Much has been said about the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas Day involving a Nigerian yet there still isn’t enough information to answer all the questions I have. I find myself for the first time, interested in hearing the story of a ‘terrorist’. Perhaps because he is someone I can relate to in some ways. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab looks like a person that could have been a classmate or an acquaintance. In other words, it feels like he could have been just another Nigerian guy in the diaspora*. Other people involved in terrorism (Shoe bomber, Richard Reid for example) seemed too distant, and in some sense not real. Whereas here is somebody that I can imagine coming across in my life. Maybe somebody that I might even have liked or admired as he is reported to be smart and to have a kind, polite demeanour. This seems like a lot of potential gone to waste. He was intelligent and apparently passionate enough to do a lot of good in this world if he wanted to.
So I find myself wanting to get inside his head. I want to know what he was thinking when he made the decision to detonate an explosive device on a plane. What on earth convinced him that terror was the route to making an impact? Why Al-Qaeda? Was he egotistical or power hungry? Did he have a saviour complex or was he just misguided? Was he mentally imbalanced? These are all questions that I would like answered.
Another thing this incident highlights is the role money plays in terrorism. I first started thinking about this in relation to the militant groups in the Niger Delta. I am hardly convinced by the veneer of ideology that a lot of groups claim when carrying out such acts. For me, what it boils down to is a battle for power that is driven by cold, hard cash. See the linked TED talk for more on this topic.
Queen Elizabeth II said it best: ‘Some years are best forgotten’. For Nigeria, 2009 has turned out to be just such a year. With militancy, religious rioting, a crisis in the banking sector, District 9, the disappearance of the President, the looming constitutional crisis and now a terrorist to top things off, there is little for the country to remember fondly from this year.
* Yes he was rich but that would not necessarily be the thing about him that stood out if you met him at school for instance.