By Sarah Adetokunbo
I am not one of those that are quick to jump into the fray to comment on issues of national concern. But, the recent report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) got me thinking as a Nigerian, and what the future holds for Nigeria.
After reading the about 56-page report, it was clear in my head that indeed we are in big trouble if there is no rebuttal to the report which was lacking in objectivity. To make matters worse, there was nowhere, it was stated in the report the method of data collection and if the data collated were indeed subjected to verifications before putting the report out in the public space.
The title of the report NIGERIA: UNFOLDING GENOCIDE? Is the most uncharitable thing I have read about Nigeria in recent history. I could not place a finger on the overall objective of the report other than the fact that there is an attempt to pitch the Christians and the Muslims communities against each other in Nigeria.
There was also an ethnic slant ascribing the activities of bandits to the Fulani group. I should have thought that such anomaly should not come from supposed enlightened members of the APPG. But I was wrong. I think it would be too hasty to say the report was a sponsored one and targeted at the government. But I won’t be wrong if the overarching objective is aimed towards the fulfilment of the doomsday postulation that Nigeria would disintegrate.
The word genocide is such a strong word to use in my opinion and that the APPG elected to make that insinuation leave a lot to the imagination and why the Nigerian authorities must do all necessary to ensure that the objectives of the APPG is nipped in the bud as soon as possible.
Taking the time to read through the 56-page report was emotionally drenching to me, and I imagined if Nigeria in reference was the same Nigeria we live in or there is another country called Nigeria. The postulations in the report were imaginary and very puerile. The choice of words was also uncouth and inciting. Paramount the report was filled with half-truths and illogical conclusions.
One of the highlights of the report was where it alluded that “the APPG received numerous reports that Christian pastors and community heads are specifically targeted. During many of the attacks, herders are reported by survivors to have shouted ‘Allah u Akbar’, ‘destroy the infidels’ and ‘wipe out the infidels.’ Hundreds of churches have been destroyed, including over 500 churches in Benue State.”
This is indeed an uncharitable statement not because the statement is false; it is also worse than a situation where a bomb is detonated in a busy motor park and the resultant mass casualties on innocent people. It is instructive to state that the victims of terrorist and militant activities have been Christians as well as Muslims. Churches, as well as mosques, have been attacked on numerous occasions across the country. Probably the APPG elected to rely on one side of the story and not bothering to balance their argument because that is not the overarching objective.
Let me take another point raised in the report as regards the response of the government. The APPG stated that “the inability of the Nigerian Federal and State Governments to protect Christian farmers, and the lack of political will to respond adequately to warnings or to bring perpetrators of violence to justice, has fostered feelings of victimization and persecution.
The blunt categorization of Christians as farmers is ignorant and laced with mischief because the farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria is a function of the struggle over grazing land and scarce resources which have over the years resulted in perennial and growing violent conflicts in terms of frequency, intensity and geographic scope.
Nigeria is a confluence of environmental and demographic forces, especially desertification caused by climate change and population explosion. There is no role of religion in the farmer-herder conflict and this much the report by the APPG erroneously failed to capture for self-evident reasons. I must add that with the depletion of arable land for subsistence farming largely as a result of increasing urbanization, the adverse effect of climate change intensified the struggle between herdsmen and farmers – leading to violent confrontations and conflicts, deaths and forced displacement, as well as the destruction of agriculture and livestock.
Another area where the APPG goofed in their report is the assumption that the government has not done enough to address the farmers-herders conflict in Nigeria. This again buttresses the point that the report was not well-researched before making it public.
The inaccuracies in the report are too numerous to mention. It is indeed baffling how some group of persons that probably have not visited Nigeria or the areas where these conflicts have happened would sound authoritative in making wide accusations and blind suppositions. At best, they relied on some disjointed news reports, and lazy researchers skilled in the art of desk research to arrive at their rambling conclusion that Christians in Nigeria are targets of genocidal actions.
I dare to say that there is every possibility that the report by the APPG was indeed written by some vested interests in Nigeria and given to the APPG to make public using their medium to provide it with some form of credibility in the desire to heat the polity and ignite a sectarian crisis in the country. It is indeed unfortunate that what the APPG didn’t realize is that Nigerians have indeed taken note of this despicable plot to cause mayhem in the country because there is no iota of truth in the report and all the issues canvased are figments of the imagination of the writers. Sadly, it must also be noted that the APPG by this action has elected to stand the truth on its head by taking sides with those individuals and organizations that are bent on destabilizing Nigeria at all cost.
Hear this: “The Institute for Economics and Peace published figures in their Global Terrorism Index that so-called “Fulani extremists” are responsible for more deaths than Boko Haram since 2015” This was also contained in the report as unbelievable as it sounds. I guess the APPG was not referring to the same Boko Haram terrorist group that we know in Nigeria whose activities has led to the death of thousands of Nigerians and displaced millions across states in North-East Nigeria. This should indeed tell us that there is more than meet the eyes as regards the motives behind the report by the APPG.
However, there is a revelation and Nigerians need not look too far to understand those behind the APPG. “As sponsorship for a trip to Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir” between February 18 and 22, the APPG on Kashmir (APPGK), chaired by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, received a “benefit in kind” of amounting £31,501 (Rs 29.7 lakh) and £33,000 (Rs 31.2 lakh) on February 18, 2020, from the Government of Pakistan.” Only God knows how much they must have received to publish this report on Nigeria. Maybe some millions of pounds of blood money.
In a report published by the Guardian newspaper of UK in 2017 titled “Are APPGs a ‘dark space’ for covert lobbying? The report stated thus: “Campaigners say that despite greater scrutiny by the parliamentary authorities, APPGs are still being used by big businesses and groups to reach lawmakers and influence policy.”
“Tamasin Cave, from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, said APPGs could still provide “a dark space” for covert lobbying. “Like other ‘third party’ lobbyists, APPGs should be required to make public their accounts, minutes of meetings, and details of their lobbying activity. Are they flying MPs around the world, providing private dinners with industry, or freebie tickets? It’s in the public interest to know” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/06/are-appgs-a-dark-space-for-covert-lobbying.
I agree in totality with this position because their report on Nigeria indeed buttresses the fact that some powerful and vested interests in Nigeria must have doled out some hefty amounts of monies in return for whatever it is what.
I think at this point, Nigerians deserve an unreserved apology from the APPG for attempting to insult our intelligence in a report that could best be described as toxic, unprofessional, inciting, and despicable and the height of mischief.
I also strongly advise the Nigerian authorities to ignite all known international diplomacy to unravel those behind the APPG report and the subsequent classification of it as a threat to the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria. The implication of a non-action by the relevant authorities in Nigeria is that the promoters of violence would ultimately have their way, and Nigeria and Nigerians would indeed bear the brunt.
Adetokunbo is a UN trained peace and conflict manager based in Lagos.