Virtually all the national newspapers and some of the global media, including CNN and Al-Jazeera, reported it as failed suicide bombing. With the suspected suicide bomber blown to bits we will, of course, never know for sure, but it seems last Sunday Easter bombing in Kaduna that has claimed at least 20 lives – and still counting – and maimed many more, was really never meant to be suicidal.
All the newspapers reported that the bombing would have been worse, far worse, but for one, Francis Markus. Except for Daily Trust which described him as a Detective Corporal, all the other newspapers said he was a private guard at the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). Reading all the newspapers it seems he was the only source of what transpired before the bomb exploded.
All the newspapers, again except Trust, said he said he had a lengthy argument with the suspected bomber because he refused to allow the man, who was not a member of the church, drive past the check-point erected by the church on Sundays which only members of the church were allowed to drive through. Even when the man claimed he was driving to his house nearby, Marcus said, he refused to budge because he knew almost all those in the neighbourhood and the man looked unfamiliar.
Eventually the man, said Marcus, was forced to drive off. It was shortly after that that he heard a huge explosion which turned out to be from the vehicle he had refused passage by ECWA.
Trust’s account did not mention the ECWA drama. Instead it talked about a “Detective Corporal Francis Marcus” giving a hot chase to “two suspected vehicles” that were heading towards Kakuri/Sabon Tasha in Kaduna South. It was during the hot pursuit than one of the vehicles rammed into the other and the explosion occurred.
Trust’s account was the official police account of the incident. Clearly there is a disconnect between the two accounts if only because, according to all the other newspapers, Marcus did not say he left the gates of ECWA; there is a disconnect except, of course, if the ECWA Marcus was a different person from the one the police said had given a hot chase to the apparently bomb-laden vehicle and the one it collided with.
Whatever is the truth of the matter, two things are clear from the bomb explosion. First, it provides one more evidence of media anti-Muslim bias. Second, it exposes the official claim that government has virtually won the war against domestic terrorism as an empty boast.
No doubt there was an attempt to bomb a church last Sunday. But it was far from clear that it was suicidal, if the ECWA Markus account is to be believed; a suicide bomber would not have wasted time arguing with a security man but would, instead, have rammed his way over him into the church. The chances, therefore, are that the man probably wanted to park the car by the church and detonate it from a safe distance.
This raises the possibility that the bombing was the work of some rogue elements, in or out of government, intent on manipulating the deep sectarian divide in this country for some material or political gain. The bomber(s), of course, could have been the usual Boko Haram suspects.
But reading most of our newspapers you will find it hard not to conclude that all the evidence required are in as to the identities of the villains of the piece. Reading the newspapers you would be pardoned the conclusion that the bombers still succeeded in their mission in spite of the fact that the bombs exploded accidentally. You would also never know that almost all the fatalities from the explosion – taxi-motorcyclists, popularly known as achaba, tea and bread vendors, women bean cake sellers, etc – were Muslims.
Almost all the newspapers reported Pastor Josua Raji of the All Nations Christian Assembly (ANCA) as claiming that the bomb caused extensive damage to his church. The Daily Sun, for example, quoted him as saying the windows, doors, ceiling fans and some church equipment were destroyed. “We were in the Holy Communion Service,” Sun reported him as saying, “and I was exhorting my people, all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors, and destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church…No single person sustained any injury. But all our property was destroyed.”
In the evening of the day of explosion I went drove along the entire length of Junction Road where ANCA’s imposing building is prominently located. I also drove along Gwari Road where the more modest building of ECWA is located, and along adjoining roads.
As far as the eye can see, I can say categorically that there was not the slighted damage to either church for the simple reason that both were at very safe distances away from the spot where the explosion occurred. The properties that suffered extensive damage were two hotels that were a few meters across the road from the spot of the explosion. Not even a branch of First Bank that was next to one of the hotels suffered more than a few shattered window glasses.
Certainly no property that was more than a hundred meters away from the explosion suffered any damage. ANCA is at least three hundred meters away. ECWA, on the other hand, was shielded from the blast by several buildings in front including the two hotels that suffered extensive damage.
Clearly things, thanks to God and the spirit of Easter, did not work out according to the script of the villains of the piece whoever they were. It was therefore unhelpful of the country’s security predicament for anyone to have pretended otherwise and for the press to have played along.
The bombing, as I said, also exposes claims by senior government officials, including, I am afraid, President Goodluck Jonathan himself, that they have virtually vanquished Boko Haram, as an empty boast. Either that or someone or group with an interest in keeping the threat alive is using it as a bogeyman.
On the very day the bombing occurred, the Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Halliru Mohammed, was on record telling reporters from Leadership Sunday that the army has contained the Boko Haram insurgents. “I would say, of all the talk of insecurity and violence,” he said in the lengthy interview, “it is happening in only 20 of the 774 local governments in the country. I would say that the armed forces have acquitted themselves in that area.”
Not only did the Kaduna Easter bombing expose the minister’s claim as an empty boast, the words themselves showed the man had a poor grasp of his responsibility, as an agent of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for securing the safety and the welfare of Nigerians where ever they are. Obviously the man does not know, as he should as vet doctor, that if one part of the country, no matter how small, is in pain the rest of it too is in pain.
In claiming that the worst is over with our domestic terrorism, the minister merely echoed his principal. During his recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, President Jonathan told the Nigerian community more or less the same thing, only he sounded even more self-assured.
“I can assure you, that God willing,” Thisday (March 29) quoted him as saying late last month, “before the middle of this year, most of these bombings will be reduced to the barest minimum…Even quite a number of foreign leaders are praising us ; that is the commendations we are getting since Monday. Most countries that have this kind of experience have not moved as fast as we have moved. We have moved very, very fast.”
When a man who should be talking about eliminating the threat of bombing seems content with only reducing it “to the barest minimum,” and when he seems to cherish foreign flattery more than the feelings of his subjects, is it any wonder that there seems to be no end in sight to the insecurity in the land, the brave claims of government officials notwithstanding?