27 April 2012

Nigeria: 'A Phone Call Saved My Life'

Twice-lucky THISDAY reporter, Dele Ogbodo, recounts how he escaped yet another bomb attack after surviving the UN House blast last year

My colleague, Paul Obi, had sent an invitation to me, via SMS, on the media briefing by the National Tourism Photo Competition 2012, slated for yesterday, at NICON Luxury and Suites located at the city centre, Abuja.

The day began like usual; no premonition of whatsoever that anybody would ever envisage hitting THISDAY office, not even with a bomb. Concerning the assignment for the day, I really wasn't excited about it. Why? I just felt: what would be there really for a reporter who is not a photojournalist to be doing there?

As it has become my tradition, I usually get to office every morning to read newspapers, check my mails and perhaps set my routine for day. While I was at the topmost office flipping through the dailies, the coordinator of the photo event, Miss Funke Mathew, who had been divinely assigned to provide an escape route for me, called at 10am to remind me that the media briefing would start at 10.30am.

She said: "Where are you, right now?"

I was still busy with my laptop when she kept calling. I told her I was on the road to the venue, which is a distance of 20 minutes. Sluggishly and reluctantly, I packed my laptop, my tape recorder, a jotter and a pen, and left for the event. The clock on the dashboard of my car read 10.45am.

The back gate through which we now passed was opened by two of the security guards who would usually search your car before letting you go.

I hit the road and was directly in front of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), when I saw several missed calls of a colleague with the Daily Trust newspaper, Mr. Shehu Abubakar.

I pulled up and called Abubakar, who said: "Is it true that your office was bombed?"

Then I knew I had escaped death in the hands of terrorists for the second time in eight months, the first being at the UN House where I was on the third floor when the suicide bomber struck. I was about taking the lift downstairs when I changed my mind and decided to see someone in her office. Five minutes later, the bomber struck. And now this.

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