The reported travel ban on Nigeria is coming to many people as a surprise. However, on April 30, 2018, I was at the White House here in Washington DC when U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari. During that meeting, President Trump specifically urged President Buhari to defend Christians against extremism. Two years after, Mr. Buhari, a Muslim, has failed.
As Trump and Buhari were meeting on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., outside the White House, Igbo were protesting killings by the Buhari regime of their people, at the same time Buhari or his allies were calling for forgiveness and retraining of former Boko Haram Islamist militants while sending soldiers to crush peaceful Igbo protesters who were demanding self actualization. It was a striking, telling contradiction.
It was, perhaps, because of that, in addition to intelligence, that Trump specifically urged Buhari to protect Christians. Two years after, he seems to have done an awful job.
Last week, the world was shocked when a video was released showing Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika local government area of Adamawa state, being murdered by Boko Haram Islamist group.
Reverend Andimi was abducted by Boko Haram when they attacked Michika in Adamawa state northeast Nigeria on 3 January 2020 during new year celebrations.
Initially he was declared missing. Later, he appeared in a video released by Boko Haram on 5 January, in which he pleaded with authorities to secure his release. Michaka has been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram. He was later killed while Boko Haram members were filming his killing.
Gyang, the 20-year-old female student hails from Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA), of Plateau State. She is of Berom ethnic nationality and was abducted on January 9, 2020, on her way to Maiduguri alongside Mr. Ropvil Dalep, a Biology student at UNIMAID, who was later killed in a video released by Boko Haram.
Both undergraduates were returning to UNIMAID after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
There have been many cases also of Christians being massacred by Fulani militants in central Nigeria.
Besides, many people in the West did not realize back then that most of the girls who were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 and turned into sex slaves were Christian schoolgirls.
President Buhari, a hardliner and retired Major-General who loves to reference his military credentials had been quoted as saying that a war against Boko Haram was a war against the north where he hails from.
The terrorists also picked him to act as their spokesperson during failed negotiations with former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Buhari’s supporters often point to an attack on his convoy by suspected Boko Haram Islamist terrorists to say there was no concrete link between Buhari and Boko terrorists, and the President himself vowed to crush them, although none has been tried or jailed.
Apart from the killings and abductions of Christians and the war in central Nigeria by Fulani militants, many other people, including soldiers have been massacred by Boko Haram, a clear sign Mr. Buhari has done little progress beyond tough words since he replaced former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 vowing to crush Boko Haram.
The killing of the Christian leader, captured by Boko Haram in a heartbreaking video, might have been what so angered President Trump he decided to include Nigeria to his infamous list of travel ban to be unveiled on Monday.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump confirmed the travel ban, saying “our country has to be safe”.
To Mr. Trump, President Buhari has failed, not only to defeat Boko Haram, but also to protect Christians in Nigeria.
For those who have lived in Nigeria, it often feels as though one needs to be a Muslim to ascend to political and business success.
President Trump and many people in the United States understand that most Nigerians are good people and do not pose any specific threat to Americans, but they also realize the government has failed to bring back law and order in Africa’s most populous nation.
More worrisome, as Boko Haram links up more and more with ISIS in the Middle East, the havoc they’ve already wreaked from Nigeria to Cameroon and Chad will only expand and finally reach the west if nothing urgent is done.
The Trump travel ban to be unveiled on Monday is a reminder that despite his bombastic style and careless talks at times, President Trump can still call out those who look the other way when one part of the population is being massacred, or when they claim to have “technically defeated” a terror organization that continues to expand and kill.
We do not have the details of who would be banned from entering the United States, and it may be premature to comment on it, but we hope President Trump will spare most Nigerians who are the victims of Boko Haram as well as the victims of a corrupt and dictatorial leadership. He should just deal with all the corrupt leaders and hardliners in power as well as all the terrorist leaders who wreak havoc and broadcast it for the world to see.
Simon Ateba is a journalist based in Washington DC who reported from Nigeria for ten years and also covered Boko Haram. He was arrested in 2015 while doing an investigative story on Nigerian refugees in Chad and Cameroon and accused of being a Boko Haram spy. Protests by Amnesty International and many others, including students in Nigeria who explained to the Cameroonian authorities that journalism was not terrorism led to his freedom.