Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

How Nigeria Reacted to the Umaru Dikko Kidnap Drama

from A Correspondent, Lagos

News of the kidnap drama broke in Nigeria with a terse announcement on Federal radio that there were reports that the country's "most wanted fugitive, Alhaji Umaru Dikko had been kidnapped by armed men in London''. The announcement also said that a Nigeria Airways plane had been detained in London and that the British authorities had given no explanation for holding the plane; the announcement ended with an appeal for calm.

The press secretary for General Buhari Alhaji Wada Maida soon afterwards issued a denial that the FMG was in any way connected with the kidnap attempt. He stated that the presence of a Nigerian diplomat at the airport when the crate was opened, "can only be a coincidence". He speculated further that Alhaji Dikko probably organised his own kidnap to “gain international recognition."

In the meantime, the High Commissioner in London Maj-Gen. Halidu Hannaniya formally denied the involvement of the Nigerian government: "Impossible, my government does not get involved in things like that." He declared that he was 'unaware' of the presence at the Stansted Airport of any member of the High Commission staff.

Nigerians resident in London were generally unwilling to express public opinions on the incident. BBC TV showed a Nigerian businessman described as 'Dr Dikko's neighbour in London' expressing his regret that 'Dikko was found in a crate in Stan stead and not in Lagos'.

The Nigerian Federal radio has taken a tough attitude in the matter launching a bitter attack against Britain for having 'overreacted' on the Dikko affair. It accused the British Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher of 'silent hostility' towards Nigeria and the Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe of 'naked hypocrisy'. The radio called for a reassessment of Anglo Nigeria relations and said that Britain had given 'refuge' to people who had looted Nigeria and allowed them to be using Britain to attack Nigeria. 'Britain', the radio said, 'will have to choose between the fugitives and the rest of Nigeria.'

A feature article published in the Saturday 7 July issue of the National Concord (likely to have been a very early issue since this was the edition sent to London and carried only very sketchy reports about the kidnap attempt the ITN news flash and nothing about Alhaji Dikko having been rescued), was almost prophetic. Under an article headlined 'Let's send for Muammar Gaddafi', the writer, Sonni Anyang said: "When, on fleeing the country after the 31 December change of government, some prominent actors in the last civilian administration had first given indication that instead of quietly, enjoying the millions they had illegally salted away, they preferred to go into the unpatriotic business of hurling threats at our present rulers, not few concerned Nigerians had suggested that we either despatch hit squads to seal their (fugitives) lips permanently, or contract the job out to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi."

"At that time, some of us had been inclined to believe that those who had made that suggestion were some kind of extremists. Evidently, the government thought so too, since it appears to have ignored that piece of unsolicited advice. But the recent revelation by Sports and Information Minister, Samson Omeruah that the fugitives have again been plotting how to destabilize the present government indicates that those who had recommended that we dealt with them in the Gaddafi way had been more perceptive than was generally realised at that time. Speaking strictly for myself, I am prepared to reverse my squeamish views on the matter. I now think we should prepare the necessary contract documents and get in touch with Gaddafi this very day!"

He ended the article thus: "Apart from bending over backwards to really show that there is indeed a better government than the one they overthrew, our present government would do well to seriously consider the option of 'terminating' the fugitives with 'extreme prejudice.' They would not be the first or the last to so act. Stalin did it to Trotsky, remember? Rather than have officers of the Nigerian Security Organisation chasing non-existent threats to national security at the Imo Technical University in the backwoods of Imerrienwe, we could put them on the next flight out of the country to tackle Umaru Dikko in the manner Israeli agents tackled Adolf Eichmann in faraway Buenos Aires in 1960.

If, however, all that our security agents can do is harass hapless university lecturers, then we would do well to forget the fugitives together with their wicked plans and face business. Or, better yet, send for the Libyans!"

Writing in the Sunday Concord of 8 July, under the headline 'The Dikko Kidnap affair' in the column "The heart of the matter', Sina Adedipe wrote...

"I regret that the attempt to bring Umaru Dikko, the most vociferous of the cowards on the run, got botched up. It would have been interesting to have Dikko here to hear what he would have said after boasting to launch a Jihad against his fatherland.

