Understanding the Hizmet Movement in Nigeria By Joshua Ocheja
This topic is probably one of my best in recent times because it is as a result of real life encounters. And somewhat a response to a certain Huseyin Oztunc, who has been spreading outright falsehood on the Hizmet movement in Nigeria. For starters, Mr. Huseyin Oztunc is not a Nigerian, and his recent outburst is an affront to us as a people and tantamount to repeating what the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Hakan Cakir did when he requested that the government should close down Turkish schools in Nigeria.
I will start on high-note. The Hizmet movement is not a cult. The participants of the Hizmet movement are not terrorist. The Hizmet movement philosophy does not encourage any form of violence, let alone coup plotting. The Hizmet movement is anchored on love, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence. Mr. Huseyin Oztunc should please take note of this paragraph.
I decided to start on this note because a lot has been said and written in recent times on the activities of the Hizmet movement and Fethullah Gulen since the July 15th coup attempt in Turkey. Recall that the Turkish envoy in Nigeria Mr. Hakan Cakil made a horrible request for the closure of Turkish schools and hospitals in Nigeria belonging to a group of private Turkish investors who are inspired by the philosophy of the Hizmet movement. I was really dumbfounded because I could not understand the rationale let alone imagine if Nigeria was a part of Turkey under President Erdogan. I was glad that the Nigerian government vehemently turned down the request on arrival.
Back to the issue. The Hizmet movement is characterized in two distinct way. One is that it is not a structured organization and two it is always for good. Hizmet movement is not a formally structured or centrally-run organization, even though they have a presence in over 160 countries. The absence of a central planning body which tells the participants what to do is another reason why the dynamism of the Hizmet movement puzzles observers who cannot understand how diverse people working autonomously in various locations can achieve outcomes that are coherent and mutually supportive. How is this possible? They have their inspirational sources from the teachings of respected Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen. They make a start with whatever means they have at hand in whatever situation they find themselves. They say: “Our duty is to strive and it is God who wills and guides the outcomes from our striving.” That explains how a group of investors came to Nigeria in 1998 and started the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC) in a rented 2-bedroom apartment. And today, the NTIC schools have recorded tremendous successes with schools in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Kano and Yobe states. Over the years, they plowed back profits made into establishing the Nile University of Nigeria and the Nizamiye hospital through very legitimate and transparent means. This is very different from other foreign nationals doing business in Nigeria where profit made are expatriated back to the country of origin. I can’t readily tell how much was invested in the other NTIC schools and the university, but I know of the Nizamiye hospital that cost a whopping $20 million with state of the art facilities and hugely experienced Turkish and Nigerian medical personnel. The Nizamiye Hospital is a world-class medical facility. And I have to mention that the hospital amongst other services has a complete open-heart surgery team resident here, led by Dr. Mustafa Kirman, a renowned cardiovascular surgeon from Turkey who is credited to have performed over 15, 000 heart surgeries with 99 percent success rate.
The most significant aspect of the Hizmet Movement is its interfaith work. UFUK Dialogue Initiative in Nigeria, falls into this category. It has a mission to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions on supporting and fostering democracy and peace all over the world and to provide a common platform for education and information exchange. They have demonstrated this in various ways. For example, on a yearly basis, UFUK Dialogue Initiative organizes seminars, conferences and round-tables on various issues bordering on peace, love, interfaith understanding and other topical issues. A good example is its annual Dialogue and Peace awards in honour of laudable contributions in fostering dialogue, peace, mutual understanding in Nigeria. Among the long list of awardees are the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sultan Said Abubakar, renowned Islamic scholar Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah, and others too numerous to mention. These are great personalities in the Nigerian space, and they have come to understand what the Hizmet movement represents.
Recently, UFUK Dialogue organized an international conference on countering violent extremism through love and tolerance. This well-attended conference was in conjunction with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. And the positive takeaways cannot be over-emphasized. The principal goal of UFUK Dialogue Initiative is to promote peace in the world and contribute to a peaceful coexistence of the adherents of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities and races. This much they have demonstrated in Nigeria. UFUK Dialogue is not left alone in this charitable initiative.
Its sister organizations like the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC) the Nile University of Nigeria, and the Nizamiye Hospital have been rendering services in Nigeria through the NTIC Foundation, which is more of the corporate social responsibility arm of the First Surat Group.
In 2016 alone, the NTIC Foundation distributed over eight thousand (8000) stationery packages to schools in the six area councils in the federal capital territory (FCT). The NTIC Foundation caters for a myriad of needs and social deprivations in the society. The project revolves around initiatives designed to heal the sick, feed the hungry, provide succor for orphans, protect entire communities against preventable diseases, provide nutritional support for poor households, among others. And they have been consistent in this regard over the years.
What about the socio-economic benefits of activities of the Hizmet movement participants in Nigeria through their various investments in schools, hospitals, and foundations? This fact also cannot be overemphasized because hundreds of Nigerians are in their employ and interestingly, whatever is realized as profit from these investments are plowed back to the system. This has been the tradition since 1998, and this fact can be readily verified by the relevant authorities.
This is hugely at variance with what the likes of Huseyin Oztunc and his co-travellers in Turkey and the Turkish embassy in Nigeria wants Nigerians to believe. They have gone as far as labeling the Hizmet movement a terrorist organization (FETO). As I mentioned earlier, the Hizmet movement is not some structured organization that has a hierarchy. Far from that, it’s just a philosophy that is aimed for the good of society, that is inspired by the very respected scholar and writer Fethullah Gulen.
Fethullah Gulen is known worldwide for his teachings and writings. He has written extensively on various subjects that have received commendations. Worthy of mention is the book “Toward a global civilization of love and tolerance.” This book was a best seller. It was translated into 27 international languages. The book emphasized two things; “one is a call to Muslims to realize that Islam teaches the need for dialogue and Muslims are called to be agents and witnesses to Gods universal mercy. The other is an invitation for non-Muslims to move beyond prejudice, suspicion, and half-truths to arrive at an understanding of what Islam is.”
This is the person that is being accused of plotting a coup. And the people he inspires are terrorists? And if this what terrorism is about, I think the world would be a better place. I expect Mr. Husenyin Oztunc and his co-travellers to come up with something else.