I am speaking to you as a military man, let us start from the beginning, that nobody has disputed it that government was given notice, government was informed by this people you don’t need more than twenty four hours to remedy it.”
He said he was shocked that government was given such a long period of time but was not proactive enough to nip the blasts in the bud. “Reaction should be quick, it is vital to security.”
“I watch Aljazeera’s Yvon Idenge the reporter who went to the den of the militants, from the language they were fairly educated. There was amnesty and all the weapons were supposed to be surrendered, but from what I saw as a military man those weapons were sophisticated, nobody has disputed that, it was not Nigerian, the enclave is in Nigeria. These are my points. There were lapses,” IBB said.
On the arrest of his campaign organisation director general Chief Raymond Dokpesi, he said, “Naturally, people cast their imaginative mind. Nigerians minds are fertile that is the price the high chief is paying. As a politician, I know him. You cannot associate him with that, he cannot do such against Nigeria. He is a law abiding Nigerian.”
He said it was not enough that people were casting their imaginative minds; somebody should be picked up when there was ample opportunity for government to act after MEND gave the warning, insisting that the blast occurred because of government lapses.