The Nigerian Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has thrown a question at the Nigerian political elite, particularly Yoruba leaders. The Islamic human rights body wants to know why no single Yoruba Muslim has ever occupied Aso Rock from independence to date. MURIC argued that all Yoruba heads of state have been Christians all along. To this end, the group has tabled a request for a Yoruba Muslim president come 2023.
In a statement issued on Friday, 26th February, 2021, the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, contended that Yoruba Muslims have been at the receiving end of political and religious persecution for too long. He therefore opined that the time is ripe for a Yoruba Muslim president to emerge in Nigeria in the interest of fairness and equity.
The statement reads:
“Yoruba Muslims have been at the receiving end of political and religious persecution for a very long time. Muslim job seekers are asked to bring letters of recommendation from churches. Vacancies are shared in the churches to the detriment of Muslim job seekers. Yoruba Muslims are marginalised in political appointments both at the state and federal levels.
“For instance, a cursory look at the distribution of political posts in South Western states today will reveal heavy lop-sidedness in favour of Yoruba Christians. Only four of the fourteen commissioners in Oyo and Ogun States are Muslims. Ondo and Ekiti states are worse. Governor Fayemi gave Muslims only two commissioners out of fourteen. There were only two Muslim commissioners in Governor Akeredolu’s cabinet before he dissolved it two days ago.
“At the ministerial level, let us cite the example of ex-President Jonathan’s period. All the six ministers appointed by Jonathan from the South West were Christians. This lop-sidedness made the Muslims visit the ex-president in Aso Rock where he promised to address the issue. This led to him giving Muslims two ministers out of six before the end of his term.
“But why must we always go cap in hand to beg for crumbs from the table? Are Yoruba Muslims third class or second class citizens? Are we not equal before the law? Are the dividends of democracy not supposed to go round? Must political leadership be the special property of Yoruba people of a particular faith? It should not be so. It is our strong belief that the narrative will only change when a Yoruba Muslim occupies Aso Rock. Who feels it knows it.
“As at today only one state in Yorubaland gives clearly defined official recognition to female Muslim students and that is Osun State. Lagos allows it without an official statement backing the permission but at least it checks overzealous school teachers who persecute users of hijab. Muslims are on their own in other states as they face persistent intimidation, oppression and persecution in the schools.
“Although the Nigerian constitution gives Muslims the legal backing for use of hijab (Section 38 (i) (ii), Abuja continues to play the ostrich as Yoruba Muslims face religious persecution. We believe the centre will pay some attention if a Yoruba Muslim gets to Aso Rock.
“But when will that be? Have Yoruba people not tasted power at the center before? The answer is in the affirmative. Yorubas have been heads of state, president and vice president but all those who got there have always been Christians.
“Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba Christian, was military head of state for four years (1975 – 79). Chief Earnest Shonekan, also a Christian, was interim head of state for a short period. Obasanjo returned as a civilian president in 1999 to 2007. Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba Christian pastor, is presently the vice president.
“So we have had three Christians of Yoruba extraction in Aso Rock at different times. It is therefore natural to ask why there hasn’t been any Yoruba Muslim politician in Aso Rock all these years, particularly from 1979 to date? President Buhari’s tenure ends in 2023 and the South West is already warming up. Will it still be fair for another Christian from the South West to occupy Aso Rock come 2023?
“MURIC is asking the political elites from the region to speak up. They have been grossly unjust to Muslims in the region. It is also a clarion call for Yoruba Muslims to wake up from their slumber, particularly the politicians. Those who are capable should come forward. We are not talking about any particular party. Muslim politicians should come out from their hiding in the ruling party, the leading opposition party and other political parties. Young Muslims should also declare their aspirations. We want to hear them declare their intentions to contest for the highest position in the land.
“MURIC will not lean towards any political party. It is a level playing field. All we want is for Muslim politicians to come out and rub shoulders with other candidates. We will cross the bridge when we get there. We are not unaware of allegation of political interest being levelled at us and we are not bothered.
“We will continue to sensitise Muslims to show interest in politics. We believe that apolitical Muslims will be ruled by politicians who hate Muslims. Simply put, Muslims who hate politics and who refuse to show interest in politics will be ruled by politicians who hate Muslims. Therefore, it is mandatory for Muslims to show interest in politics. For us, it is ‘partake or perish’.
“Islam is a complete way of life. It involves science, education, history, mathematics, economics, health, politics, etc. You cannot separate Islam from politics. Yoruba Muslims should listen to the voice of truth. It is their lackadaisical attitude to politics that has allowed others to control their destiny. It is now time for them to take their destiny in their own hands.
“Our message to all political parties is loud and clear. Yoruba Muslims will not support any non-Muslim presidential candidate put forward by any political party. To our brothers in the North, we call for solidarity for a Yoruba Muslim presidential candidate from any political party.”