By Chioma Gabriel
The year 2019 ended for many in a most bizarre way. Many were aghast by what the year had to offer but the most important thing was surmounting the difficulties and challenges that accompanied the year and being thankful at the end of it.
So, welcome to the year 2020 and it is already moving so fast and one hopes Nigeria exercises wisdom.
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Just recently, President Donald Trump of the United States killed Iran’s perceived ruthless military intelligence chief Qasem Soleimani , an act many believe will reverberate across the world even to Nigeria.
Many also believe what Trump did will expose the US to a risky open conflict that could stop short of all-out war with Iran that could cause national security and economic shocks in the United States and across the globe.
But the US is proud that that it has taken one of the world’s worst mass murderers and terrorists off the battlefield.
What Trump did is expected to attract unknown consequences. His presidency is already alienating half of his country, following his impeachment and perceived unrestrained behaviour in office. A lot of people believe Trump may find it impossible to rally the nation behind him to weather the crisis. He has also scrambled strategic and moral expectations of the United States — ordering the killing of a senior foreign leader of a nation with who the US is not formally at war.
When America sneezes, the whole world catches cold. Already the social media is agog with arguments and counter-arguments in favour of Trump and against him. Nigerian commentators have taken the centre-stage and the religious division in Nigeria is already rearing its ugly head as perceived through comments on social media.
And how does it concern Nigeria?
Indeed, there are definitely going to be unintended consequences for the United States. There will be a reaction and it could get bloody in certain places. One only hopes Nigeria keeps its space.
The social media is agog with Trump supporters, including many Nigerians celebrating their hard man commander-in-chief. Trump is their main man but they forget there are two sides of the coin. Soleimani had allegedly orchestrated the deaths of hundreds of US soldiers in militia attacks during the Iraq War.
Trump thinks Iran has never won a war but won many negotiations but the killing of Soleimani will likely eliminate for a generation, any hope that the United States and Iran can settle their differences by talking.
In his defence, President Trump had accused General Qassem Soleimani of killing or badly wounding thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more. Trump said Soleimani was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of protesters killed in Iran itself.
The assassination of Soleimani was an act waiting to happen. US-Iran tensions have been rising since Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and began re-imposing punishing sanctions.
Those tensions have escalated in recent weeks.
An American contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq on December 27th which the US blamed on Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, a militia belonging to Popular Mobilization Forces, PMF. The US responded on December 29 by targeting sites belonging to Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 25 fighters.
A rare protest unfolded at the US embassy compound in Baghdad on December 31 with demonstrators who sympathised with or belonged to PMF attempting to vandalise the embassy.
With the assassination of Soleimani, Iran has started calling for revenge and the call is growing louder
Soleimani was said to have been so close to the supreme leader and reported directly to him. According to Ayatollah Khamenei in a statement, “All enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war.
In Nigeria, one would expect that it’s the business of America but one gets scared by the way such issues are interpreted. What Trump did perhaps had nothing to do with religion but one fears that in Nigeria, interpretations would be given along religious lines as one is perceiving from comments by Nigerians.
Nigeria is no stranger to religious violence, with an extensive history of conflict that is at least partially attributable to or exacerbated by religious differences. However, these conflicts have been as much about economic and tribal issues as they have about religious issues. Violence between mostly Muslim pastoralists and mostly Christian farmers has been ongoing for nearly two decades. Over the past three years, at least 3,600 Nigerians are estimated to have been killed in related violence.
What this means is that Nigeria has enough problem in its hands and should not dabble into what is going on between America and Iran. There should be no protests against America and for Iran in Nigeria. We have enough problems in our hands.
America is expecting a reprisal attack and is gearing up for one but Nigeria should remain peaceful and mind its own business.
This is a new year and Nigeria should give all it takes to build a nation where religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence should reign. We should let sleeping dogs lie.