847 views | Stanley Ugagbe | April 21, 2021
Dissatisfied by the opinion of Olayemi Koiki, the media aide to Sunday Adeyemo that Muslims will be allowed to practise their religion if Oduduwa Republic becomes a reality, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has asked Yoruba socio-cultural groups like Afenifere, Yoruba World Congress (YWC), Federation of Yoruba Consciousness and Culture (FYCC), Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) to disclose their position on issues concerning the rights of Yoruba Muslims like hijab and Shariah.
MURIC had earlier demanded to know what those agitating for Oduduwa Republic have in stock for issues concerning the rights of Yoruba Muslims. Koiki had responded by noting that their rights will be respected.
But MURIC in a statement on Wednesday by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said:
“Our attention has been drawn to the response to the demands of Yoruba Muslims from the agitators for Yoruba Republic. The media aide to Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a. Igboho), Mr. Olayemi Koiki, has been quoted as saying that Muslims will be allowed to practise their religion if Oduduwa Republic becomes a reality.
“However, there are too many grey areas in his response. For instance, nowhere in his interview did he mention hijab. He was not even categorical on the issue of Shariah. What he said was ‘whether you want to practise Sharia, it’s entirely up to you’. He did not say, ‘it is allowed’ or ‘We will support the use of shariah’. That response may be a mere diplomatic stunt.
“He also spoke out of context as he made reference to incidents in the North. According to him, ‘In 2018, Christians were killed in Benue because the people who killed them believe they own the land. If you look at the Southern part of the country, even as a Muslim, your religion seems different from that of someone from the North because the Northern Muslims believe you must adhere to a particular dress code’
“Everyone can see transferred aggression in that statement. The issue is Yorubaland and what the agitators for Oduduwa Republic think of the demands of Yoruba Muslims. So the outpouring of bitter feelings against the North should not come up here at all. For example, he said, ‘If I wanted to live with my wife in Kano and insist she must wear a jean (sic), that is not tolerated in Kano. Yet, they will accept money accrued from sales of alcohol and use it to develop Kano.’
“Whether he spoke the truth or not is not the issue. But it is very glaring that he has mixed up things there. He is using Kano parameter to determine what to do with Muslims in Yorubaland. That is part of what Yoruba Muslims have been complaining about. Female Muslims in Yorubaland are often told ‘This is not Kano. You can’t use hijab here’. The question is, how prepared are the agitators for the full integration of their fellow Yorubas who are Muslims?
“Incidentally Muslims in Yorubaland cannot be referred to as inconsequential, at least in terms of numbers. Muslims are in the majority in four of the six Yoruba states (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun). They also have at least 30% in Ekiti and Ondo states. Afterall democracy is about numbers. It is also about inclusiveness. So what kind of democratic setting should we expect in the event of the oduduwisation of Yorubaland? What fate lies ahead for the teeming Muslim population in the region? These are the questions which Muslims in the region have been asking MURIC.
“The response of Igboho’s aide remains vague. According to him, the issue of Shariah will be up to the Muslims (whatever that means). He also did not mention the hijab which has been causing crisis in the region recently. There is also the possibility of denial of any promise to grant Islamic civil rights in future since it was not Igboho himself or any known Yoruba leader who spoke.
“It is because of this glaring lacuna in the response of Igboho’s aide that MURIC must seek further clarification from well-known Yoruba socio-cultural groups like Afenifere, Yoruba World Congress (YWC), Federation of Yoruba Consciousness and Culture (FYCC), Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). Yoruba Muslims will equally like to hear from the Yoruba Welfare Group (YWG) though the group has been telling Yoruba leaders to tread cautiously.
“We are therefore calling on the leaders of these groups to speak up for all Nigerians and the rest of the world to know how well the agitators are prepared to tolerate freedom of religion, free speech, free movement, equal participation, equal representation, justice, fairness and equity in the proposed Oduduwa Republic. This is important for posterity. It is important for the records. Unborn children of Yoruba Muslims are going to read all these and they will know that their progenitors sought to guarantee their safety, their freedom and the dignity of their human persons.
“It is our contention that if Igboho could hear MURIC’s demands (which made him respond), Yoruba leaders also heard them. It is on record that MURIC had based its objection to the idea of an Oduduwa Republic because of the open marginalization, oppression and persecution of Yoruba Muslims in the region. The group is of the opinion that unless there are guarantees from Yoruba leaders, Oduduwa Republic would be hell on earth for Muslims as the repression of Muslims is most likely to get worse.
“The statement made by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode in which he said he knew where to keep Muslims like Akintola after the actualization of Oduduwa Republic is a major reference point. There are other cases in reference and examples of the violation of the civil rights of Muslims in Yorubaland. Muslim female teachers who went for a promotion interview in Abeokuta last week (Thursday 15th April, 2021) were told that they must remove their hijab before they could be interviewed. The Muslim girl-child is being stigmatized in the school and sometimes locked out of the classroom on account of an ordinary headscarf.
“The hijab of the Muslim girl-child is yanked off her head by Christian teachers who are also Yorubas. Muslim girls are beaten up and sent back home. Muslim parents suffer this humiliation on a daily basisin Yorubaland. Muslim males are forced to remove their caps and turbans. Some are forced to shave their beards before being attended to by government civil servants who are also Yorubas. Court cases which bother on the infringement of Allah-given fundamental human rights of Yoruba Muslims litter courts in the region.
