interviewBy Ben Agande
After several years in the courts, Senator Emmanuel Onwe was recently declared the rightful winner of the Ebonyi Central senatorial seat in the 2007 elections.
A lawyer with many years experience Senator Onwe in this interview with Vanguard speaks on a the independence day bombing and the reaction of the security agencies to the incidence. Excerpts:
The Senate resumed from its recess to be confronted with the issue of the Independence Day bomb blast. What is your reaction to the incidence and the senate's response to it?
Was it not rather pre-emptive since investigations are still on-going?
Yes, legally speaking; yes, forensically speaking, we do not yet know exactly what happened, how it happened, why it happened and who was, or were, responsible for the grave acts of terror which occurred on Friday the 1st of October, 2010.
What happened was that a few faceless individuals unleashed a wave of terror and bloodletting against innocent citizens of this republic. What happened was that politically motivated grievances culminated in a terrific warfare designed to sow the seeds of fear, insecurity and thus creating a condition of mutual suspicion amongst and between the citizens of this nation.
What happened was that scores of innocent Nigerians were maimed both physically and psychologically. Many may never recover.
Neither the dead nor the maimed played any part in the egregious exploitation of the Niger Delta, which, allegedly, is the root cause of this immense tragedy. They played no role in creating the rot that lies at the core of our nation.
There does not exist and never can exist any justification for the mass murder of those innocent citizens. I detest exploitation of any individual or a group of individuals. But blowing up innocent people is neither a legitimate nor productive response, in the final analysis.
On that fateful day, little did hopeful parents back home know that they would become childless in a twinkle of an eye and their hearts maimed permanently.
Little did unsuspecting wives at home know that they would become emergency widows. Little did little boys and little girls know that mummy or daddy would not be coming home again forever. Little did they know that they would become orphans at the blaze of noon.
This is exactly the chilling reality of the horror perpetrated on the occasion of this country's 50th anniversary of political independence by insane terrorists masquerading as freedom fighters.
It is a distressing reminder of our current state of insecurity and the urgent need for a comprehensive re-examination and engagement of all our law enforcement assets. And, if need be, the executive branch of government must seek assistance from our partner nations across the globe to combat this new dimension to the escalating menace of insecurity in this land.
This is one of those rare occasions when it is both appropriate and acceptable to speak in terms of "them" versus "us" in this nation.
As a Senator of the Federal Republic what is your advice to the security agencies?
We must first condemn them with all the reserves of our moral outrage. The full force of our law must be brought to bear - always adhering to due process, of course.
We must also put on notice those who may wish to tow a similar deplorable path in the future that the full weight of our law shall be brought upon them. But, above all, our security agencies must take all necessary but legitimate measures to ensure that there shall never be a recurrence of such sad incidence.
It was a terrible thing to have happened to our country , on a day other world leaders and friends of Nigeria had gathered to celebrate with us in Abuja.
We must however commend our security agencies, specifically, for their reported role in ensuring that the scale of the catastrophe was curtailed through their swift countermeasures.
If a car bomb had been detonated within the grounds of Eagle Square, amidst those little innocent children that were thrilling in patriotic jubilation for their motherland, I shudder to imagine the depth of the dust into which this nation might have been pounded.
For that, they deserve the gratitude of the Nigerian people. However, I have an admonitory, not a critical (not yet until the full facts are in), observation to make.
At about 11 o'clock on that Friday morning, an explosive device was set off not quite up to 40 metres from the canopy where the President was taking salute.
I was there. Whilst the security operatives took routine precautionary measures which included forming a human body shield around the Commander-in-Chief, the most safe and reassuring course of action, in my respectful opinion, might have been the immediate evacuation of the President back into the bullet-proof cubicle until a full assessment of the potential threat was carried out.
Of course, one is mindful of the unnecessary panic that might have been generated but in such circumstances, the rule must always be: "safety first and style last".