By Musa Fomson
Outgone Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Nigeria, Mr Saheed Kozechi finally exited Nigeria bringing his hate campaign against the state and its institutions to a welcome end.
Whatever assignment the Iranian government decides to give Mr Kozechi next – an outright sack, posting to another country or a desk job that would mothball his career, would be immaterial in view of the damage he attempted causing for Nigeria.
Within weeks of President Buhari visiting Iran, which should suggest some level of friendliness between both countries, Mr Kozechi all but declared war on Nigeria, the administration of the president and the Nigerian Army. His supposed grouse was that the military clamped down on militant members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, which is the Shiite Sect in the country.
Even though his country is the world’s main hub for Shism, it was no justification for what was to follow the December 2015 faceoff between the sect’s members and the military after they were reported to have made an attempt on the life of the Chief of Army Staff.
As if encouraged by the coolness from the Nigerian side, Kozechi upped the ante by actively running the propaganda wing of the IMN. He granted multiple interviews in which he did not stop with simply condemning the Army but was also demanding the release of key suspects apprehended in the military operation after the assassination bid.
This perhaps was triggered by some youth groups and NGOs that wrote several protest letters and street protests to demand that the government expel him for his role. Part of their contention was that running the IMN propaganda was the least of Mr Kozechi’s sins as they accused him of having links with the cache of arms found in the group’s enclave during the military operation.
In all these, at the height of his unethical conduct around the IMN debacle, Mr Kozechi initially had what appeared to be the backing of his government as some senior regime officials initially held press briefings that appeared to reinforce his position at that time but they tapered off after a while but the controversial ambassador did not let off.
In the event that Iran makes it clear that interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs was never its policy but that of a cowboy ambassador then future relations should grow to become robust since, as President Buhari rightly observed, Nigeria has a couple of things to learn about how that country survived the sanctions years without oil revenue.
Iran’s commitment to not interfering in Nigeria’s affairs would also be defined by its choice for Kozechi’s replacement. If he talks, acts and behaves like Kozechi then it would be Kozechi all over again. Whoever his replacement is must read up on some basic information on Nigeria before leaving Tehran: a secular state where the Shiite is just another sect not above the adherents of other sects and faiths whose experience with terrorism makes any form of extremism and radicalization unacceptable.
In the meantime, Goodbye Mr Saheed Kozechi, perhaps the mischief makers you groomed will miss you.
Fomson is National President, Northern Inter-Faith and Religious Organisations for Peace.