By Emmanuel Onwubiko
This piece is coming a little late because of the need for deeper reflection on the weight of the under -estimation of the significance of the totally misguided and impetuous statement by President Muhammadu Buhari about the mass killings of Christians and farmers by armed Fulani herdsmen and terrorists as made by President Donald trump when he hosted the Nigerian leader at the White House a few years back.
The major motivation for this reflection is the dismissive statement made last week by President Buhari in which he joked apparently about this grave matter of life and death.
The Nigerian President said he was confronted by the United States President about the mass killings of Christians when he paid a visit in 2018 but Buhari seems to be saying that he attributed the killings to conflicts that were were occasioned by the consequences of climate change and that the Fulani herdsmen were in search of where to feed their cows.
If this is the exact import of that statement made last week by President Buhari, then it is regrettable and unfortunate.
But for the benefit of my readers, I will replicate the statement by President Buhari and then also recall the United States based media reporter’s take from the outcome of that visit in which the American leader said emphatically that he was disappointed with that visit.
Buhari was on Tuesday quoted in the media as having narrated his meeting with Trump at the White House.
Buhari spoke in Abuja at the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat of his second term even as he said he was the only African amongst the least developed nations that Trump invited in the White House.
He said: “I don’t think I can finish this speech without one or two digressions, which is specifically to you ministers, permanent secretaries and our supporters.
President Buhari then went on to narrate how the American President asked him why he was killing Christians and how he blamed the effects of climate change for what he called pastoralists versus farmers conflicts which came about by the demand by the cow readers for grass to graze their cattle given that the grazing routes have been blocked by some persons.
He then said: “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries that the president of the United States invited.
Then from www.cfr.org came a report on how the media quoted the Financial Times as reporting how the Trump regretted meeting physically with Buhari.
The paper stated in a cover titled “A Months-Old Trump Insult of Buhari Surfaces Prior to Kenyatta Visit On August 27,” just as it revealed that the Financial Times reported that the American president said that he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again.
The Financial Times reported it had three sources for the story, but did not identify them. Sahara Reporters, a credible Nigerian Diaspora publication based in New York, picked up the story. It went viral in Nigeria.
Nigerian social media the paper said is already having a field day. “Buhari’s health is a major issue in the current presidential campaign now underway, as the national elections in February 2019 draw near. In what was widely seen as a refutation of persistent reports of Buhari’s poor health, he recently publicly walked about 800 meters from one event to another. The opposition to Buhari is applauding the White House for its “frankness,” while supporters of Buhari are indignant that, among other things, their president is insulted after having paid hundreds of millions of dollars to U.S. manufacturers for Super Turcano aircraft.”
The office of the Nigerian presidency brushed off the comment, casting doubt on its authenticity and calling it “unsubstantiated” and “unverified” and suggesting that “anybody could have planted it.” It should be noted that, unlike the notorious “shithole” comment, President Trump was speaking in private, presumably with no expectations that his off-the-cuff remarks would become public.
“So, why did somebody (or some bodies) at the White House see fit to share the story with the FT? Who knows? While the comment was allegedly made shortly after Buhari’s visit months ago, it seems to have only just surfaced shortly before Trump’s second meeting with an African head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta”, the paper probed further.
“But, that the White House is the venue of personality and other conflicts and is hardly a well-oiled machine is no news. The Nigerian political opposition will use the story to their advantage, while supporters of President Buhari will do their best to dismiss it”, it averred.
But with the latest statement by president Buhari comparing the acts of serial genocides of Christians by armed Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorist to be as a result some phantom consequences of climate change-motivated conflicts of farmers and herdsmen, it is clear why President Trump reportedly felt disappointed to have played host to President Buhari.
My belief is that on no account should anyone, much less the president of a constitutional democracy, be seen trying to justify acts of serial terrorism and genocides such as the constant killings of Christians by armed Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists such as the killings going on in southern Kaduna where Christians are murdered by armed Fulani herdsmen right in their houses can in no way be explained away as coming because of the blockage of cattle routes by the villagers in their ancestral lands.
How can a 21st century president be defending the terrorism unleashed by even some foreign herders who have continued to unleash violence on Nigerian farmers and for the president to simply accuse the victims of being responsible for that terrorism inflicted upon them is sad. What does the Nigerian president mean by saying that the terrorism inflicted on the Nigerian citizens who are mostly Christians can be traced to the interference with the so-called grazing routes? Whose grazing routes? Does Nigeria not operate under a federalism and is Nigeria not operating under the land use Act in which case the people have ownership of their land resources in which the governors and the state assemblies administer those land resources?
Where are these grazing routes and why should the villagers who in this case are mostly Christians be killed so the cows can be grazed? What happens to modern agricultural practices of ranching the animals by their owners and why should this be the concern of the Nigerian president who is not the president of cow rearers?
The fact is that hundreds of thousands of Nigerian Christians have died due to the attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen and not one of these killers have been prosecuted and punished but yet president Buhari seems to be cracking joke about this grave threat to the survival of Nigeria.
Lovers of freedom worldwide need to appreciate the positive strides that the executive order on advancing internal and religious freedom signed by president Donald trump on 2nd of June, 2020.The Main Highlights are as Follows: Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative. Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom. As stated in 2017 National Security Strategy, Our founders understood religious freedom not as a creation of the state, but as a gift of God to every person and right that is fundamental for flourishing of our society.
The executive order emphasised too that Religious communities and organisations, and other institution of civil society, are vital partners in United States government effort to advance religious freedom around the world.
The United States government says it is the policy of the United States to engage robustly and continually with civil society organisations – including those foreign countries- to inform united states government policies, programs, and activities related to international religious freedom.
Importantly, Donald Trump says the Prioritization Of International Religious Freedom made the executive order imperative just as he stated that Within 180 days of this order, the secretary of state (secretary) shall, in consultation with administrator of the United States agency for international development (USAID), develop a plan to prioritize international religious freedom in the planning and implementation of United States foreign policy and in the foreign assistance programs of the department of state and USAID.
An important question to ask the Nigerian President is why he thinks playing pranks with such a grave matter like the frequent attacks on Christians is ideal at this time that a lot of Nigerians are accusing his government of being so insensitive and divisive?
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo had rightly tackled President Muhammadu Buhari, over what he called ‘mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of Nigeria, noting that the country is fast drifting to a failed state under his administration.
Disclosing this at an interactive session with some socio-cultural groups in Abuja on Friday, Obasanjo said: “Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state, economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.
“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country.
“Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.
“It would appear that anybody not dancing to the drum beat nor joining in chorus singing would be earmarked as ethnically unpatriotic or enemy of its tribe or geographical area. In short, the country is fast moving to the precipice.
“But happily, I observed that the five socio-cultural political groups gathered here have been getting together to find common ground, areas of agreement or accord for moving Nigeria away from tipping over.
“Before continuing, let me say that we must remind those who are beating the drums of disintegration and singing choruses of bitterness, anger and separation that if even Nigeria is broken up, the separated parts will still be neighbours. And they will have to find accommodation as neighbours or they will be ever at war. And those who prevent justice to be done invite violence to reign.”
Recall that Obasanjo had written series of letters criticizing Buhari’s mode of operation.
There is the urgency of the now to task the Federal Government to punish mass killers going by the fact that there are a plethora of laws against murder aside the criminal code in section 320 stated clearly that murderers must be sentenced to life imprisonment.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA HURIWA and blogs@www. huriwanigeria.com; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.