By Suleiman Adamu
President Muhammadu Buhari departs Abuja on Thursday, May 30 to attend the Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia amidst popular uproar back home over his refusal to address Nigerians immediately after taking the official oath that symbolized the commencement of his second term.
The presidency tried in vain to justify his planned disappearance in a statement signed and delivered to The Atlantic Post and other media outlets by his Senior Special Assistant, Media & Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, on Wednesday, May 29.
According to the statement: “The 14th session of the Summit Conference of the OIC, scheduled to hold on Friday, May 31, will be hosted by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and attended by Heads of State and Governments of Member States.
“According to the OIC secretariat, the summit to be convened under the theme, “Makkah al-Mukarramah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future,” seeks to develop a unified stance on events in the Islamic world.
“President Buhari is expected to address the forum and underscore the need for member countries to unite and work together to combat common challenges such as terrorism and violent extremism.
“The President will also push forward themes that have been at the forefront of his domestic and international priorities, including reviving the Lake Chad Basin, investing in Nigeria to create jobs and financing for development.
“On the margins of the summit, the Nigerian leader will hold bilateral meetings with world leaders to promote increased cooperation and collaboration on issues of mutual concern.
“President Buhari, who is expected to return to the country on June 2nd, will be accompanied by Governors Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State.
“Also on the delegation are the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar; Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Pantami; and the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukthar.
“Ahead of the Summit, was a preparatory meeting in Jeddah meant to adopt the draft agenda and work programme for the Summit.
“On the agenda were the question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict; combating terrorism and violent extremism; the humanitarian situation in the Muslim world; promotion of scientific cooperation, among others.
“President Buhari becomes the third Nigerian leader to attend the OIC conference in person, after the late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.”
President Buhari also attempted to defend his decision to attend an international Islamic summit at a time his administration is being accused of having an Islamization agenda.
Recently, President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Theophilus Danjuma, Bishop David Oyedepo and other Nigerian Christian opinion leaders have accused Buhari of indulging, aiding and abetting the belligerent terrorist activities of radical Islamist forces (operating mostly in the northern part of Nigeria who are believed to have a larger Islamization and ethnicization plot) by dismissing their invasionary attacks as mere ‘communal clashes’ and ‘banditry’.
Garba Shehu did the above by adding the following footnotes to the presidential statement:
v Nigeria joined the OIC in 1986 and has held various positions in the Organisation, including Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) Commissioner, Amb. M.L. Sulaiman, elected in 2017
v In 2009, Ambassador Opeloyeru Hameed was elected Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs and later re-elected
v The OIC funded the project for training and guidelines on Sukuk issuance in 2018
v In 2018, the IDB through the Presidential Committee for the North East Initiative provided relief materials to IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States
v Nigeria continues to benefit from scholarships from OIC member countries
v In August 2016, the Islamic Development Bank Group (IDBG) formally opened its Nigeria Country Gateway Office in Abuja with a mission to focus its services on health, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium-scale enterprises and regional integration
v Dr Mansur Mukhtar, former Minister of Finance is now serving as the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank.#”