The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has advised the Nigerian security agencies to remain professional and neutral in the coming elections. The governor gave the advice at the grand finale of the 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day held at the Remembrance Arcade, Government House, Agodi, Ibadan.
But an Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has accused the governor of being insincere with the advice. In a statement issued on Friday, 20th January, 2023, the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, accused the governor of using men of the Oyo State arm of the Department of Security Services (DSS) to harass him.
The statement reads :
“The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has advised the Nigerian security agencies to remain professional and neutral in the coming elections. The governor gave the advice at the grand finale of the 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day held at the Remembrance Arcade, Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, on Monday, 16th January, 2023 (https://leadership.ng/2023-polls-makinde-urges-security-agencies-to-be-neutral/).
“It is ironical that the same governor who sent the Oyo State branch of the Department of State Services (DSS) after the director of MURIC for criticizing him is admonishing the security agencies to be neutral during the coming elections. Wonders will never end.
“We take Makinde’s advice with a pinch of salt. This is not the time to take the message and ignore the messenger. The message originated from a most improper source. Makinde does not walk his talk.
“MURIC issued a statement on Monday, 12th December, 2022 in which we criticized Makinde for condoning the repression of Muslim students in Oyo State schools and for doing nothing while Allah-given fundamental human rights of Muslim students and teachers were being encroached upon.
“Somebody who claimed to be calling from the office of Oyo State DSS called the director of MURIC three days later on Thursday, 15th December, 2022 and asked him to report at the DSS Ibadan office for interrogation. It was not difficult to tie the invitation to our criticism of Makinde.
“Of course, MURIC’s director has not honoured the invitation because it was nebulous and informal. Anybody could have made that call and it is dangerous particularly in present day Nigeria where people are being kidnapped daily. A public figure should not just move around carelessly in such circumstance.
“MURIC has also continued its day-to-day activities as if nothing has happened. This is in compliance with the advice of Harriet Tubman to activists, ‘If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.’
“The Ogun State branch of MURIC immediately issued a statement asking Oyo State DSS to send a written invitation if indeed that phone call actually came from its office. There has been no response since then. The statement from Ogun branch was quickly followed by those of Osun, Oyo and Abuja branches.
“The Concerned Yoruba Muslim Scholars (CONYOM) crowned the edifice with a warning given at a press conference held at Oja Oba Central Mosque, Ibadan. CONYOM expressed absolute solidarity with the director of MURIC.
“Makinde’s attempt to use the DSS of his state to intimidate MURIC makes it difficult for us to believe that he is being sincere with his advice on the need for the security agencies to be neutral. Makinde’s statement must be interrogated.
“Will powerful people like Makinde allow security agents to be neutral even if they want to? The DSS invitation to the director of MURIC is a case in point. There was an obvious attempt to intimidate a human rights group for criticizing Governor Makinde.
“What warranted the invitation? There has been no threat issued by MURIC against Makinde. The group had not organized a public protest in Oyo State. Neither was it planning one. Why was the leader invited by DSS to come all the way from Lagos to Ibadan?
“We remind the governor that Nigeria is a democracy and Oyo State has not been proclaimed a military enclave headed by a ‘Field Marshal’ Seyi Makinde. Oyo State government is not a military regime and Seyi Makinde is not a military governor. He should know his limits in a democratic setting.
“Besides, freedom of speech is guaranteed in Section 39(i) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says, ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’.
“We understand the issues at stake here. The director of MURIC had to be invited because the governor wanted him incapacitated or held incommunicado particularly for the election period which is critical to a governor seeking a second term. The governor may have the DSS boss transferred if he refused to play ball.
“Without sounding immodest, what they failed to take into consideration is the fact that they were dealing with a human rights group that knows its onions. The director of MURIC was a member of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) which confronted the military dictators for the actualization of June 12, 1993 presidential election. He was trained by the late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, the legendary human rights activist, from 1993 to 1999.
“Governor Makinde cannot be trusted on security matters. He is ready to flex muscles unnecessarily and illegally. He will abuse the power given to him by the good people of Oyo State at the drop of a hat. He will embarrass the security agencies by making irrational requests and ordering arbitrary arrests.
“Makinde is yet to comment on our allegation that he sent the DSS Oyo branch after our director. No affirmation, no denial. Silence, absolute silence. It is the style of totalitarian dictators. What if Makinde is in control of Nigeria as a whole? What if he is given absolute power which is bound to corrupt him absolutely?
“’Man, proud man’, says William Shakespeare in Measure For Measure, ‘Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d—His glassy essence—like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.
“MURIC understands the position of the DSS, Oyo State branch. The DSS is a highly professional and disciplined security agency and men of Oyo State branch are also men of honour.
“But the situation in which they found themselves can be likened to that of the ‘emese’ (i.e. palace messenger) whom the king himself sent on an errand but whose path was blocked by Odo Oba (a big river near Iwo, Osun State). He could neither jump into the river nor refuse to deliver the king’s message. He is faced by a monumental dilemma. To go forward or to go back? That is the question.
“We have nothing against any security agency in Nigeria, including the DSS, particularly, the Oyo State branch. We know their worth and we know they have sacrificed a lot, including their personnels’ lives. It is influential people like Makinde who wish to compromise them for personal gains.
“To this end, we have instructed our lawyer to withdraw the case for the enforcement of our director’s fundamental human rights which was filed at the High Court, Ibadan, by the Oyo State chapter of MURIC against the DSS Oyo State branch about three weeks ago. It was a mere pre-emptive measure.
“We advise security agents to handle instructions from state actors with wisdom and a high sense of patriotism. They should place Nigeria above any individual no matter how highly placed. It is high time they realized that there are ‘unlawful orders’ just as there are ‘lawful instructions’. Our golden advice to the security agencies is this: Do not allow any government official to use you for illegal actions. This is an advice Governor Seyi Makinde will not give you”
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