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Nigeria’s President Criticized Over Stance on Israel as Muslims Protest for Palestine

Shiite Muslims protesting in Abuja on October 9, courtesy Rachael Nuhu Birma.
Shiite Muslims protesting in Abuja on October 9, courtesy Rachael Nuhu Birma.

By Masara Kim

[JOS]: Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu is under fire for not taking a clear stance on recent deadly attacks by the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Israel. 

Tinubu, who came to power with a promise to combat terrorism, recently faced criticism for allegedly engaging in secret negotiations with terrorists responsible for slaughtering civilians across many villages in the country.

An official from Tinubu’s 2023 Presidential Campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode, has urged the President to make a strong statement against the “great evil that has been done to Israel”.

Fani-Kayode, a former human rights attorney, emphasized the need to stop sitting on the fence, pointing out that Israel has consistently condemned Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria.

But as of October 11, the west African leader has yet to condemn attacks by the Palestinian terror group Hamaz which have killed at least 1,000 people including 14 Americans according to President Joe Biden. 

“Sheer evil”

Biden on October 10 described “the brutality of Hamas” as “sheer evil” and  “the worst rampages of ISIS”. During a press conference at the White House in Washington DC, President Biden declared support for Israel and announced the deployment of military assets to the eastern Mediterranean to help end the “bloodthirstiness” of Hamas.

Yet, large groups of Muslims protested in the Nigerian capital Abuja the previous day in solidarity with Palestine. The protests by members of the Shiite Muslim sect followed a statement by the country’s interior Minister on October 8 which called for ceasefire and protection for civilians amid threats of retaliations by Israel. 

“It is ironic that Tinubu who wanted to invade Niger [Republic] that had done nothing to Nigeria but for the Senate’s refusal is urging ceasefire for a country that lost 1000 citizens,” wrote a U.S.-based Nigerian rights attorney, Emmanuel Ogebe.

“Tinubu should rather learn how other countries take seriously mass murder of their citizens,” wrote Ogebe, the leader of a Nigerian law group in America. 

“The number of Nigerians slaughtered since Tinubu took power is equal to the number of Israel’s casualties but without appropriate response,” Ogebe wrote in an email to TruthNigeria.

Nigerian Muslims back Hamas 

A day after Tinubu called for a truce on October 8, large groups of Muslims, who identify as members of the Shiite sect, marched for hours in the capital city of Abuja on October 9 to express their support for Palestine.

According to local media reports, the protesters, while singing songs critical of Israel, set Israeli flags on fire as they walked a distance of approximately 3 miles from the city’s central area to the south and back.

Protest leaders told reporters that they were excited about the Palestinian resistance, which they described as a struggle against injustice.

“While rejoicing for the success recorded by Palestinians, we wish to urge people to pray for and support the Palestine resistance movement,” said Sidi Munir Sokoto, a protest leader in a statement published by Daily Trust. 

“The Palestinian struggle is a struggle against global injustice and for the oppressed people of the World,” wrote Sokoto in the statement.

“It is sad that just like Tinubu, Nigerians who didn’t protest against mass killings in Nigeria are protesting for Gaza. Once again, they show that Nigerian lives are not valued,” wrote Ogebe.

Despite its wide publicity, spokeswoman for the Abuja Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Josephine Ade told TruthNigeria no such protest held in the city. “No protest in FCT [Federal Capital Territory] by any group,” wrote Ade in a text message to TruthNigeria. 

‘Sectarian tensions’

Security experts speaking to TruthNigeria, have warned of potential sectarian tensions after the protest, which has amplified anti-Israel sentiments among thousands of Muslims nationwide.

Several Muslim commentators on social media have expressed negative sentiments towards Israel, praising Hamas’s attacks since October 7.

The All Progressive Congress Party, which banned Twitter in 2021 for what it claimed were hateful posts, has overlooked the current trend.

“There is a lot of impunity which underscores the emergence and persistence of such kinds of reactions,” said Christopher Agundi, a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army.

“In the first place, anyone protesting over the violence in the Middle East is just ignorant because the terrorists group Hamaz does not respect anybody,” said Agundi in a telephone interview with TruthNigeria. 

“It is a radical terrorists group that has no regard for human life,” said Agundi, a former Task Force Commander in Plateau State. 

“This is a group that has been going from house to house killing people and anybody supporting them is just not aware of who they are,” Agundi said, warning against potential sectarian violence. 

Mr. Bashir Makama, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police agrees.

“The problem in Nigeria is that every conflict in the Middle East tends to take a religious dimension back here,” said Makama in a telephone interview with TruthNigeria. 

“The middle eastern conflict could be political, ethnic or economic but here, religion takes the center stage and the major reason is that there is no justice and protection for human rights,” said Makama who heads a government owned neighborhood watch unit in Plateau State. 

“Nigeria is the only place someone can commit violent crimes and get away with it and this has emboldened terrorists and criminals alike,” he said.

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