- 3 commissioners suspended for improper dressing in Ebonyi
- CBN issues two new merchant bank licences
- Ekiti PDP accuses ACN of attacking members
- Daniel eulogises HID Awolowo at 97
- Jonathan hails Koroma's re-election
- Collapsed man: Edo dep gov threatens Airhiavbere
- Communal clash: Police arrest gang leader, 12 others in Nasarawa
- Corruption: There ‘ll be no sacred cow - Jonathan
- Amosun’s wife tasks students on reading culture
- Flooding: Dangote committee sets N50bn target
- Adamawa LG election conducted peacefully
- 1999 Constitution: Women group calls for amendment to gender-biased provisions
U.S Consul-General Habu and his Islamness
THE inter-continental rage over a glib comment credited to the Consul-General of Nigeria to the United States of America, Hon. (why the title for the occupants) Habib Abba Habu is justifiably deafening. Mainstream and on-line American media quoted Habu as saying that he refused to be involved in any way whatsoever in the global empathy on display over the grim road carnage of 21st July, that consumed five Nigerians in New York—three women and two kids— which ghastliness shook the entire America, because the dead and bereaved were Christians, with the African Sun Times a publication in America quoting him verbatim that “I am a Muslim, I can never enter a church” in apparent assumption that all the burial rites would take place in church. His assumption was however off mark because the service of songs for the dead—all Igbo—reportedly took place at Coop City in Bronx, New York.
If the account of Mr. Nnamdi Akamnonu, President of the Arondizuogu Patriotic Union National Congress of North America—the body that coordinated the burial—was to be a guide, he claimed that a letter which was never replied was sent to Habu, intimating him of the wake-keep arrangement including the Coop City’s venue of choice, which could be interpreted as Habu just using his not entering a church because of his Islamness as a mere decoy.
The issue could be against Christianity itself. The statement could be a slip; a regrettable betrayal of a mind-set, being tormented by a clash between personal conviction and officialdom. Being conclusive at this point however, would be hasty though the exchange between Habu and the reporter which is being re-produced below verbatim is as illuminating as instructive.
“For sure, Mr. Habu called back. I explained to him the reason for my call, that I wanted to find out what Nigerians in the New York area were saying, that the Consulate did not react to the tragic death of five Nigerians which made national news in America, that he didn’t visit or send his representative to visit the surviving victims of the accident, and that he didn’t participate in the wake-keeping on Friday, July 10th. Before I could even finish, Mr. Habu shot back at me and angrily stated, “Mr. Onyeani, I am a Muslim, I can never enter a church.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I said to him, “Mr. Habu, you are the Consul-General of Nigeria, not the Consul-General of Nigerian Muslims, and your predecessors, whether Muslims or Christians or any other religion, have taken time to visit Nigerians whether in the church or in the mosque.” He replied, “Well, they are they, and I am me, I can never enter a church. I said to Mr. Habu, “I don’t really believe you are saying this to me, and I am going to be writing about this.” “Well,” he replied, “I don’t really care if you write about it, Chief Onyeani.” Then he thought again, and said to me, “Maybe I didn’t say it the right way.”
Weeks after the publication of this encounter, Habu’s rebuttal (if any) ought to dominate the airwaves by now, considering how weighty the content appears, but I had networked the internet without any traces of such. Habu might be too busy for a rejoinder or consider the issue unworthy and undignified of his precious time. In both scenarios, he would be confirming those words as his, because a rebuttal in over-due arrears would be deemed an after-thought and his perceived golden silence would mean consent.
Given the undisguised indignation of the reporter which appeared to compromise his objectivity a bit in the discharge of his professional duty, the report might have benefitted from a little brush-up to stir emotions at targeted quarters including Habu’s main employer; President Goodluck Jonathan, but those quoted and yet-to-be denied words are the main issues here.
Empathy; a promoting belt of humanity, is generally a choice but could become statutory when one has certain responsibilities towards those in need of it. Does Habu owe the affected bereaved Christian Igbo community in New York one? What he stands for as a Nigerian representative in America would appropriately situate the answer.
The official website of the Nigerian Consulate tells its story thus “As one of the four Nigeria’s diplomatic representation in the United States of America, the Consulate General of Nigeria, New York, has amongst its mandate, protection of its nationals (emphasis mine), rendering consular services, and promoting economic relations with the United States of America”. The Consulate has under its jurisdiction the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (emphasis mine), Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and Pennsylvania. The Consulate General performs the usual consular functions including visas; passports; immigration; welfare of Nigerians (emphasis mine); notary; trade inquires; promotion of trade, commerce, and investment ; as well as educational, cultural, and information services”.
This is what the system is to Nigerians living in those 20 American states including New York where the auto-accident and the incident happened, with Habu who has 13 predecessors of both religions as their names suggested, as its face.
Habu surely has a statutory responsibility to empathise with the bereaved irrespective of their religion, because there was no foot-note to the broad responsibility on religion compatibility. Or is welfare not about general well-being which includes times of sorrow? In fact, concern for welfare is better pronounced and appreciated in times of challenges. Habu did not get it right.
(To be continued)Share