Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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Muttalab: The Nigerian youth we never knew

It is no longer news that Farouk Abdul Mutallab is facing six counts charge for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound, American airliner Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 (when he was 22). The charges include attempted murder of the other 289 passengers and crew aboard the plane, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely, the high explosive Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate (PETN) and Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), among other ingredients.

In his first appearance in court in Michigan US, he pleaded not guilty, while in his second he pleaded guilty. He insisted that he did it to avenge the killing of muslims around the world. It sounds quite dramatic cos he would have killed more muslims who were aboard the aircraft and that would have made nonsense of his ‘avenging’ mission. Following his plea of guilty, he was sentenced on January 12 2012. He probably will spend the rest of his live behind bars.

Sadly though, this is the first recorded terrorist incidence linked to a Nigerian youth in the US. Now, who is Muttalab or what is his nationality? Simple: Muttalab is a Nigerian youth we never knew or how else do one describe him. Yes, we never knew him. Before December 25 2009, many information-crazy Nigerian youths, including myself never knew Mutallab. At 22, many Nigerian youths are relatively obscure because they are at early stage of beginning to find direction to their lives not engaged in the magnitude of acts which Mutallab seem to be associated with or seem to find interest in.

In recent times though, I have attempted rigorous search to find out the true nationality of Farouk Abdulmutallab and from available information, he is a Nigerian youth. At least, no one has come out to dispute neither his nationality nor that he was 24 years old now at the time of committing the crime, not even himself or his father who is prominent banker in Nigeria and who failed  to appear in court (probably out of shame) at the resumption of his trial has denied his origin.

Mutallab, is just one of the few Nigerian youths who grew up to be passionate about what he rightly or wrongly believes in and undaunted by the implications of failure of implementing his beliefs, or as my friend describes him “a rich kid who throws away his dear life for silly reasons.”

In the US where Muttalab’s trial happened, two Nigerian-born attorneys Maryam Uwais and Mahmud Kazaure came to observe Muttalab’s trial on behalf of his father, at the initial stage.  I do not know why his father did not show up in court, but what I know is that most fathers in Nigeria or uncle like my father will not pat their 24 year old son on the back if he mutes the kind of idea Mutallab had in mind to them? I have seen cases where fathers disowned their son for bringing dishonor to their much-cherished family image.

However, what I am not sure is whether Muttalab is a member of the dreaded Boko haram sect who have held Nigeria in the jugular in recent times. If you live in Abuja (Nigeria’s capital) like me, you will appreciate the post-effect of bombing of Nigeria’s 50 anniversary, Nigeria’s Police Force headquarters, the UN building, Nyanya bombing among others, believed to carried out by the dreaded sect.

Boko haram has neither accepted nor denied Muttalab’s membership. Similarly, Boko haram has not claimed responsibility of the attempted hijack by Muttalab, but I do not know if Boko haram would have claimed responsibility if the hijack was successful. For now, Muttalab’s links to Boko haram and affiliated networks remain points of security probes by the Nigerian, American and other international intelligence agencies.

No security information from previous investigations suggests he is a “card-carrying member” of Boko haram, like it’s often used in Nigeria when distinguishing authentic membership of the Nigeria’s former ruling Peoples Democracy Party, PDP. However, going by unfolding events, one can say that Boko haram is already synonymous with bomb blast, not plane hijack. Anyway, I will not be surprised if they are contemplating such venture.

In Nigeria, not many would admire to answer Muttalab as their last name when Muttalab is associated with dishonour. For instance, as a kid in the 80s, there was a notorious armed robber who terrorized Nigeria, but since he was killed I have not heard anyone who bears such name as Anini. At best, one can only be nick-named Anini when things begin to ‘disappear’ whenever one enters.

Given his background, I do not think Muttalab’s action has anything to do with poverty or ignorance as it is often the defence of most Nigerians elites. On the contrary, Muttalab has never thirsted poverty unlike most Nigerian youths. Available reports indicates that he was born with the proverbial “golden spoon”, not wooden. Come to think of it, most suicide bombers (as I heard) came from poor background, and so undertake to carry out the dastardly act in order to leave wealth for their familly, but in this case, where do one place Muttalab who is already in wealth or came from a wealthy family?

