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Was Nigerian bomber a one-off?

December 28, 2009

SECURITY-AIRLINE/TRANSITQuite apart from the Nigerian would-be plane bomber’s lack of success, there are other reasons why Africa’s most populous nation cannot be expected to produce a rash of similar cases.

As this Reuters story from Sahabi Yahaya in the bomber’s home town of Funtua points out, it is Umar Abdulmutallab’s foreign education rather than his background in Muslim northern Nigeria that is seen as having radicalised him.

The relatively affluent upbringing is not too dissimilar to that of some of the Sept. 11 attackers or Al Qaeda recruits for other attacks, but makes him a particular exception in Nigeria. Most people live on less than $2 a day and many would give almost anything just to have got aboard the plane he tried to blow up. Every year, tens of thousands of Abdulmutallab’s compatriots brave deserts, oceans and unsympathetic immigration police to try to get to the West for just a taste of the chances he had and to take whatever work they can get to better themselves and their families.

Although only around half of Nigeria’s population is Muslim, that still gives it the sixth biggest Muslim population in the world.

But while outbreaks of religious violence in northern Nigeria have killed thousands of people over the past decade – hundreds died in July in clashes between security forces and the radical Boko Haram sect – bloodshed has often also been just as tied to political and ethnic factors.

Islamic jurisprudence in Nigeria is based on the moderate Maliki school of Sunni Islam and Boko Haram’s ideology is dismissed by the country’s Muslim leaders and most believers.

Many comments on Nigerian websites bemoaned the fact that the attempted bombing would make it even harder for Nigerians travelling abroad and for their country to improve its image.

Can this be expected to be just a one-off event or should Nigeria be showing greater concern about its potential as a breeding ground for radicals?

Picture: Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The problem in the c21st is that There is a very Long Tail, in Mankind’s Affairs. Terrorist Organisations are able to leverage the Internet and other Communication Platforms to extract Folk, who would otherwise have been below the Radar.

Aly-Khan Satchu

Posted by AlyKhanSatchu | Report as abusive

”Most people live on less than $2 a day and many would give almost anything just to have got aboard the plane he tried to blow up”……………PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT. HOW CAN YOU SAY NIGERIANS LIVE ON LESS THAN $2, THATS RUBBISH.WHO EVER WROTE THIS REPORT NEEDS TO GO AND MAKE MORE ENQUIRES ABOUT NIGERIA

Posted by lolas | Report as abusive

It does seem a lot, but according to the UNDP’s latest Human Development Report, fewer than one Nigerian in five has more than $2 a day to live on. r2009/

Posted by Matthew Tostevin | Report as abusive

@Lolas; I’m afraid Mr Tostevin is right per the stats. The privileged few in Nigeria living off gains of mostly corruption are indeed a minority. I read the UNDP reports every year and think more people should.
Also, I must say that I can’t quite imagine a Nigerian doing this. I lived in Nigeria for over 20 years, and Nigerians as a general rule, love life and living, and this is most definitely a one-off thing. The man in question appears to be a product of flawed upbringing…a “senseles boy” as Nigerians would call him.

Oh and by the way Lolas, please take your CAPS key off. Much as we appreciate your intent to SHOUT, it makes your writing look like one of the numerous e-mails I receive letting me know my long lost cousin has died and his millions are in the bank waiting for me.

Posted by Medlabgirl | Report as abusive

@Lolas. You have rather exposed your ignorance regarding developments in Nigeria by your comment. The entire report is as accurate as it can be because the writer got his facts right. People in Nigeria, I mean the majority, live, yes, live, on less that $2 a day, and that is for those who are lucky!People like lolas have lost touched with the reality in Nigeria and are therefore living in denial! This unfortunate event should be the first and the last. It’s a one-off, but it does not mean US searchlight shd not be trained on the activities of local islamic fundamentalism.

Posted by Century | Report as abusive

Interested in the terror attempt? Watch the PBS show Basic Black tonight at 7:30 p.m. for a LIVE panel discussion about the implications, as well as a discussion about other unresolved issues of 2009, such as the recent portrayal of black culture in the media (Precious, The Princess and the Frog). You can watch on channel 2 in Boston, or online at Be sure and comment in our chat, which is already live!

Posted by saltzmas | Report as abusive

here we are in 2010, talking about Nigeria, when i left my country twenty years ago, i was expecting to be back home, sadly , my home country Nigeria has become a land of religious intolerance, senseless violence all over, both political, criminal , economic and religious violence,a man’s live is worth far less, than it used to 20 years ago, and for months now, over the internet, we have been called a “failed state” and this confused youngman, whose lot aint sure if they are Africans, Arabs or Nigerians, and are hell bent to drive my country back 500 years, alas, Nigeria, I almost weep for you.

Posted by kolapo | Report as abusive

The show of the Ashura festival (2010) celebration in northern Nigeria as aired by bbc should reveal this fact: growing islamic fundamentalism! Far more radical than the most radical of the islamic world! The recent Boko Haram incidence is a proof..and historically the maitasine riots and several others. The sultanate and the emirates are a constant reminder – a religion spread and maintained through violence. In the light of this, the last of the bomber from northern Nigeria is yet! The CIA’s prediction that Nigeria would be a failed state is no insult, not if you live in northern Nigeria and are previlage to hearing the radical sermons in the mosques these days. The violence in Jos is a taste of things to come. Soon even the east and south of the country will be engulfed in flames – the plans are in the works! I feel pained when the western press say its a fight for resouce control, or elections or ethnic. ITS A JIHAD! In islam every non-believer belongs to the house of WAR! Yes, while carrying out Jihad, looting & rape is part of the reward! And if you die in Jihad, its a “costly and glorious death”! Wake up world! The islamic hordes are on the break again! Iran means business with the nukes, the taleban will always come back, Al-Qaeda is sponsored by the muslim world and terrorism is ISMAELS’s second name!

Posted by Longshang | Report as abusive

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