By Abu Maryam, Philosopher
Once again, the claim of religious harmony and coexistence among Yorubas of Southwest Nigeria was called to question in Kwara State where some adherents of the Christian faith, instigated by the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) resorted to self-help by physically constituting themselves as barriers to access of Muslim students to those public schools where the needless imbroglio over the hijab has been raging.
This instigated action by CAN led to the break-down of law and order as the Muslim students insisted on having their right of way into the public school premises. Thus, anarchy was let loose until men of the Nigeria Police Force were called in to restore order and normalcy.
To be sure, Kwara State may have been categorized as a north-central state, it is culturally and socially a Yoruba enclave.
Although CAN in its typical wolf cry has been calling for ‘dialogue’ and the intervention of certain authorities and bodies including the Federal Government and NIREC (Nigeria Inter-Religious Council), obviously trying to eke out a political settlement for a clearly legal issue over which settled court pronouncements have been made, one wonders how CAN expects anyone to take it seriously when it has acted before thinking – this does not depict wisdom in any way.
Without doubt, the dubious reference to those public schools by CAN as ‘Government-aided’ rather than the appropriate title of public schools once again betrays the character of those behind that near-inglorious association. The impression which CAN seeks to convey by that reference was that the schools were merely given to the state government back then to ‘help’ with funding while ownership will revert to them at a future date.
CAN should furnish the public with the document(s) where such ‘agreements’ were reached and upon what terms! It should provide hard facts to aid its claim of ‘government-aided’ rather than projecting thuggery and anarchy as tactics and strategy. And assuming without conceding that CAN’s claim were true, is it willing to refund all that had been spent by the government on those schools over the years? Or does it consider the humongous investment by government in those schools ‘free gift of nature’ or ‘national cake’?
If indeed those schools were forcefully taken over at the time without adequate compensations or consent of their then owners as CAN wants us to believe, litigations against such move ought to have predated the current irredentist attempts of CAN on those schools.
Besides, extant evidences show that CAN as an association was not even in existence at the time. Thus, CAN as presently constituted is only acting the proverbial fraudster in Yoruba adage who must falsify history in order to dubiously inherit what does not belong to him (Eni ti yio je ogun kogun, yio pa itan kitan).
The Kwara State Government (KSG) is commended for meeting up with public expectation of applying the stick against any errant behavior that contravenes its decisions on those schools as the contents of its circular to all educational institutions in the state reiterated. This is after watching patiently how CAN displayed its lack of respect for constituted authority, the rule of law, and even Biblical injunctions enjoining obedience to the afore-mentioned.
It has been argued in many quarters that the bane of the Nigerian nation is the failure to apply the punishment where breach of the law occurs: CAN and its hordes of anarchists in Kwara State should neither be pampered nor glorified with any ‘dialogue’. The stick must be applied to drum sense into their medulla oblongata.
The repeated persecution of innocent girls in hijab and the arrant disregard for Islamic values by CAN and its collaborators in the Southwest alongside the arrogant imposition of largely Christian values on public life has not only been legendary, but has been something that Muslims of the region have had to contend with on a constant basis. This is why the presumption of religious harmony in the region remains largely overblown: Muslims have long borne the brunt of the intolerance of their Christian neighbors and their collaborators almost to a tipping point.
CAN has demonstrated that it is only paying lip service to the issue of peace and peaceful coexistence in the body-polity as it has demonstrated times without number and without any sense of remorse that it is a cog in the wheel of progress going by its approach to many issues both in the region and the nation at large.
CAN does not hide its disdain for Muslims and their values. Its indoctrination of its followers –whosoever amongst them chooses to buy the poisonous stuff – is that Muslim girls and women wherever they are found must be humiliated, wherever and whenever any of its members occupy position of public authority or enjoy relative power or strength over the Muslims. And the testimony is everywhere: public schools, hospitals, public offices, immigration departments, data-capturing centers, JAMB-CBT and WAEC Examination centers. The list is endless.
At this point, everyone who truly desires peace and claims to work for peace and peaceful coexistence needs to ask the salient question whether peace is possible in any plural society with this kind of ignoble obsession and hatred for the values of others as demonstrated consistently by CAN.
What CAN and its collaborators have consistently insinuated over the years is that the MUSLIM WAY OF LIFE CONSTITUTES AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO ITS WORLDVIEW AND THAT MUSLIMS EITHER DROP THIS WAY OF LIFE OR BE MADE TO PERISH SOCIALLY, CULTURALLY AND POLITICALLY.
