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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

INTERVIEW: How I Escaped Death - Senator Ndume


The Chairman, Senate Committee on MDGs and Senator representing southern Borno in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume narrowly escaped death on Saturday when a fighter jet sighted his convoy and mistook it for insurgents operating at Pulka area of Gwoza, one of the local government councils in Borno state where activities of Boko Haram Insurgents have continued to claim lives and property.
Ndume, who narrated his story to DailyPost in Maiduguri said, if he had died, many stories would have been written, perhaps in a negative way owing to the way things are being handled in the area.
Our Correspondent, Maina Maina sent in excerpt:
Q: Your experience during your trip to Gwoza on Saturday was terribly a sad one. May we hear from the horse’s mouth what actually happened to your convoy?
A: Thank you very much; this gives me the opportunity to clarify issues with regard to the incident that happened yesterday. In fact, I received so many phone calls from friends yesterday night and I also feel that there is a need to hear from me what actually happened.
As usual, when I come to town, I try to take my time to visit my constituency. And because of the incident that happened at Arbwoko in Gwoza East and the other one that happened in Ngoshe, I decided to pay a visit to the areas.
It was both condolence and sympathy visit. Therefore, as I arrived, I notified the Nigerian Army about my trip, and demanded for protection. I equally notified the Police and they ordered for some police men to accompany us to the area. Unfortunately, at exactly 2.10pm, I was in Pulka waiting to go to Gwoza to deliver a letter to my Emir for his upgrade from second class to first class and we agreed that the other stakeholders in Gwoza would meet me in Pulka and then we moved.
On getting to Pulka, we decided to stop for a while, but we changed our mind to move on. In Pulka, just as I moved, I heard some explosions. Initially, I thought it was Boko Haram that planted bomb on the road because I passed a culvert. In fact, myself and others in the car were saying it was Boko Haram because we suspected people that were waving us by the roadside. We thought they were the ones that detonated the explosives. So, when we stopped and the situation calmed down and the Army that were escorting me came back, they now said ‘Oga is from the Air force’, so, let’s quickly run somewhere for a cover and we ran to the military base in Pulka. We were inside Pulka, the incident happened inside Pulka. When we went to the base there, the officer there tried to establish communication, but it was not possible and for 15 minutes again, the Air force jet was patrolling around the area. In fact, as far as I am concerned, we were lucky. We are alive but I truly want to believe that it was an operational blunder. But even if it was operational problem, I think they did not handle it well, because you don’t just see a convoy on a Federal Highway and you begin to throw bombs.
I don’t want to assume anything for now, but I have talked to the Chief of Army staff, I have sent a text to the Chief of Air staff, I have talked to the Air force Commander here in Maiduguri.
Unfortunately, the fighter jet did not come from Maiduguri. I think it came in from Yola. So, when I get back to Abuja, I will still do some investigation, but I think, I should clarify this with you because the news is everywhere. It is true that my convoy was bombed. It was not bombed by Boko Haram, but by the Air Force and it is true that, nobody died.
Q: With what has happened, don’t you think you are being targeted?
A: No, actually no. I don’t think so. Well, you get scared sometimes, but I am a strong believer that nobody can kill me or take my life except God. My families were very devastated actually, some of my friends were also devastated when I was telling them, and they said, ‘you are very stubborn’. well, I told them it was not stubbornness, but an issue of faith. Maybe, if not for the bomb, I would have would naturally been involved in an accident and I would have died. In fact, I would have returned back yesterday, and if God designed that I would die, even in my sleep, I would have died. So I am a strong believer that if I’m to live for sixty more years, nobody can take my life before that time.
Q: Senator, this issue of operational blunder is becoming a recurrent issue. What do you think is responsible?
A: Well, I think one is professionalism issue and secondly there is no true coordination between the security forces; the Air Force, Nigerian Army, the Police, SSS and others. I think they are not well coordinated in this struggle or fight against terrorism, because I was thinking that, for example, there is suppose to be an operational intelligence in Pulka itself. Immediately I got into Pulka, there should have been intelligence report that, the Senator has arrived this place and it seemed they have just stopped over and are trying to go to Gwoza. And in fact, that piece of information would now be passed to the base where, I stopped over, greeted them before I got to ‘Bayan Dutse’. The convoy passed, and they have a station there, and I stopped in Ngoshe, and even talked to the platoon commander there. He is from Akwa Ibom state. We exchanged phone numbers and I said I was going to Gwoza. He was even saying that I should be careful because there were Boko Haram in Gwoza that they attacked a place. I know the point of attack was at Kurnabasa. I don’t think anybody told them that there is a suspected Boko Haram convoy going around ‘Bayan Dutse’ to Gwoza. And even if that is the case, they should have told us as politicians because what is a Senator, if you don’t relate with your people?
So, would I just because I want to stay alive abandon my people who are dying by the day? Does that mean that I cannot go to even condole or sympathize with them? You know, it is not possible, so, if I am going there, if there is intelligence or if they say clearly that when you want to travel, make sure you tell us so that we may know, I would have said it was my mistake, otherwise I am a politician, a Senator and I am not entitled to siren. So, if I want to go to Gwoza and I came to them, it is because it is their responsibility to say don’t go until we give you this cover. Otherwise, if I go and anything happens to me, it’s their responsibility and that is why I said, let me get security in case something happens. If I was to seek clearance and I didn’t, it would have become a different thing.
Q: How many security operatives were with you when this happened?
A: I think seven (7) military personnel, five (5) Police detachment and the civilian JTF were also up to five (5) in a gulf car.
Q: Sir, with what happened to you; would you now say that most of the operations undertaken by the security operatives are full of blunder?
A: Sorry, let me say that, I don’t want to start accusing the military, but actually, there are operational lapses in what happened to me. And at the same time, there are very good officers who are doing excellently well in the operations. I hope that this incident would help them take good corrective measure. If they need to inform us (politicians) that please, don’t move until you get our clearance, we would make sure we get their clearance before moving to anywhere around these difficult places.
And if they say no convoy should move on the highway until we know, we would have avoided that. So, I don’t want to start criticizing. I just want to say this incident, I hope would not be repeated. That is one. Two, that the incident would be used to correct the operational lapses. Three, that this incident again would be used to investigate those involved, so that, the persons would be corrected. If I was flying that jet, I would not throw those bombs like that. I believe they have a way of explaining things, but common sense should be able to remind somebody that unless you see a target, it is wrong to throw such weapons like that. There is no supposed to be operational blanket until a target is a threat. And am I a target? That is the question now that we are going to investigate. And if I am a target, am I a threat?
Q: Finally Sir, God forbid, but if that bomb hit your car, and you are gone, what do you think the Army would say, perhaps to save their blunder?
A: (laugh), I am sorry, if that had happened and I died, there would be serious commotion and a lot of things would be said because, I would not be here to defend myself. People would just say that I was killed by gunmen. Nobody would say that this is what exactly happened. And the reaction of people when I am killed, only God knows, the reaction of my family when I am killed, only God knows, even your reaction as journalist in the media, only God would know. Some may be too emotional and start throwing some words. We just pray that this incident or any incident of this nature does not happen. But I would not allow this thing to go like just like this. We will investigate the incident.
Source: Daily Post