He had the privilege of attending good schools, even outside the country, not here where incessant strike, unqualified teachers, outdated curriculum, poor infrastruture, ethno-religious crises alter the calender and bequeath us educated illiterates.

I may be wrong, but I think Mutallab with all the wealth, connections, good education, good age, sound mind, exhibited skills of mis-spent youth. He mis-directed his energy. He dissipated so much energy in the wrong direction. What an undignified way to make the Guinness book of records. If his guts and inteligence is used to contribute to nation-building, Muttalab would have written his name on stone. May be Nigeria would not be branded a terrorist nation. May be Nigeria would not spent much on 3G body scanning machine which literary strip one naked at international airports, or what do you think?

What Mutallab has done to the image of the Nigerain youths is terrible and grave. I do not think, by his actions, he is a pride to most Nigerian youths. The day (Christmas day) which Mutallab chose to yield himself to his conscience or incitement; is a day most Nigerian youths dine, wine and exchange love to one another. His action raises grave concerns to me; Is Muttalab trully a Nigerian youth or less?

Obviously, by his actions, Mutallab is now on international spotlight, if you may like, notorious. I am not known globally like Mutallab but I prefer not to be known like Mutallab. Better still, I prefer to know Mutallab in a more humane way given his clout as “highly intelligent” and “widely-travelled.”

Obviously, Mutallab has succeded in making the Nigerian youths (many of whom have distinguished themselves globally) notorious, not popular. This is manifested in the black looks which one often get as soon as one discloses ones citizenship in foreign countries as a Nigerian youth.

If Mutallab has not engaged in what has been widely described as terrorist act, Nigeria would not have been placed in international spotlight as terrorist producing nation-a reputation which most Nigerian youths like me passionately detest.

It seems to me that Mutallab did not take into cognisance the implications of his actions or inactions on youth development (a constituency he belongs, me too), as well as VISA implications for highly mobile Nigerian youths.

At international airports, the Nigerian green passport seems like a criminal conviction, as one would almost be stripped naked in the name of security search because we are Muttalab’s ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’. Being a Nigerian these days outside Nigeria is somewhat stigmatising and brings one to disrepute of some sort. It is even worse if your name sounds close to …tallab!

A friend of mine studying in the US told me how he was treated with scorn soon after Muttalab’s attempted attack, such that when he enters a room where other nationals stay, even those who previously dine and wine with him disappears one after another. Other accounts from Nigerian youths abroad are even more painful. To a large extent, trust and friendship has been replaced with suspicion and hatred, coutesy of Mutallab.

I was completing a 5-page form online for an opportunity for African youths. Having got to the final stage, I entered my nationality, I got a shock: “Not applicable to Nigerian youths.” Do I blame Mutallab or those are reacting to Mutallab’s action? If I am in their shoe, will I react differently?

As it’s often the case, many Nigerian elites condemned in strong terms the enlistment of Nigeria as terrorist producing countries by the US, in the wake of December 25 2009 attempted attack on Detroit-bound flight by Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab. They did not condemn Muttalab’s action until US branded Nigeria a terrorist-producing nation, sheer hypocrisy?

Another Nigerian youth was jailed in Jos after the January 2010 Jos crises after he admitted working for Al quaeda (a terrorist organisation), yet I did not hear any elite condemnation. May be if it were their property that was burnt or their relatives that were killed, their reaction might be indifferent.

Wait a minute, if you were in U.S’s shoes, would your reaction be any different? Would you invite Muttalab for a presidential dinner? Would you confer on him chieftancy titles or Honoris causa like most communities or Universities in Nigeria do? Would you give out your daughter in marriage to him?

Much as I do not applaud US’ decision of enlisting Nigeria as a terrorist nation in the strict sense, I think much time should not be wasted condemning the reaction of the U.S, rather, we should look inwards and set structures on how we can prevent more Mutallabs from emerging, (even where there is strong evidence that they have emerged). If Nigeria solves these challenges, same nation(s) that enlisted Nigeria will delist Nigeria!

Though, his action is unNigerian, I do not intend to change my nationality because of Muttallab’s actions, inactions or US’s reaction, never! I AM UNREPENTANTLY NIGERIAN in the true sense of it all. Being a Nigerian comes with a feeling of community and values which we will not allow Muttalab to mutilate.

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