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Nigerians struggle to understand why a privileged son tried to become a bomber.
He never completed them and reportedly left due to nonpayment of fees. The younger Abdulmutallab instead went to Yemen to study Arabic. By August he was severing ties with his family and his worried father was calling the U.S. embassy to warn of his son, who he was worried was now under the sway of extremists.
The son re-entered Nigeria on Dec. 24 in order to board the KLM flight to Amsterdam that same night. He used an e-ticket that had been purchased from Accra, Ghana. And he boarded the international flight with just one piece of hand luggage and no checked in luggage, which is most unusual in Nigeria, where traveling light means two checked bags.
“The man in question has been living outside the country for awhile. He sneaked into Nigeria on Dec. 24 and left the same day,” said Dora Akunyili, Nigeria's information minister.
From the bustling seaside metropolis of Lagos with its searing skyscrapers, to the red soil dirt roads of Asaba, on the banks of the River Niger, Nigerians can’t understand what has transpired. And it’s the talk of many towns.
“It is a reflection of poor family values but more importantly it is a clear evidence of the disadvantage of allowing very young children to live a life away from family from a very young age,” said Ifeanyi Ukoha, 39, a banker in Lagos. “The young man's values would have been so mixed up thus opening him up to extremism.”
Ukoha added: “Nigerians in the diaspora will suffer in terms of a renewed perception as terrorists. Already Nigerians are grappling with issues relating to immigration abuse and advanced fee fraud.”
Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan said Abdulmutallab’s actions may lead to a clampdown on all Nigerians.
"A Nigerian has created an additional problem for us by wanting to blow up an aircraft," he said after a church service here. "That means that those Nigerians who travel out of this country will be subjected to unnecessary harassments and searches."
Timothy Obiorah, 43, an oil and gas industry manager concurred: “Everyone will be a suspect now. This was the bleakest Christmas in this country.”
One Detroit-based businessman who landed in Abuja right after Christmas said that when he withdrew thousands of dollars from an American bank for his trip, he did not want to tell the teller that he was traveling to Nigeria, because of the hysteria about Abdulmutallab.
“I said I was heading to Kampala [Uganda]," said the traveler. "With all this stuff, she might have thought to herself, out of an abundance of caution, to call the FBI and say ‘this black guy just withdrawn all this money and is heading to Nigeria.’ I just don’t want the hassle.”