Bin Laden and Nigeria

THISDAY Newspaper

The incidence of New York twin bombing that occurred on September 11, 2001 with its full impact appeared somehow remote to some Nigerians until a number 30 bus was attacked in London on July 7, 2005.

Then an industrious Nigerian, Anthony Fatai Williams became a victim and in the days to follow, the country was brought face to face to the full reality of al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden’s deadly operations.

Anthony’s’ mother Marie was traumatised emotionally and she made a deeply emotional speech during the search for her son at Tavistock Square where the suicide bomber struck.

"My son Anthony is my first son; my only son; the head of my family. He's the love of my life. I am proud of him; I am still very proud of him. What did he do to deserve this?" she asked.

This occurrence that left sullenness against the terror network in the minds of Nigerians was not the only reminiscence of the group’s leader and his organisation to this West African nation.

Astonishingly, some Nigerians have some sort of admiration for him, probably because of his then seemingly invincible nature.

In the North, there were some massive increase in the number of baby boys called Osama and it was reported that at a particular hospital in Kano where there was celebration after the 9/11 attack, seven out of 10 babies were given the name.

There was also the case of a Christian woman from Calabar in Cross River State who sought divorce from his Northern Muslim husband who insisted on naming his new baby Osama.

She feared that her baby would follow in the footsteps of the al-Qaeda leader and take innocent bloods.

"Osama Bin Laden is a criminal with an inclination towards shedding innocent blood," she was quoted as saying.

But her husband, 36-year-old Sadiq Ahmed, sees bin Laden in a different light as a hero rather than a villain.

“He is a hero who taught Americans the lesson of their lives." the man said, adding that bin Laden had proved to the world that only “Allah is invincible, by exposing America to shame despite its claim of being the strongest nation on earth".

When the tides and waves of Shariah legal system blew across Northern Nigeria in the early 2000, youths saw in the al-Qaeda kingpin a hero to copy hence the wearing of T-shirts with his image and name at various venues of the launch.

Coincidentally, in 2002, bin Laden urged Muslim faithful in Nigeria and some other countries to overthrow their governments.

In 2004, the Federal Government arraigned a Nigerian who claimed to be running an al-Qaeda network in court.

Forty-year-old Mohammed Ashafa faced a five-count charge of receiving monies in foreign currencies from Talha and Na'deem (al-Qaeda operatives) of the Tabliqh headquarters, Lahore, Pakistan for the recruiting and training of terrorists whose main intention was to attack Americans living in Nigeria.

This followership notwithstanding, former Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr Mike Okiro, made a startling revelation in 2008 that bin Laden was planning to bomb Nigeria.

Okiro, who was intimating senor police officers at Obudu, Cross River State, did not give locations, but said the security reports he received indicated that the impending attack was real and could happen anytime.

“The Al-Qaeda network has threatened to send time bombs to Nigeria. The AIG Surveillance should intensify surveillance, while the CP Airwing, CP Border Patrol and the CPs of all the commands should be on the alert and ensure that these items (bombs) do not pass through their end,” Okiro said.

Of recent, incidents of explosions have been reported mostly in Maiduguri, Borno State where a group, Boko Haram, that preaches against Western education has been killing politicians and security operatives almost on a daily bases.

Several bombers caught by the police have confessed to having received training in Afghanistan on bomb making and they’ve often fingered al-Qaeda as the trainers.

However, no other case dragged the name of Nigeria into the murky waters of terrorism than the December 2009 attempted bombing of a United States airline by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Bin Laden claimed the botched Christmas Day attack and threatened further strikes on US targets. He made the comments in an audio statement broadcast Sunday on Al-Jazeera television.

"The message that was conveyed through the attacked plane of the hero Umar Farouk (Abdulmutallab) is to stress earlier messages delivered to you by the heroes of the 11th September attack on the United States,” he said.

"That message is that America should not dream of security until we enjoy it as a reality in Palestine," he added.

Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Northwest Airline flight on Christmas Day but he was thwarted by fellow passengers who pounced on him.

On the presence of his terror network in Nigeria, the al-Qaeda leader confirmed this as early as 2003 when he warned his audience that he would no longer speak in public as often: “We have many other things to do… our silence is our real propaganda.”

He revealed that the new members of al-Qaeda who would speak for him had trained in Iraq, Chechnya, the North Caucasus, Southern Thailand, Mindanao, Kashmir, Afghanistan and also in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern Nigeria.

In summation, despite his legacy of terror, bin Laden was not able to get followership within Nigeria who are willing to blow themselves up on regular basis like what is obtainable in the Middle East.


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