African business, politics and lifestyle
Was Nigerian bomber a one-off?
Quite 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?