By: Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa
While hosting his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, in Washington DC, former US President Donald Trump decried the “murder of Christians” in Nigeria. He went ahead in his typical arrogant demeanour to effectively warn his guest that “We are going to work on that problem very, very hard because we cannot allow that to happen.” I straightaway blamed his blatant ignorance of the dynamics of the security crisis in Arewa on the sheer misrepresentation that some interest groups in Nigeria and their foreign accomplices always present to various US institutions, think tanks, public figures and NGOs. This, in turn, influences the US foreign policy
Interestingly, it’s a common practice among foreign governments, interest groups and organizations. They engage powerful public relations (PR) firms in countries with influence in global politics to manipulate public opinion in their favour through manipulation of the mainstream media in those countries, which in turn influence the international media in favour of the interest groups’ respective agendas despite their moral or legal validity. The foreign interest groups also engage influential lobby groups in such countries to lobby for favourable governments policies to favour their foreign clients’ respective economic, political or diplomatic interests. The corridors of power and PR circles in Washington DC, Paris and London are particularly attractive to these foreign clients. Of course, Washington, where lobbying is a multi-billion-dollar industry, is particularly notorious in this regard.
Nigeria’s apparent lack of interest in such expensive services is quite understandable. The country has barely been involved in any struggle for politico-economic influence significant enough to warrant strategic investment in sustained international PR campaign and/or international lobbying. It has also never had to deal with any strategic threat of politico- economic domination either.
However, Arewa, which is the largest region of the country, has for long been a victim of unfair demonization by some ethno-regional and religious interest groups engaged in systematic peddling of a misleading narrative around the world over the dynamics of the persistent security crises. According to their plan, the aim is to influence global public opinion, which includes presenting Nigerian Christians as victims of targeted and systematic persecution at the hands of Arewa Muslims. These interest groups spare no effort in pushing for this narrative to gain broader ground globally. For instance, General TY Danjuma (Rtd), a former Minister of Defence, and Taraba
State Governor Darius Ishaku attended an event in the United States. It was convened by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) in partnership with 21 Wilberforce and Heritage Foundation. There were delegates from the US government, leading NGOs, Frank Wolf, and a former Congressman. They discussed the “killings of Christians in Nigeria”, albeit in a relatively diplomatic way that time around, which couldn’t conceal their actual prejudice. Besides, in 2016, an international organization, OpenDoors that describes itself as “the world’s largest outreach for persecuted Christians in the most high-risk places”, released a report claiming that Nigeria was the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Also, a year later, the United States House of Representatives Sub-Committee Chairman on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organization, Christopher Smith, equally claimed that Nigeria was the most dangerous place for Christians in the world.
Now, in the absence of an alternative narrative, this ridiculously simplistic and blatantly biased narrative continues to gain ground in social and official circles in various European countries, the United States and other countries, which gives unearned credence to it. In contrast, in reality, there is nothing like targeted persecution of Christians in Nigeria. After all, Arewa Muslims are the most affected people in the ethno-religious conflicts in the region, including the Boko Haram terror campaign that’s indiscriminate and primarily targets Muslim communities. Likewise, the victims of the armed bandits massacring people in the area are mostly Muslims.
On a lighter note, while millions of Boko Haram terror survivors who have managed to escape from their villages and towns languish in poorly equipped internally displaced camps across Arewa, many non-Arewans and indeed non-Muslim Nigerian illegal immigrants in Europe. Other Europe-bound would-be Nigerian illegal immigrants stranded in Libya and other North African countries masquerade as Boko Haram terror survivors. Thus, they claim asylum in
Europe and several secure it with all the privileges attached, even though they have never been anywhere close to the crisis areas or perhaps even the region.
It’s indeed a pity that there is practically no single Arewa interest group with the potential to tackle this challenge. Arewa intellectuals appear to prefer setting up largely bogus NGOs to access trap-ridden foreign funding. Therefore, until such an interest group is set up, it’s high time foreign-based Arewa associations like the US-based Zumunta Association began to equally engage think tanks, NGOs and government institutions in their respective bases. They need to offer an alternative narrative to enable the global audience to compare and see the truth in light of reality.