“Political appointments are reserved mainly for Christians while Muslims who constitute the majority are ignored. There are only four Muslims among the fourteen (14) commissioners in Oyo and Ogun states where the governors are Christians. All the board chairmen in the two states are Christians except the Muslim Pilgrims Board and the governors have ignored the complaints of Muslims. In Ekiti State, Fayose ran an all-Christian cabinet. In Oyo State, the hijrah holiday which was declared by a former Muslim governor, Isiaka Ajimobi, has been annulled by Seyi Makinde, a Christian governor.
“Muslims are also totally marginalized in the education sector. Christians are in charge in the ministries of education in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo. All the teaching service commissions TESCOM) are headed by Christians. Some of the heads are even church clerics. A pastor is the chairman of Ogun State TESCOM while an evangelist heads the Ogun State commission. We believe this is a deliberate and strategic ploy to perpetuate Christian hegemony in the education sector in Yorubaland. This is the machinery of oppression and it has served in the repression of hijab-wearing female Muslim students and teachers. The perpetrators persecute Muslims with impunity since they are assured of official protection up to the office of the commissioner of education.
“Yoruba Muslims are also asking why no Yoruba Muslim has emerged as president since independence. Why? Earnest Shonekan was an interim head of state (around1995). Mathew Obasanjo has been president twice: once as a military head of state (1976 – 79) and as a civilian president (1999 -2007). Today we still have a Yoruba Vice President who is also a Christian (Professor Yemi Osinbajo). Former President Goodluck Jonathan (2011 – 2015) appointed six (6) ministers from Yorubaland and all of them were Christians.
“We are nonplussed that Afenifere has never commented on the above maltreatment of Muslims that has lasted decades (since independence) in its domain but it revels in joining Ohaneze of the South East and the Middle Belt Forum in complaining about marginalisation, nepotism and Islamisation which they claim began six years ago.
“We call on Afenifere to put its house in order first. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. For now Yoruba Muslims see no difference between Afenifere and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In fact, the former looks more like the political wing of the latter in the South West. We are waiting earnestly to know which way the cat will jump as regards Afenifere and the Muslim 2023 presidential candidate.
“These are issues we want Afenifere and the Yoruba leaders to address in their response. Their silence will mean they have a hidden agenda. It will mean they are determined to continue oppressing their fellow Yorubas who are Muslims after the oduduwisation of Yorubaland.
“Let us make it clear that the type of Sharia which the Muslims want is not the one which involves the cutting of hands. That has been the false propaganda of detrators. The type of shariah which Yoruba Muslims want is civil shariah. It will only enable Muslims to settle marriage cases among themselves and to share the inheritance of deceased Muslims according to the teachings of the Qur’an.
“We must also put the Shariah matter in its proper perspective. This was the kind of Shariah that Yoruba Muslims have been practising even before the advent of Christianity (which arrived in Nigeria in 1842 while Islam arrived in 1085). The British Christian colonialists met Shariah in Yorubaland but they abrogated it totally and replaced it with common law. This act of tyranny against Yoruba Muslims should have been reviewed after independence in 1960.
“The fact that the British imperialists totally annulled shariah in Yorubaland but merely curtailed it to civil shariah in the North exposes the hypocrisy of the colonialists. If they could allow civil shariah in the North (which they did), why didn’t they leave it in the South West? That is British divide et impera for you. The British laid mines on the Nigerian soil for Nigerians to step on and blow themselves up. Unfortunately that is exactly what we are doing today instead of coming together, sitting down and angaging in constructive dialogue.
“Coming along the lanes of history, shariah was practiced in Ede under Oba Abibu Olagunju (Habeeb, a Muslim name) and the Ede Shariah Court operated up till 1913 at Agbeni area of the town. It was moved to Agbongbon area in 1914. Shariah was applied in Iwo under Oba Momodu Lamuye (Muhammad Lamuye) who died in 1906. Even the seventh Akirun of Ikirun, Oba Aliyu Oyewole (died 1912), instituted Shariah in Ikirun in 1910. These are just examples of the existence and spread of Shariah in Yorubaland.
“We are not asking for something new. We are demanding the restoration of a right and a religious practice unjustly halted and denied by the Christian colonial master, Britain.
THE WAY FORWARD:
“The way forward is for leaders of the agitation to respond to this statement by making pronouncements on their position on the hijab affair and civil shariah. That is the first step. Next, they should engage Muslim leaders in Yorubaland in genuine dialogue. The record of the discussions and the names of those involved must be made public in order to avoid a repeat of the Aburi Accord fiasco.
“Thirdly, all threats and blackmail against those who speak against secession or against the breakup of Nigeria should stop. That will signal goodwill and readiness to accommodate all Yorubasons and daughters regardless of their religious background or ideological leaning. In particular, the attempt to blackmail MURIC by falsely alleging that the leader collected $200,000 from terrorists was a bad omen of what Muslims should expect in Yorubaland if the Yoruba Republic agenda succeeds.
“Contrary to the claim being made by Oduduwa Republic ideologues, MURIC seeks peace in Yorubaland. We are not out for mischief. MURIC has never been known for violence. Our motto is ‘Dialogue, No Violence’. Many of our members are Yorubas and they cannot betray their font et origo. Finally, Yoruba Muslims do not want war with any part of Nigeria. They prefer a peaceful and negotiated arrangement either way.”