The Executive Council of the National Association of Nigerian Community Austria (NANCA) in consultation with Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities in Austria and other stakeholders hereby condemn the alleged attempt by Mr. Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian Citizen to detonate an explosive device on a transatlantic flight to Detroit, Michigan, United States of America on the 25th of December 2009.
We believe that there can be no rational justification for acts of terrorism directed at the United States of America, Nigeria or any other country in the world.
Nigerians are a happy people who thrive wherever the find themselves. The Nigerian spirit is one that celebrates life. A spirit that proudly believes that as long as there is life there is hope. While we cannot deny that there are internal problems plaguing us as a nation, it can be argued that indoctrination is not one of such problems.
As a multi- cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious entity, it is natural that misunderstandings amongst competing ethnic and religious groups occasionally escalate into skirmishes which are easily brought under control by the Nigerian security agencies.
It is on record that no Nigerian government has ever condoned religious extremism. Whether military or civilian regime, with Moslem or Christian leadership, Nigerian governments have successively dealt decisively with restive religiously fundamental groups to the satisfaction of all citizens. Examples of such fundamentalists are the Maitasine Sect of the 80's and the recent Boko Haram Sect, which were successfully disbanded by government.
Nigerians are a people who love to travel, which makes air transportation safety as much a concern to us as any other nation in the world. Anyone who has traveled in an aircraft with Nigerians will attest to our unique reaction to every successful takeoff and landing. After each take off, most Nigerians offer thanks to God according to their individual religious beliefs, while a few will pray throughout the entire flight. On landing, apart from offering thanks to God, Nigerians celebrate with applause and congratulate one another for arriving safely. This is certainly not the mentality of a people that would want to make air traveling a dangerous undertaking for others.
The conventional moral in Nigeria is that when you protect a bad child, he will end up disgracing you big time. This explains why Alhaji Umaru AbdulMutallab, the father of the would be bomber made concerted effort to notify both American and Nigerian authorities that his son was off track in Yemen.
We are at a loss therefore, why foreign news networks, with ratings essentially an existential index, jostle, ostensibly to unearth aspects of the Nigerian mindset that justify their spurious assumptions that Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab is a typical Nigerian, when the big story, should be what signals would prod a father to go on his own accord to authorities and express fears that his son is being radicalized in Yemen.
The big news left unexplored here is the Nigerian mentality which seeks to avoid trouble, embarrassment and shame. A mentality which makes every Nigerian at this point in time accept a sense of shame, that one of their own could be brainwashed, cajoled and goaded into a suicide mission. This accommodating aspect of the Nigerian, which is the basis of our continuous coexistence in spite of our religious, cultural and ethnic differences demands more attention and nurturing than the effort now being wasted on the pursuit of nonexistent terrorist cells in Nigeria.
It is ironic that at a time when President Barack Obama has shown exceptional leadership by personally taking responsibility for the security failures, that led to the near terrorist incident, and when Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the protagonist is adjudged innocent until proven guilty according to American laws, Nigerians are now expected to take collective responsibility for the actions of a renegade citizen. The truth is that this young man shares no experience with the struggling average Nigerian youth who aspires to carve out a place for himself in a continuously challenging world. He comes from one of Nigerian's super rich, elite families, which constitutes less than 5 percent of the Nigerian population, he had is secondary education outside Nigeria which constitutes less than 5 percent of Nigerian youth, he had his University education in the United Kingdom, which constitutes less than 5 percent of Nigerian university graduates. He was lonely and felt isolated, in spite of affluence, which constitutes less than 1 percent of Nigerians and above all, he was prepared to die for nothing which constitutes about 0.01 percent of Nigerians.
Nigerians at home and abroad have expressed as much indignation as any patriotic American, towards the actions of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab. No Nigerian group has claimed responsibility for training, arming or providing logistics for Umar AbdulMutallab. In fact, the young man spent the better part of his life living outside Nigeria. Apart from being a Nigerian by birth, he had severed ties with his family and only transited Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos on his inglorious mission. What we as a Nation and a people merit at this point in time is encouragement in helping to fish out persons in our midst who might be inclined to be indoctrinated by Islamic extremists. We have done what no one in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen or Iraq, in spite of the billions of dollars America has put in to fight terrorism there has done, which is, walking up to the Americans and report our own blood relations. We cannot be blamed for the mishandling of such vital information. In fairness, the Nigerian experience should form the model for fighting terrorism in countries not yet overrun by the influence of Islamist extremists.
Placing Nigeria on a list associated with terrorism; no matter how benign the intention is and no matter the terminology of categorization, is premature, unjust and destined to be counterproductive. We wonder how Nigeria can be placed on a list for the activities of a man who was allegedly recruited in Britain, trained and baptized in Yemen, and possibly got his explosive laden underwear from anywhere between Yemen, Dubai, Addis Ababa and Accra. If Nigeria must be placed on a list, then Britain where he was recruited must be on a worse list. Any honest intelligence expert in the world would confess that Britain not Nigeria is the perfect fertile ground for sowing the seeds of hatred against Western societies.
If the recruitment of AbdulMutallab was a subterfuge used by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to widen the battlefield by igniting anti American sentiments in Africa, we expect the American authorities to know better than falling into such a trap. This is a time for cooperation and not confrontation between America and Nigeria. Cooperation will lead to isolating and wiping out existing pockets of fundamental groups in the country. Confrontation will lead to a situation whereby Nigeria will be used by the extremists as one of their many, albeit bogus, examples of American injustice around the world, thus radicalizing a whole generation of Africans, which has the propensity of engendering a new set of American haters in the continent.
We call on the Nigerian government to get into diplomatic negotiations with their American counterparts to trash out issues that will ultimately lead to a review of Nigeria's inclusion in the "Countries of Interest" list.
We call on the Nigerian government to establish an anti-terrorism intelligence unit in the Nigerian Police Force. This unit should be well equipped with modern surveillance technology to monitor internet activities by political, ethnic and religiously fundamental groups in the country.
We call on the Nigerian government to establish a permanent Commission on Tolerance, with members drawn from all major ethnic groups in the country, representatives of religious bodies and other stakeholders. Apart from advising government on proper ways to manage emerging crisis of intolerance in the country and strategize on how best to enhance our secularity, this commission should also explore the possibility of introducing studies in tolerance into the Nigerian academic curriculum. The world has become too dangerous for us to assume that our ethnic and religious differences cannot be exploited by outsiders to destabilize our peaceful coexistence or leave an irreparable dent on our image as the most populous yet idyllic black entity in the Universe.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Long Live Nigerians in the Diaspora!!
Comrade Victor Oshioke
Secretary General, National Association of Nigerian Community Austria. (NANCA).