These are indeed interesting times in Nigeria. The Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Hakan Cakil is the Prime Minister of the Turkish Nigerian republic. Yes, he is for he recently called on the Nigerian government to close 17 Turkish schools in the country. That was quite audacious, and deserving of a backhand slap by my three-year-old son.
I am sure my able president Sai Baba must have smiled when the news reached him. Let me paint a likely scenario. Minister of Education: “Sir, the Turkish Ambassador said we should close Turkish schools in Nigeria” Buhari: “Mr. Minister, you meant to shut the Turkish Embassy in Nigeria? Minister of Education: “Sir, the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges, the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital and even the Nigerian Turkish Nile University that 11 Nigerian students graduated with a first class recently” Buhari: “ Kia, please call me my Chief of Staff.”
The door opens, “Your Excellency sir” Buhari: “how many countries are in Nigeria? Kyari: “Just one sir” Buhari: “Is Turkey now a part of Nigeria? Kyari: “ Haba ran ka dede, that is impossible walahi. Buhari: “impossible and the Turkish Ambassador is telling me to close down schools in my country?” Kyari: “Ran ka dede, it was a slip of tongue” Buhari: “it had better be”.
I created the above scenario to interpret the request by the Turkish Ambassador Mr. Hakan Cakil to the Nigerian government. Nothing can be more ill-mannered than this in my opinion. I am sure the Ambassador was under some form of duress when he made that request. But whatever the case maybe, that request was in “poor taste, baseless, spurious and unfounded” according to the statement released by the management of the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC).
I struggled to come to terms with the request for three reasons; one is that the NTIC schools do not belong to the Turkish government, but to a group of private investors from Turkey who have been in Nigeria since 1998. Two, the schools are not in Turkey, and three, Nigeria is a sovereign country. And even if we are not sovereign enough in the eyes of Turkey, at least we know what is right for us as a country. If the schools belonged to the Turkish government, the Turkish government do not need permission to close down the schools, all they needed to do was notify the Nigerian government of the closure of its schools in Nigeria.
As far as I can remember, we don’t share boundaries with Turkey because the distance between Nigeria and Turkey is about 2646 miles with a travel time of 5 hours, 30 minutes by air. Nigeria is a sovereign country. We gained independence 56 years ago, and the three major languages in Nigeria are Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba and not Turkish, Kurmanji, Arabic or Zazaki. Wonders shall never seize.
What were the reasons brought forward? “The 17 Turkish schools in Nigeria have links with the Hizmet movement involved in the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.” Unyielding allegations that no country should take likely. But on second thought, what is the relationship between schools and hospitals in Nigeria with a strictly military affair in Turkey? I am sure the Turkish Ambassador needs some enlightenment. Or are we that gullible as a people? God forbid in Jesus name.
I also learned that the parents and guardians of students of the NTIC meet with the press recently and condemned the action of the Turkish Ambassador. I think it was the rational thing to do in this circumstance. We all know what this is all about, it is not about the activities of the NTIC schools in Nigeria, it is simply Turkish politics, and it would only be common sense if the Turkish president leaves Nigeria out of this.
For some of us that have one or two experiences with the Turkish community in Nigeria, we have nothing but admiration for them. I have attended events organized by UFUK Dialogue Initiative, I have witnessed the distribution of relief packages by NTIC Foundation to Internally Displaced Persons in camps, I have visited the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital on several occasions, I have also been to the Nigerian Turkish Nile University. And I make bold to say that Nigeria is indeed blessed to have these people here. Some of us might not be aware; the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges didn’t start big. They commenced in 1998 in a rented apartment in Abuja with less than 20 students. Their works stood them out, and they expanded. Today, over 5000 Nigerians are schooling in the NTIC schools with over 3000 thousand Nigerians gainfully employed.
Interestingly, there is an NTIC School in Yobe state and guess what? In the thick of the Boko Haram crisis, the school didn’t close down. The management of the school ensured adequate security for its students. What more can we ask? Do we need to talk about the state of the art Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital? Or the prestigious Nigerian Turkish Nile University? I strongly feel insulted as a Nigerian. At the last count, over 1043 schools and dormitories in Turkey shut down, 35 hospitals closed down ,15 universities closed and over 1,229 associations and foundations shut down because they follow the teachings of Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gulen that emphasize Dialogue, Love, and Tolerance. This is sheer madness, and Nigeria should be left out of this madness.
In one of the books written by Fethullah Gulen he said “it is impossible for me to know the number of schools that have been opened in Turkey and abroad. Since I have only recommended and encouraged such actions, I do not even know the names of many companies that opened schools or where the schools are located.”
I hope the relevant authorities will not only rebuke the affront of the Turkish Ambassador but also issue a stern warning to the Turkish government because Nigeria is not a part of Turkey!
Published on The Cable, 2 August 2016, Tuesday