The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has revealed that the decision of the United States to remove Nigeria from the watchlist of religious violators was “a triumph of diplomacy over false propaganda.”
Ripples Nigeria had reported that the US removed Nigeria from the watchlist sequel to the visit of Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, Shehu, in a statement issued on Friday, said the President “is truly satisfied with the decision by the United States to remove Nigeria from that unwanted list of countries.”
The statement read in part, “In expressing the country’s appreciation for this, the President noted that there is freedom of worship in Nigeria, and no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith. Since Nigeria was included in December 2020, in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election loss, it has taken only 11 months for this decision to be reversed under the Biden administration.”
He further slammed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for creating division within the polity by spreading faslehood.
“This sad and uncalled-for ban came on the heels of 12 months of lies by some extremist groups and the banned terrorist group the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB’s well-funded international media campaign. Nigeria should never have been on the list. It was included after paid right-wing American lobbyists were funded millions of dollars by IPOB to spread falsehoods and misinformation about Nigeria. Those who willingly took money from terrorists spread falsehoods against a democratically elected government. They took advantage of well-meaning, God-fearing Americans to whom they spread their lies.
“Their aim was to drive a wedge, for political advantage, between the two great religions and by doing so, make true their fake claims that Muslims and Christians cannot live side-by-side in love and peace. They did not care if their maliciousness was the cause of religious tension.
“In fact, it is possible they sought to encourage it to prove their point. Yet, despite all the funds at their disposal, they only convinced for a brief time those who had been voted out of office by US citizens to add Nigeria to the list.
“It is a fallacy to suggest Nigeria lacks religious freedom. A visit to any city will see a surfeit of posters for religious groups, for Muslims and Christians alike. Nigerians wear our faith on our sleeves.
“Nigeria is one of the most religious nations in the world – near equally balanced between Muslims and Christians. It is well-known the President counts amongst his personal friends many global Christian leaders, though he himself is Muslim; our Vice President is an Evangelical pastor; our cabinet is equally balanced between Christians and Muslims.
“With this egregious listing removed, US-Nigeria relations are now reset, and we can jointly seek resolution to other critical matters – including the fight against terrorists across the Sahel region. This task was complicated by the now reversed decision. To that end, the present administration looks forward to working with the Biden administration on matters, bilateral and multilateral that are important to our friendly states.
“President Buhari is satisfied with the decision by the United States to remove Nigeria from a list of countries deemed to lack religious freedom, placed there by a previous US administration no longer in office.”