On 30th day of April, 2018, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhamadu Buhari held an historic meeting with his counterpart of the United States of America, President Donald Trump in the White House.
In that meeting, the two leaders discussed critical issues of concern to both countries and charted a way of collaborating and working together on issues of economy, trade and investment, anti-corruption and insecurity. Part of the statements made by President Donald Trump are:
“I have promised President Buhari that I will break trade barriers between Nigeria and the United States and expand our businesses”.
On the fight against corruption, he commented:
“Before now, Nigeria is reputed for massive corruption but President Buhari has done very well to change the trend, he has reduced that trend satisfactorily”.
On the wanton killings across the country, President Trump had this to say:
“All levels of government in Nigeria, local, district, national must work togetherqq to stop the killings of Christians and Muslims”
Going to the press the following day, the Nigerian media especially those of the Lagos/Ibadan axis came up with headlines and captions indicating that Christians are the only victims of the killings and destructions. For example, The Punch Newspaper in its usual bias against Islam and the Muslims removed the word ‘Muslims’ from Trump’s statement and captioned its story thus
“Killings of Christians in Nigeria Must Stop”.
The Vanguard and The Guardian followed the same trend with the caption “Killing of Christians in Nigeria is unacceptable”.
To them, it is only the lives of Christians that are sacred, that of others are not. What an hatred! What a level of religious sentiment!
While we have reservation to Mr Trump’s statement which suggested that only Muslims and Christians were affected by the killings, when in actual fact the perpetrators of the dastardly acts know no religion as they kill anybody whether Christian, Muslim or animist, our serious concern is that the media reports, apart from being contrary to the ethics of professional journalism, more importantly it is capable of inciting religious crisis between the adherents of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity and set the country on the path of religious war.
We want to remind the makers of hate speeches and those media practitioners beating the drum of war, and their supporters, that should they succeed (and Allah forbids!), even if they have the capacity of escaping outside the country, not every member of their families have the same capacity.
Responsible journalism demands that should Trump actually made the statement as captioned by them, such aspect should have been downplayed in order not to provoke religious crisis, because they know of a fact that christians are not the only victims of the killings. And if they have any evidence whatsoever that only christians are being killed then they should bring such evidence to the public.
We therefore call on critical stakeholders and well meaning Nigerians to speak out before the media drag us all into avoidable crisis.
We equally call on the Nigerian Union of Journalists to put in place necessary machineries to check the excesses of some of its men who are blindfolded by tribal and religious sentiments.
We equally call on the various law enforcement agencies to do their lawful duties by bringing the promoters of hate speeches to book immediately before they throw us into avoidable crises.
We finally call on Nigeria Press Council, a regulatory body for the print media and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to wake up to their responsibilities as regulatory bodies by invoking appropriate sanctions to any erring media organizations.
We pray that the enemies of our nation will not succeed, and never shall Nigeria witness inter-religious war.
Barr Qaasim Odedeji
Amir, MSSN, B-Zone
Alh Abdul Jaleel Abdur Rasaq
Engr Bashir Momoh
Public Relations Officer.