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October 10, 2010

Political Terrorism: MEND and Beyond

“The truth remains to be proven that politicians are the principal sponsors of thugs, election violence, resource control agitations and secret groups with undocumented, unregulated and unstructured agenda”
Political terrorism is what I call the “culture” of violence that has rocked Nigeria in the last few years, including the Independent Day Bombing at Abuja. I will not speculate here or try to trace the origin of all these events but some generalized observation is in place. MEND, MASSOB, Vigilante groups, OPC etc have something in common. They were all started by angry people expressing themselves in loosely held organisations to fight for what they believed were an oppression or exploitation of what rightly belonged to them. Two things make them dangerous: First, they usually do not promote a diplomatic manifesto, charter etc of how to get what they wanted and quickly turns to violence or other unethical methods making them even more unpopular with the people they are presumably fighting for and also with the law, when rigorously applied. Secondly, they usually do not have one leader or a system of succession. Thus infighting, leadership changes and some or any measure of success they attain soon becomes another course to fight for. The result is a dangerous mix of experienced and dangerous extremists that are available for hire by just about anyone. ()
Many politicians who are sympathetic to the course of these extremists groups have used them to gain an unfair political advantage. Just like a personal militia force. Intimidation of political opponents and political funding of extremists is the result. The extent of involvement by the current political players is anyone’s guess. Given the state of Nigeria’s public security institutions, intelligence and police we may never know who did the recent Abuja bombing, their motives and the extent of involvement of politicians in the current process, this will not be the first time, in any case. And that is scary, because the implication of this bombing, the accusations and counter accusations including the visit of the “former” militia leaders at Abuja to publicly deny involvement, is that MEND is more fragmented than initially thought and anyone (including current politicians, internal interests, or even Al-Qaeda) can use already experienced elements, cells, splinter groups or even individuals from MEND etc. And this is a real danger and calls for action from sensible politicians in the country. Because in the end no one will be spared. Another possible scenario is that elements in the group have adopted another method, bomb and deny or simulation.
Al-Qaeda, for instance, does not care who gets killed during its bombings. With the socio-political, ethnic, cultish cabals (at schools, army and public service) and individualistic elements in Nigeria an al-Qaeda input into the already volatile mix would be multiply explosive. An urgent sense of restrain in politics is required from all parties, candidates and players in the country. I repeat, no one would be spared. There is nothing like a smart dirty bomb. Terrorism is an unconventional warfare. The enemy does not respect rules of combat and does not spare civilians, women or children and has access to all public places and institutions. The use of thugs, militant associations and individuals to intimidate and gain political advantage is a dangerous precedence and would only lead to more destruction.
Mr. Okah has been accused of gun running. He lives in South Africa and obviously will choose a South African citizenship over a Nigerian, then why is he still involved in any struggle in Nigeria? As a gun runner who is he supplying? Who pays him for those arms? He is a registered director of two companies in South Africa engaged in import and export and has estates valued at over N154million naira. What is he really importing or exporting? Surely his clients are not some poor folks. Neither is the patrons of MEND etc. What is the involvement of some foreign interests who will like to have some stake in Nigeria’s oil. Mr Thatcher (son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher) was sometime in the past arrested for sponsoring a coup in Africa. So could there be some foreign interests at play here?
This is a time to call for more openness in politics and how elected officials conduct themselves both before and after elections (See ). The truth remains to be proven that politicians are the principal sponsors of thugs, election violence, resource control agitations and secret groups with undocumented, unregulated and unstructured agenda. Some responsibility is required on the part of Nigeria politicians. The comments made by the so called Northern aspirants proves nothing. It is expected that the opposition tries to blame any tragedy on the incompetence of the incumbent. The onus is on the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan and the state security institutions to prove that wrong by credibly and quickly getting a conviction. And now is also a test for the newly appointed state security institutions, the police, NSA, etc to show their independence. How they handle this case will be an indication of how they will operate during the elections. Would they become stooges of the incumbent officials? The world is watching; the country is also watching. How they handle this case may determine how the outcome of the 2011 elections is accepted by the public. Also the comments made by the President on MEND equally proves nothing. The President, like I have posted before, lacks that leadership quality called  spontaneity.  He is prone to gaffes (see ). In the end what all these proves is that there is some measure of political involvement in the bombing. To what extent is what is not known and may not be known. If our politicians are serious about change they must show that they have no part in financing thugs and violence. Let their campaign finance be audited by an independent auditor. Anyone that does this will be the frontrunner in this election. (Add you voice to the call for Campaign Finance reform, sign up at discussion board on SE Facebook. )

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