The report that a Nigerian diplomat was at the Stansted Airport allegedly supervising the loading of the crates in which Dikko and others were concealed could be circumstantial evidence of official involvement.

But who is that patriotic Nigerian who will not back the Federal Government's action if it was part and parcel of the abduction bid? Lagos must not waive diplomatic immunity and must not allow the Nigerian diplomat to be questioned by the British police let alone being tried? We should stand our ground as Libya did in the incident near its embassy in which shots that rang out of a window in the embassy killed a British policewoman about three months ago.

From the telephone conversation I had on Friday with London it was clear the kidnap attempt could never have succeeded as it was amateurishly executed.

The report I have said the two kidnappers were black Jews and they seized Umaru Dikko and the other two in broad daylight close to his home. Of course, his people phoned the police who alerted border posts as well as air and sea ports grounding all planes until a search was conducted.
We should consider the option of 'terminating' the fugitives with 'extreme prejudice'. We could tackle Umaru Dikko in the manner Israeli agents tackled Eichmann.
More skilful and experienced kidnappers would have carried out the operation very far away from Dikko's house where nobody would know who was being kidnapped. The alternative is to carry out the operation under the cover of darkness. If these two approaches had been adopted the loud-mouth Dikko would have been in Lagos by now.

Having executed their abduction in the day time, and near the house of Dikko, case-hardened and seasoned kidnappers would have known that they should have taken Dikko and others to a hideout, possibly the Nigerian High Commission where the British police would not have entered to conduct a search unless the Thatcher government wants a break in diplomatic ties with Nigeria.

The British police would have thought twice before storming the High Commission as they would think Dikko and his bedfellows could be shot before they reached where they were being held.

If the fugitives had been hidden, it would have been possible to smuggle them out one day long after the hullabaloo of the British would have died down.

Wish to God Almighty there is another opportunity to kidnap Dikko and the rest of his fugitive comrades. For now we are sure that they will live in constant fear surrounded by hired security agents hardly venturing out again. That psychological commotion in them is some victory for Nigerians whom they cheated brazenly. What is in the life of a man who has wealth but cannot go out freely, has no privacy and lives night and day under the fear of being kidnapped or having his house or car planted with bombs or his person attacked and destroyed? That paranoid existence is a great torture for any human being. For Dikko and the other fugitives will now be beset with the apprehension that where kidnap has failed outright assassination would be the next strategy.

The Buhari people need prayers. Why is it that every good thing they do goes haywire and they are denied of total applause. The coup was popular but the fugitives had the opportunity to escape and start their trouble from overseas.

The change of the colours of the naira was hailed only to turn into a nightmare overnight. Now the kidnap of Dikko and others which would have enhanced the prestige of the regime and erased all thoughts that escape of the fugitives last December and January was questionable has aborted. The Federal Military Government has entered a new phase in its difficult affray with Britain which Reagan is sure to back up against Nigeria. Britain may be expected to ask the Federal Government to replace its retired military man as Nigeria's high commissioner to London. The Buhari regime is best advised not to create more enemies for itself at home especially among the press, trade unions, students and other articulate persons and groups whose maximum support it needs at all cost."

Chief Francis Nzeribe, the prominent London-based Nigerian businessman, told Talking Drums that much as he supported the idea of people like Alhaji Dikko going back to Nigeria to answer charges, he was totally against the kidnap attempt. "I condemn the action and whoever it was, in fact I am ashamed that such an action was taken, it reflects very badly on my country and it has introduced a very dangerous element into Nigerian politics that has never been there. I condemn it."

Mr Ad'obe Obe, the Nigerian journalist who writes for West Africa. magazine and The Guardian of London, said on the Newsnight programme of BBC TV that if Alhaji Dikko had been successfully kidnapped to Nigeria dead or alive, it would have satisfied the Nigerian sense of justice because it was unacceptable for Nigerians that people like Dikko said to have looted the nation, to have escaped from Nigeria after the coup.

See also

kidnapped victim umaru dikko

talking drums 1984-07-16 where was Dikko going when kidnapped Rawlings the man behind the mask