When President Donald Trump of the United States, and while hosting his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari last April in Washington decried the “murder of Christians” in Nigeria, and in fact went ahead in his typical arrogant demeanor 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 obvious ignorance of the dynamics of 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, which in turn influence relevant US policy accordingly.
Interestingly, it’s a common practice among foreign governments, interest groups and organizations to engage influential 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 global media in favour of the interest groups’ respective agendas notwithstanding their moral or legal validity.
They (i.e. foreign interest groups) also engage influential lobby groups in such countries to lobby for favourable governments policies in favour of 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 such foreign clients. Of course, Washington where lobbying is a multi-billion-dollar industry is particularly notorious in this regard.
Having never been involved in any struggle for politico-economic influence significant enough to warrant strategic investment in sustained international PR campaign and/or international lobbying, and having never had to deal with any strategic threat of politico-economic domination either, Nigeria’s apparent lack of interest in such expensive services is quite understandable.
However, the largest part (both in size and population) thereof i.e. Arewa has for long been a victim of unfair demonization by some ethno-regional and/or religious interest groups engaged in systematic peddling of a misleading narrative around the world over the dynamics of the persistent security crises in Nigeria, with a view to influencing global public opinion according to their agenda, which is to present 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 wider ground globally. For instance, recently General TY Danjuma (Rtd); a former Minister of Defence and Taraba State Governor, Daruis Ishaku among others were in attendance at an event in the United States convened by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) in partnership with 21 Wilberforce and Heritage Foundation with delegates from the U.S. government, leading NGOs, Frank Wolf; a former Congressman among others discussing the “killings of Christians in Nigeria” albeit in a relatively diplomatic way that time around, which however 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 any 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, whereas 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 Boko Haram terror campaign that’s indiscriminate and in fact mostly targets Muslim communities. Likewise, the victims of the armed bandits massacring people in the region 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 and beyond, there are many non-Arewans and indeed non-Muslim Nigerian illegal immigrants in Europe, and other Europe-bound would-be Nigerian illegal immigrants stranded in Libya and other North African countries masquerading as Boko Haram terror survivors hence claiming asylum in Europe with probably many of them securing it with all the privileges attached, even though they have actually never been anywhere close to the crisis areas or perhaps even the region for that matter.
It’s indeed a pity that there is practically no single Arewa interest group with potential to tackle this challenge as intellectuals in the region appear to prefer setting up largely bogus NGOs to access trap-ridden foreign funding. In the face of this therefore, and 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 abroad to offer an alternative narrative to enable the global audience to compare and see the truth in light of the actual reality.