A few minutes before deadly explosions
ripped through Nigeria's 50th Independence Day
celebration in Abuja on Saturday, Twitter user Achonu Stanley wondered about darkening
skies over the festivities:
"Would the day be marred by rain? It has become cloudy and dark. Sorry for the
thousands of people at
Things started off slowly. Early Saturday, Tomi Oladipo, a BBC
correspondent watching a live television feed from the commercial city of
Another Twitterer, @diddykb24, grumbled about its
pomp: "9billion naira spent on the eagle square parade...no light in my house
for 3 days?? :s."
Jeremy Weate, an
But questions like these were quickly drowned out with breaking news of a bomb threat from the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). In a message to a friend, the BBC's Oladipo confirmed that the militants had sent a warning to the media. "They send a few emails to the press every month. I'm also on the mailing list," he wrote.
The news spread rapidly on Twitter. "So, MEND has warned
everyone to evacuate
The explosions began. A frantic stream of tweets gave shreds of incomplete information. "Reporters say it looks like a taxi and a red sedan detonated," typed The Associated Press' Nigeria Bureau Chief Jon Gambrell. He followed up with a note to the AP that the bureau's staff were safe.
"OMG dead bodies litter the streets in front of new Fed High
Court. Videos coming," sighed
Odewale. A leading newspaper, 234 Next,
Dare Art Alade's tweet urging people to get away from the site of the explosion was one of the most retweeted messages. "Everyone around eagle square find a place to hide. Bomb explosion reported mins ago...RT!!!."
Far from descending into panic, the parade apparently went
on uninterrupted. "Another explosion at
Across the Atlantic, in
"If you're tweeting from #Abuja, don't
forget your hashtag so that we can keep up #nigeriaat50,"
she typed. Eventually
While the news instantly made international headlines, some
Nigerians seemed to stagger in shock and disbelief. "Um why is yahoo news,
saying there was a bomb blast in
One Twitterer wondered why he had not heard or seen any local reports. "CNN confirms a blast occurred close to the eagle square but no LOCAL NEWS CHANNEL is reporting this...strange," remarked Ita Ekanem.
In the aftermath of the blasts, some Twitterers clashed passionately over controversial statements made by President Goodluck Jonathan, who professed MEND's innocence. "What happened yesterday was a terrorist act and MEND was just used as a straw; MEND is not a terrorist group," Jonathan declared Monday on his Facebook page.
Most Twitterers roundly criticized the statements. A few who stood by the president, including @omofasa, found themselves on the defensive. Addressing @eggheader and @ganiu4, he asserted, "Besides being President,GJ is also from d N.D&has a right 2 take offense wen terrorists are branded as freedom fighters."
Perhaps warding off accusations of partisanship in the
current election campaign,
he denied being a
militant supporter of the president and called for unity. "George Bush
wasnt d best President of d
By Sunday, the tweets had taken a more reflective tone. "
From CNN'S Karimi came the most fitting epitaph: "#nigeriaat50 bombing reminds us yet again of power of twitter and how much it has turned the world into one loud global village."