Around 11:30am on Thursday, 26th April, the offices of ThisDay newspapers in Abuja and Kaduna were bombed, and ‘Boko Haram’ has claimed responsibility.
The justification for the attacks—as given by their spokesman Abu Qaqa—is due to what they claim is ‘biased reporting’ by the media, and it must be among the most ludicrous ever put forward for a terrorist attack.
To recap, Boko Haram means ‘western education is sin’. The fact that they do not bomb schools is already a red flag. Their first targets were institutions of the Nigerian government, like the attack on Police headquarters in June last year, and several law enforcement buildings across the North. This would seem to be consistent, were it not for the fact that churches have also come under siege, particularly on religious holidays.
Now, with the bombings of the offices of ThisDay, it might be time to look at other reasons for the persistent bombings because the narrative no longer fits.
Since January, with the increase in the price of petrol prompting massive protests up and down the country, and forcing an inquest into the management of the subsidy regime, the results of that inquest are only just beginning to come out, and they have shaken the nation. Nigerians are calling for heads to roll. What would be the only thing that could change the national conversation? Another bomb blast in the capital. A climate of fear would quieten calls for justice to be done and give the indicted officials breathing space, reducing pressure on the President to act decisively.
Follow the money
Increased insecurity would be grounds for increasing allocations for defence in future budgets, which is nearly N1 trillion as it stands now. It would lead to a boom for security contractors, and the management of the funds would be less open to scrutiny. The poor state of our security before now is a perfect reason to give a blank cheque. Needless to say, it is an avenue for looting.
Blame the North?
This escalating terror in the country could, in theory, be blamed on Northern politicians who are unhappy with the breaking of the unofficial power rotation agreement in the PDP. Bombing churches is also a sure way of deepening religious and ethnic animosity, to profit from it politically. Divide and rule is the name of the game. Making the bombings a North vs. South issue would cloud the minds of the electorate, and relegate to the background the very issues that should be front and centre of national discourse.
Make Jonathan look weak?
All these attacks really could be designed to make the Jonathan administration look weak, but to what end? People are already wishing for the ‘security’ of military rule, and that may be the point: to make the country so insecure that the thought of actually letting the military back is appealing. Or at least, should they take over, the outcry will not be as bad. We must resist all calls for a return to military rule, as that could be part of the aims of those behind the violence.
It has to be said: this latest choice of target for a bomb is very baffling.
The newspaper’s management says they had received threats from the terrorists regarding their ‘negative press’. However, is this enough to warrant such an attack? Let us consider an alternate possibility: quite apart from the fact that anyone can pick up a phone and make a threat, what kind of press can be more negative than blowing people up? Was there some information about a very important national issue or a highly placed Nigerian that ThisDay were going to publish?
The remarks made by the National Security Adviser, General Owoeye Azazi, at the South-South Economic Summit could provide important clues as to what is really going on behind the scenes. The NSA blamed the PDP’s zoning formula for the violence, noting the increase in the capacity of the terrorists to cause mayhem after the elections. This led to President Jonathan asking General Azazi to clarify his comments to Nigerians. It could be that it is a last ditch attempt by the NSA to get the President to act decisively on the intelligence already gathered, or it could just be careless comments from a clueless General who should resign.
One thing is for sure: the name ‘Boko Haram’ is now being used as a blanket to explain every bombing in the country. The narrative so far, that they are somehow fighting because of inequality and injustice, is not consistent. There is a need to look beyond the dominant narrative and ask hard questions.
Yet again, we mourn more innocent lives lost as the Bayero University in Kano was attacked. As the body count rises, we must ask: who is profiting from this violence? It looks more and more likely that bombs are now the weapon of choice in Nigeria. They are dramatic, lead to a lot of deaths, spread fear, and can be readily blamed on a faceless group that no one has really taken time to investigate. There remain more questions than answers. We must continue to ask ourselves who has the most to gain with the continuation of this violence, lest we are led like puppets on a string.