By Jude Ndukwe
On 25th December, Christmas day, when all people of peace and goodwill all over the world whose humanity has transcended religious barrier in a world savagely afflicted by religious extremism were wishing their Christian citizens, friends and customers a merry Christmas as a demonstration of the fact that despite our differences in religion and beliefs, the wounds of the world can still be healed, some two entities decided to make a mischief of the season and its reason.
While making arduous attempts at wishing Nigerians a merry Christmas without mentioning the usual phrase ‘merry Christmas’, Garba Shehu, who is one of the several authoritative voices of the Buhari administration blatantly fluffed the chance to further assure Christians that the Buhari administration bears no ill-will towards them despite widespread belief to the contrary and growing discontent among them.
With the perceived deliberate malicious actions of this administration against Christians and their interests, Christmas was a time to heal wounds and reassure all and sundry that the Buhari- administration is not on a “Jihad” against the Christians, and that it is a government for all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious leaning.
Following the wanton destruction of lives and property by Islamist Fulani herdsmen terrorists in Southern Kaduna, an area predominantly populated by Christians, the murderous invasion of communities in Ekiti, Abia, Enugu, Ondo, Benue, Ebonyi etc by these same extremists, one would have expected a Christmas greeting from the presidency to be exactly what it is: a Christmas message.
In sending out what he carved as a Christmas message, Garba Shehu had tweeed thus: “As the year 2016 comes to a dead end, I wish you a festive season and a happier year ahead. Regards to your dear ones”.
Although Shehu quickly deleted the tweet and replaced it with something more reasonable after a torrent of backlash that followed, the damage had already been done by then.
If there was any hope in this administration left in Nigerians, Shehu’s message effectively brought it to an abrupt end. Somehow, Shehu finds himself confirming what Nigerians have always known: that the year 2016 has come to a ‘dead end’ (for the administration) indeed following the gross incompetence and flagrant display of extreme tyranny and fascist tendencies by the Buhari administration which has brought untold hardship to the people.
Also, an error in that message occurred when Garba Shehu wished Nigerians a ‘festive season’. It might just be another way of avoiding to wish us joy at Christmas, for it makes no sense at all to wish a people a festive season which is akin to just wishing people ‘Christmas’ without the ‘merry’ part of it, for festive season is Christmas and Christmas is festive season.
As if taking a cue from the presidency on playing dangerously on our delicate fault lines, the Chief Operating Officer of MTN, a South African telecommunication giant, Muhammad Siddiqui, added salt to injury with his own ‘Christmas messag’ where he, like Garba Shehu, deliberately left out the phrase ‘merry Christmas’ while wishing its customers only a “peaceful end-of-the-year celebration and a happy new year” as if he has defined Christmas message to mean an end-of-the-year message.
The deliberate omission of the word Christmas in Christmas messages by non-Christians speaks volume of those who pass such messages. It is a clear sign of the extreme aversion such people have for Christians and their faith. It is therefore not surprising that, like Garba Shehu, the MTN COO might have also proven to be an extremist Muslim, for unlike reasonable Muslims, these two expose their low esteem and the disdain they hold for other people who do not share the same faith as theirs.
As if this was not enough, the video footage that accompanied Mr Siddiqui’s message, according to The TrentOnline, had a winter background and an image of Father Christmas flying away with his reindeers (to clearly indicate that it is intended to be a Christmas message) also had a crescent which is a very prominent symbol of Islam on it. This is nothing but a deliberate act of provocation and an attempt to ridicule Christianity by a company that enjoys a minimum of 60% of its market share in Nigeria from Christians.
From ‘Project Fame’ to Who ‘Wants to be a Millionaire’ etc, a majority of the participants are Christians!
These actions may sound innocuous, but the history of extreme Islamists show that they usually “test the ground” with similar very innocuous words, actions and approaches to issues, and once what greets such actions is silence, they proceed to the next level of subjugating and oppressing people of other faiths until it graduates to a full blown crisis.
This is where Christians in Nigeria have to wake up and take action against MTN. It is our silence and active cooperation with political conspirators and haters of our people and faith that have seen to the enthronement of a regime that seem to be on a relentless pursuit of an agenda to bring Christianity in Nigeria to its knees. History has shown that tyrannical governments usually enlist the services and or cooperation of rich corporate organizations and rich and powerful individuals to achieve their wicked ends. These similar unfriendly “Christmas” greetings of errors and hypocrisy from government and MTN at the same period might not be a mere coincidence after all.
It is quite hypocritical of a company like MTN to side-step the phrase ‘merry Christmas’ in its Christmas greetings to Nigerians for whatever reason but is happy to accept money from the same Christians who patronize their numerous products and services. It reminds one of Kano, another Muslim dominated State, where consumption of alcohol is haram but it collects some of the largest shares of revenue from federal VAT including the ones collected on alcohol in other states. Did someone just mention chichidodo, that Ayi Kwei Armah’s mythical bird that hates excrement with all its soul but feeds merrily on maggots?
Those who do not agree with MTN’s divisive Christmas message must find a very strong way of passing their feelings to MTN. No more will Christians allow anyone no matter how highly placed or connected to take the Christian faith for granted in Nigeria. Boycott of MTN’s services and products for a self-determined time is one way to pass this message.
It is even most unfortunate that MTN would employ a COO who is either not abreast with the delicate matters of religion in Nigeria or one who chose to be mischievous with such a highly sensitive issue to serve in the country.
Either way, it is a descent into infamy for MTN and an indictment on some non-Christian presidency officials, and unless some urgent healing steps are taken, the nation itself is approaching an irreversible state of crisis under President Muhammadu Buhari!
We must however acknowledge our Muslim friends, neighbours, colleagues and associates who wished Christians a proper merry Christmas with love and peace from their hearts. We urge them to go a step further to educate and liberate others who struggle to felicitate wholeheartedly with those who celebrate.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan did not only wish Muslims in Nigeria and the whole world joy and peace during their festivities, he also publicly observed the Muslim fasting and prayers and joined them in celebrating Sallah and others with much conviviality while he was president, a practice he has continued even beyond his presidency. That is the hallmark of a leader, and that is the least Nigerians expect from their leaders and corporate organizations!
—firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: StJudeNdukwe