Date posted: July 29, 2016
The Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, has asked the federal government to close down all Turkish schools in Nigeria. The Ambassador claims that these schools are linked with the US-based Fethullah Gulen, whom his government says masterminded the July 15 coup attempt. The Ambassador also claimed that funds from these schools have been used in sponsoring ‘‘illegal activities’’ in Turkey.
Earlier, an influential Turkish newspaper had accused a retired US general, John Campbell, of directing the failed coup. The government newspaper claimed that the failed coup was financed by the CIA via Nigeria’s United Bank of Africa (UBA). The newspaper insinuated that Campbell operated in tandem with Fethullah Gulen.
This allegation against UBA is capable of hurting Nigeria’s ailing banking industry, and even escalating our economic recession. But the Turks are not really interested about the damage this might cause – some believe this allegation. There is no limit to the number of conspiracy theories being churned out in Turkey.
Despite the strong rebuttals from UBA and Washington, some Turks, who support the current regime, believe that the reluctance of the Americans to extradite Fethullah Gulen is an indication that they had a hand in the failed coup.
In the wake of the coup, the country’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, declared that any country that stands with Gulen would be considered at war with Turkey.
In the light of this assertion, it is not really clear how Nigeria’s relationship with the current government in Turkey would be if it refuses to close down these Turkish schools.
It is important to note that this is not the first time the Turkish President would be calling for the closing down of all Turkish schools outside Turkey. But, this time, he seems to have ‘sufficient’ evidence to ask for this. And this would further hurt our economy.
For instance, Hizmat Movement, a movement the current regime refers to as a terrorist organization, has interests in Nigerian Turkish International Colleges in Nigeria. And apart from stakes in schools in Nigeria, Hizmat movement has been involved in many humanitarian gestures in Nigeria.
Today, there are 17 Turkish schools in Kano, Yobe, Kaduna and Lagos with over 4700 students. The owners of these schools also have interests in tourism, university education and healthcare services. These investments could be at risk with the Ambassador’s request.
Though these schools are not owned by the present government in Turkey, they bear the country’s name. They also fly the country’s flag. Some of the Movements financing and running these schools actually originated from Turkey, even though they are now at daggers drawn with the current regime in Turkey.
The most appropriate demand the Turkish government would have made was to ask these schools to stop using its name.
There is every reason to believe that as the face-off between the current government in Turkey and the Movements running these schools heats up, some truce might be reached. These schools might finally remove Turkey’s name and flag from their names and logos.
But these schools are bound to continue their business in and with Nigeria. And this could cause some friction between Nigeria and Turkey.
Earlier in the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Nigeria and reiterated his country’s willingness to partner with Nigeria. He even invited President Buhari to Turkey.
President Erdogan disclosed that the volume of trade between Nigeria and Turkey was in the neighborhood of $1.145 billion. Certainly, this amount excluded the contribution of some businesses the regime claims are being sponsored by terrorists. Some reports state that the total trade volume, between Nigeria and Turkey, could be about $3 billion.
For an economy almost in recession, these kind of controversies could be worrisome. This is actually not the time to close down any legitimate business in Nigeria. Turkish schools and their promoters have not really given the Nigerian government any reason to worry. They have been law abiding citizens in Nigeria.
But the current regime in Turkey doesn’t believe this. The regime claims it has reasons to prove its allegations against these Movements, especially the Gulen Movement. This could be all politics. After all, the Americans are still asking for concrete evidence in order to extradite Turkey’s number one suspect – Fethullah Gulen.
Meanwhile, the damage already done to one of Nigeria’s leading banks is unmeasurable. And as these conspiracy theories gather steam in Turkey, more damage might be done to Nigeria’s economy.
This is going to be a real test of Nigeria’s diplomatic dexterity under Buhari’s government.
Source: TheCable , July 29, 2016