With this kind of mindset, it is obvious that the principle of pluralism and coexistence has long left CAN’s lexicon. And as if by compulsion, the body has mostly elected individuals with this parochial view on life in a plural society as heads of its bodies both local and national especially in recent time.
It is in the light of the above that the agitation by a section of the Yoruba people for a ‘tribal’ political republic raises serious concerns. It should be noted that since CAN began this shenanigan of a thing, wanting to muscle out the way of life of Muslims in a region where the latter holds demographic majority, none of the so-called elders in Afenifere and other self-styled self-determination groups in Yoruba land has deemed it fit to caution CAN on this pathological obsession: an obsession with all the potentials for genocide of Muslims in the future once the conditions are ripe as the intent is there already. This was how some Serbian generals midwifed the genocides in Bosnia Herzegovina in the aftermath of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and its allied republics.
But then, how can Afenifere be an arbiter or purveyor of justice when the traditional worshippers’ wing of its organization do also molest and persecute Muslims and other citizens on constant basis with the imposition of illegal ‘curfews’ usually referred to as ‘isede’ among other forms of persecution wherever they have the power to so do. Thus this has been the fate of Muslims in the Southwest even when the tribal republic is yet to come into being.
Afenifere elders who claim to speak on behalf of all Yorubas yet take pleasure in going on ‘sabbatical’ when a part of its ‘children’ persecute the other is not a ‘father’ to rely on. Muslim have long suspected the intent of the organization as it parades exclusively individuals who are either of the CAN-Christian orientation or traditionalists as members and leaders. Thus, it was not much of a surprise that despite the avalanche of Muslim achievers–both young and old – eminently qualified to sit on any such ethnic or socio-cultural grouping in Yoruba land – none has been a member.
It goes without saying that Afenifere and Its allied organizations purporting to speak on behalf of the Yoruba race are all exclusive clubs of people connected by covert factors other than the race factor. Their continuous aspiration to monopolize the definition of who a Yoruba person is, and defining that personality in the ‘Christo-Pagan’ fashion to which they are accustomed, shows its deficit of claims as far as representation of the entire Yoruba people is concerned.
What is more worrying is the militant approach through which these self-conceited groups seek to coerce others who do not share their view of a tribal republic into the unwholesome project! Fascism has no other meaning: this was how Adolf Hitler started his stuff at home before projecting it onto the world stage. Ethno-fascists like Afenifere always know what is best for the people and the land; they demand and enforce the total suspension of individual reasoning and thinking and seek their capitulation to that of the ‘Furher’ (German title for a de-facto leader) who possesses all the wisdom; and they see the people only as tools for achieving phantom ethnic or tribal glory over which they reserve the exclusive rights for themselves to superintend.
And as we march towards 2023 with all eyes on the Southwest, we have noticed interesting scenarios unfolding. Though these tribal republic agitators are globe-trotting for support in their campaign for secession, something in their innermost-self compels them to have a Plan B. The ugly truth is that this Plan B does not prohibit their endorsement of a candidate, even if such candidate was anointed by their self-made arch-enemies – the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy – as long as the candidate is in the frame of the CAN/Afenifere conception of the ‘true’ Yoruba person: all of this in the bid to ensure that the Southwest does not produce a Muslim, no matter how nominal, to occupy the number one seat!
This is what has long been paraded as ‘religious harmony’ in the Southwest where one side calls the shots and the other side takes the orders – a situation which can only persist as long as Muslims of the region remain docile. But what they fail to realize is that times are changing and the children of the once upon a time illiterate Muslims have become their equals by every conceivable standard.
Though the 2023 scenario painted above may just be an aside, it nevertheless remains a vivid expression of the hostile contempt in which Muslims are held by the CAN/Afenifere alliance in the political amalgam of the Southwest. But the truth remains that Muslims will not cede an inch of their fundamental rights to any machinations – sophisticated or crude – aiming to enslave them in a region where they have the same right as any other group, including the rights to part-determine the type of socio-political order that will govern Yoruba land.
This explains the disenchantment of Muslims generally in the tribal republic project. Muslims have always advocated a type of restructuring based on power re-configuration between the federal government and the constituent states as against a reversal to an era and an enclave where fascism predominated.
Indeed, the ongoing hijab crisis in Kwara State and many other parts of the Southwest is a metaphor that this tribal republic project can never be fair or just in its outlook, because it has been conceived on a master/servant relation within people of the same Yoruba race.
We therefore ask: of what essence is shrugging off one form of domination and replacing it with a worse form?