The news that Nigeria’s ambassador to Israel attended the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem last Monday apparently touched a raw nerve.
So taken aback by the news was Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry that it fired a query to the ambassador even before it could confirm the news.
As it happened, the ambassador did not attend the landmark event that occurred on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Still miffed by the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has demanded an apology from Aljazeera Television for allegedly airing the news report.
Perhaps as a way of reassuring the domestic anti-Israel lobby, unnamed presidency officials leaked out the story of the query to the ambassador, if not, then to reassure those who hate Israel in Nigeria that the administration would not give succor to the Jewish state.
The development underscores the scorn that Nigeria as a country or its present leadership would want to pass off to the international community on its dealings with Israel. This is not the first time that Muhammadu Buhari as leader of Nigeria would be faced with such seeming diplomatic embarrassment because of Israel.
As military head of State, his government was forced to slap a six month restriction on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade after news emerged that the two traditional rulers visited Israel on a private business mission in 1984.
The contempt by Nigeria’s leadership is apparently in line with the overwhelming international solidarity with the Palestinian people. That solidarity has over the years been shaped by religion with Islamic nations and local Islamic leaders in Nigeria brandishing Israel as an enemy State; mainly because the majority of the Palestinian people are Muslims. Many also overlook the fact that a significant segment of the Palestinian population is Christian.
The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat married a Christian who subsequently converted to Islam and the eloquent Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Asharawi is also a Christian. Remarkably, while Nigeria as a country condemns Israel, many Nigerian Christians have been excited by Israel’s military supremacy over the Palestinians and the fulfillment of the scripture on Jerusalem as given in Zechariah 8:4-8.
However, underneath the portrayal of contempt for Israel by Nigeria is the intricate official and personal business with Israel and Israeli companies. It is no secret that Israeli security agencies for a long time maintained presence in Nigeria with linkage to some of the country’s security agencies.
The query to Nigeria’s ambassador to Israel may have seemed inconsequential compared to the death of 58 Palestinians who died during the protest against the opening of the embassy.
The controversy over the embassy opening flowed from the determination of President Donald Trump to keep his election promise of moving the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Many Americans obviously backed Trump because of this promise. The American president had also promised to pull the United States out of the Nuclear Treaty signed between the coalition of European countries, the United States and Iran.
And he has done exactly that. In the space of a week, President Trump has fulfilled two key promises he made to those who voted for him not minding whose ox is gored abroad! It is a challenge for President Buhari and all those in power in Nigeria.
There are yet many, many promises given by the president himself and made on his behalf which made many people to vote for him. The promise of stopping contract bazaars by the Federal Executive Council by allowing the Public Procurement Council do its work, the matter of public declaration of assets and equitable treatment of all persons irrespective of tribe and religion are promises many Nigerians will like Buhari to keep!