Muhammad Siddiqui, the chief operating officer of MTN Nigeria, recorded a greeting to millions of customers of the South African telecommunication giant and though the video was targeted at the Christmas holidays, he avoided using the word “Christmas” at all.
“Hello, our esteemed customers. My name is Muhammad Siddiqui. I am the chief operating officer for MTN Nigeria,” he began his greeting message.
“As we approach the end of 2016, I want to take this opportunity to thank you, personally, for giving us the opportunity to serve you for all the years.
“Serving the people of Nigeria is a pride and honour for all of us at MTN Nigeria.
“On behalf of myself, on behalf and all the MTN family, I wish you, your family, and loved ones peaceful end-of-the-year celebration and a happy new year. May God bless us all. Thank you very much,” he ended.
The theme of the 55-second video is clearly Christmas as it shows winter symbolism and ends with an animation of Father Christmas flying away with his reindeers.
Somehow, MTN also found a way to insert a crescent (quarter-shaped moon), the symbol of Islam in the closing clip of the video, right before an image of Santa Claus (Father Christmas). The moon has nothing to do with Christmas and whenever a moon is used in Christmas imagery, it is full moon, and forms the backdrop for the fantasy Santa Claus journey to (or from) the North Pole.
In a deeply religious country like Nigeria, this is just about the most insensitive corporate greeting message to come from MTN. How can a company operating in a country which is 50% Christian send out a greeting on Christmas day and fail to wish Christians a Merry Christmas?
Curiously, Muhammad Siddiqui’s message mirrors that of Garba Shehu which side-stepped one of the most popular Christian holidays – Christmas, and decided to talk about “year-end” holidays. Christmas is a not a “year-end” holiday. It is the celebration of the birth of the Jesus Christ who Christians believe is the son of God. It is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 25.
On Christmas Day 2016, Nigerian Twitter blew up in outrage after the spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, issued a ‘dead-end’ greeting to Nigerians in which he avoided using the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’.
Shehu has been slammed for refusing to mention Christmas in his Christmas Day tweet and an activist, Agha Egwu writes that it is a manifestation of the Radical Islamism in the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
For Mr. Siddiqui to issue a corporate message and ignore Christmas, a major holiday for Christians, is a slap on the face to the tens of millions of Christians in Nigeria who use the service. He is saying that he doesn’t recognise Christians or their beliefs and that is very sad.
As a person, the MTN executive has a right to believe what he wants, but using the platform that Christians contribute at least 50% of the billions of dollars that it makes and repatriate to South Africa to express his bigotry is unacceptable.
You may watch the video below: