Nigeria’s campaign trail and Independence-day attacks

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The politics of vilification has begun in Nigeria ahead of a promisingly intriguing pending national elections, as presidential candidates seek points over the independence day attack quagmire.

Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan facing pressure from four politicians within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, over whether to support him or a candidate from the mainly Muslim north, has set the ball rolling.

Following the Independence day bombing that killed 10 people and injured over 30 others, more than 60 former rebel commanders and fighters from the oil rich Niger Delta announced they were not involved in the car bomb attacks in the capital.

“I’m happy that you are here as the actors and leaders of MEND, to tell Nigerians and the rest of the world that it is not MEND that did it [independence day bomb attacks],” President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted as saying in a conference with leaders of MEND that was open to journalists.

President Jonathan later blamed the attacks on “a small terrorist group that resides outside Nigeria that was paid by some people.”

Following MEND’s plea of innocence, attention shifted to South African based rebel leader, Mr. Henry Okah who was arrested the day after the attacks.

But Mr. Okah told Qatar-based television station Al-Jazeera that he was arrested because he refused to play a part in implicating northern politicians in the bomb blast.

“They wanted to blame the attacks on northerners who are trying to fight against him (Jonathan) to come back as president. I declined to do this and a few hours later I was arrested,” he was quoted.

Nonetheless, President Jonathan’s office refuted Okah’s claims as an “outright lie”.

Claiming that some Nigerians were behind the attacks carried out by foreign based terrorist groups, President Jonathan ordered the arrest of Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, the campaign manager of former military dictator and presidential aspirant Mr. Badamosi Baabangida.

Dr. Dokpesi was questioned by the state intelligence agents.

Four powerful politicians who are vying along with Jonathan for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket in next year’s elections, said authorities’ attempts to implicate Babangida’s aide is a sign of intimidation.

“This latest attempt to demonize Dr. Dokpesi and cast him in the mould of a terrorist is but a small part of an escalating culture of impunity, recklessness, intolerance and arbitrariness,” a statement signed by Babangida and three other presidential hopefuls read.

The political events, statements uttered, and accusations made after the independence day attacks continue to define the race to Nigeria’s national elections come 2011.

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