Friday, September 9, 2011

August 26, 2011: Nigeria’s Black Friday

Nigeria for the umpteenth time grabbed the world news headlines for the wrong reasons on Friday, August 26, 2011. It was a day of two significant and tragic incidences. While one was manmade; the other was a natural catastrophe. The unprecedented happened in Abuja when a suicide bomber rammed his car into the United Nations House. The impact of the collision coupled with the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or perhaps a bomb had led to the death of at least 23 persons with scores of others injured. Part of the sprawling UN building which provides office for about 400 staff and 26 UN Agencies was badly damaged.

It was the first time UN building will be attacked in Nigeria even though similar incidences had occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. Investigations have since commenced into the unprovoked and unwarranted disaster with local and international security agencies cooperating to unravel the causes and effect of the blast. Many Nigerians have rightly condemned the attack which the dreaded Islamist fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for. In fact, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III while denouncing the attack during the Eid-el-Fitr Sallah message to Nigerians described it as “an abominable act in Islam, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

The second calamity that befell Nigeria on that unforgettable black Friday was the ‘Tsunami’ that took place in Ibadan, Oyo State when a seven hour torrential rain resulted into loss of lives and property in the ancient city. Death toll in the Ibadan flood has been put by Red Cross at over 100 while properties worth billions of Naira were also lost to the deluge. University of Ibadan alone claimed to have lost over N10 billion worth of assets.

News reports on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 quoted the Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Professor Isaac Adewole, as having said that the loss was so much that the management had appealed to the Federal and State governments as well as individual and corporate organisations for assistance. According to the University don: “The major calamity suffered by the university include the washing away of the Fish Farm with different species of fish valued at about N300 million, over flooding of the Zoological Garden, leading to the death of animals, extensive damage of the Teaching and Research Farm and the destruction of books estimated to the tune of N2 billion. Besides, many gigantic buildings, laboratories and expensive equipment were destroyed by the flood which equally pulled down the university fence and 13 electricity poles, thereby compounding the hitherto poor electricity supply to the institution.” The Vice Chancellor added that disaster also affected students living at the Obafemi Awolowo Hall, especially those in ground floor and topmost floor. Corroborating the V.C, Head of Department of Fishery, Dr Bamidele Omitoye, said that special species of fish such as claias gariepinus, heterobranchus bidorsalis, oreochromis niloticus and parachana obscura were swept away.

In his official reaction to the havoc wrecked on the State capital by the flood, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi said “If what happened in 1980 was called omiyale, what we experienced in this state last week should be appropriately tagged omibaluje.”(Meaning, if what happened in Ibadan in 1980 was a flood, what took place on August 26, 2011 can be likened to a tsunami). What happened in Ibadan was not totally an Act of God as many commentators will make us believe. I was born and bred in Ibadan and am quite familiar with my people’s penchant for reckless waste disposal. Many households have converted streams and rivers in the town to dump-site. Some people have also built houses and other structures on water ways. The town itself is largely unplanned with exceptions of Government Reservation Areas like Oluyole Estate, Jericho, Old and New Bodija, Agodi, Iyaganku, Ikolaba, and Idi-Isin. This is not ideal. It is hoped that what happened will serve as a wakeup call to both the State and Local Governments in Oyo State. Government need to carry out more enduring remedial actions, inclusive of stiff environmental sanitation measures and establishment of Oyo State Emergency Management Agency

Back to the UN House bombing, rather than the acclaimed perpetrators showing remorse and tendering unreserved apology for causing the death of innocent souls, many of them carrying out humanitarian services and development work in Nigeria, the Group vowed to launch more attacks after the Ramadan. Spokesman of the group, Sheik Azzawahiri said in a radio interview that: “We take full responsibility for the attack on the United Nation building in Abuja, because the Nigerian government is corrupt, insensitive and deceitful. They have held our members and treated them very badly. The government does not honour its promises and has closed all avenues of dialogue. We declared ceasefire because of the Ramadan but we have to break it because our members and sympathisers are killed and tortured. This is just the tip of the iceberg, immediately after fasting we will start full scale offensive against the Nigerian state including President Jonathan for ordering extra judicial killings of our members in Kano and Abuja.” I abhor injustice and deplore extra judicial killings. I have in 2009 condemned the extra judicial murder of the leaders of the sect who were captured in Maiduguri by soldiers and handed over to the police for prosecution. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The murder of innocent souls cannot atone for whatever sins might have been committed by the Nigerian state against the Boko Haram sect.

If you must blame the hawk for wickedness, first scold mother hen for exposing her children to danger, so says an African proverb. Yes, what the Boko Haram Group did is reprehensible. However, had it been that the government at all levels had taken a pre-emptive and precautionary measures, this might not have happened. This sect had in the last two years been terrorising the North Eastern Nigeria and had claimed responsibility for the bombing of Police Force Headquarters in Abuja on June 16 and subsequent bombing of a church in Suleja on July 10. The recurring attack of this group on public and private institutions and persons is a pointer to failure of intelligence. Nigerian security agencies need to buckle up as compatriots are tired of their mega excuses. A country that wants to attain Millennium Development Goals by 2015 ought to adequately protect agencies working to help her achieve it. With this high level of insecurity, no wise investor will want to come in while those already in may be thinking of divesting to go to saner climes. Thank God we have stopped wasting our scarce resources on the Rebranding Project.