Dear President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
Since I am not a Nigerian government official, the content of this letter, therefore, is not an official pronouncement from your host or the government of my country.
I find it expedient to correspond with you through this medium while you are still around in my beautiful country before your departure date. I prefer that you take a copy of this edition of LEADERSHIP Newspaper FRIDAY as a souvenir to Ankara.
Your official visit here, I thought, was to strengthen bilateral and diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Turkey but I was taken aback when you ventured out into the issue of terrorism in your speech at the joint press conference with President Muhammadu Buhari. One will be forgiven if they assume that the main purpose of your visit was to pontificate about terrorism. Your feigned expression of concern about the activities of what you called and allegedly blamed for the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt against your government, the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), was apparent to all.
“Distinguished members of the press,” you said in your speech in the joint press conference, “as Turkey, we have been closely monitoring the developments unfolding in Nigeria, our brotherly and friendly nation.
“The terrorist organisations, the armed gangs and the marine bandits are continuously active in Nigeria and the Nigerian authorities are continuously fighting against them. So, in order to cooperate further in the fields of military, defence, and security, we are doing everything that will be available….
“As we’re probably aware of the fact that Turkey has been fighting against terrorist organisations for many decades, such as the PKK, PYD, FETO, DASH and other terrorist organisations.
“The perpetrator of the heinous failed coup of July the 15th, FETO, is still illegally active in Nigeria, and we are continuously sharing our intelligence with the Nigerian interlocutors and authorities. I hope and pray that our Nigerian brothers will forge a closer solidarity in this field with us, the Republic of Turkey. I hope and pray that our visit will yield the most auspicious results and I would like to thank my distinguished brother, President Buhari, for being such a gracious host for me and for my delegation”, you said.
What many Nigerians do not know, Mr President, is that you and Fehullah Gulen have been in the same camp under the same movement before you parted ways due to political differences within your Justice and Development Party (AKP). The question is, were you a terrorist then?
What the Gulen movement has brought to Nigeria is Hizmet (service to humanity). Nigeria is a witness to the usefulness of the Hizmet personified in the Nusret Company in the form of its highly intellectual engagements in our institutions of learning where seminars and conferences are regularly convened encompassing various topics pertaining to national development. Nusret has a humanitarian branch that caters for the needs of orphans and widows in our communities offering scholarships as well as providing sustenance to the indigent. We are witnesses to feeding of millions by the Nusret in the Iftar programmes of every Ramadan and the Adhaa free distribution of meat to those in need in many parts of this country.
In Ufuk Dialogue, another aspect of the Hizmet, we see the efficacy of dialogue as a means to forestall friction, religious crises and advance the need for mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and religious harmony among adherents of different creeds in Nigeria.
Education is the primal purpose of the Hizmet. The Nigerian community as a whole is a beneficiary of this in the NTIC schools across the nation. Mr President, your visit to Nigeria is incomplete without a tour of any NTIC school where you would see the encasement of Nigeria in the school environment in our diversity in languages, tribe and religion all in one place. Wherever NTIC school is found in any state of Nigeria hardly will there by a part of that state that has not enrolled a child in the school. I am a proud parent of NTIC students and I am not a terrorist! I will not even say anything concerning the Nile University, a citadel of learning in the Federal Capital Territory, or even, in the area of healthcare services, the Nizamiye Hospital curtesy of the Hizmet.
Mr President, what I have stated above does not fall within what you called “illegally active in Nigeria” as there is nothing outside the law in what your former allies turned foes are doing in Nigeria. As you said, Mr President, Nigeria is “the oldest allies of Turkey in Africa, having seen 60 years of diplomatic ties.” But is it not a regrettable and miserable relationship, that after 60 years, Turkey has nothing to show as a token of its presence in Nigeria – no schools, no hospitals, nothing? Turkey, unfortunately, under your watch, wants to reap what it has not sowed by taking over Hizmet schools and organisations or have them closed down in Nigeria by conveniently branding them as terrorists.
I have an advice for you Mr President. During your current visit here in Nigeria, let your “gracious host” organise a town hall where parents of students at NTIC schools in the country, for example, will gather so you can address them and say that their children are taught terrorism. I warrant you, Mr President, you will never forget your visit to Nigeria because of the kind of reaction you would receive. Nigerians know who a terrorist is and he does. Terrorists, Mr President, are doing exactly what you are trying to do – closedown schools. They don’t want to spread education among the people. If your government wants to have hospitals, schools, and institutions of higher learning in Nigeria it can do so as our government encourages such ventures. But whoever would hide under a diplomatic curtain to paint a blameless movement with a brush of terrorism to usurp its property, if that is not a terrorist I don’t know how to christen them!
When you said you “have been closely monitoring the developments unfolding in Nigeria”, I am tempted to ask, what help has Turkey offered Nigeria in our fight against terrorists and insurgents for more than a decade now? You even said that “in order to cooperate further in the fields of military, defence, and security, we are doing everything that will be available….” In the Hausa language here we say Mu gani a kasa (let us see it on the ground). They are just empty words, signifying nothing!
Terrorism, Mr President, has become a tool with which repressive regimes around the world employ against any dissenting voice or opposition, like those you referred to as the “perpetrators of the heinous failed coup of July the 15th,”. When you requested for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen to the Turkey from American, Mr President, Washington required for proof from your government before they extradite him. President Obama made that condition then; now President Biden is still waiting. Produce your proof, if you are truthful.