Saturday, November 6, 2021 1:41 pm
By Chris Adetayo
Farooq Kperogi has built a reputation for straight talking over the past few years. The Nigerian polity, and especially the commentariat, has been the better for it. However, one has to wonder, in view of his recent offerings, if he’s losing touch.
Start with his take on the exposure of the Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, as an erstwhile promoter of the ethos of Boko Haram. Farooq tied himself in knots trying to find a leeway out for the Minister. He couldn’t bring himself to condemn his friend nor demand, as he should have, that the man should either resign or be sacked. Instead, he harped about forgiveness and change of mindset. His article on the issue was a test paper in multiple logical fallacies.
Today, he’s taken it upon himself to write about “bigotry against Yoruba Muslims” allegedly by Yorubas of other religion. The premise of his article is that a certain Yoruba Muslim alleged that he was denied the opportunity to work in the recently collapsed Fourscore building in Ikoyi because he is Muslim. Farooq takes this allegation and proceeds to write an article that seeks to do nothing but throw seeds of disunity amongst a people famed for religious tolerance.
Let us grant, without accepting, that the young man who reported his experience was reporting facts. How does an academic use that as evidence to blanket a whole nation? To support his argument, he handpicks some other examples – of politicians declaring that their spouses are Christians, of a young man in Scotland denied a teaching job, of folks not using their Muslim names. Pretty much nothing else. The question for Farooq here is simple – as an academic, were a student to submit a thesis on this same topic and uses these examples to reach a conclusion, with nothing else, would he consider that student to have done a decent job? Surely an academic should expect more rigor and more depth than such a wishy washy set of data. For example, is it not the case that most Yorubas do not use Arabic and English names as their first names? Very few do.
I have had cause to write a few posts, over the years, on the increasingly dwindling religious tolerance of the Yorubas. In doing so, I have made clear that just about every party is guilty in one way or the other. Muslims, Christians, ATFs and Atheists are all affected in one way or another. To quote Patrick Moynihan, all may not be guilty but absolutely no one is innocent.
Let me give a few examples to counter Farook’s examples. The current Governor of Oyo State is a Christian. When his government proposed to build a major Bus Terminus in Iwo Road, a mosque that had been built on encroached land had to be demolished. To make this happen, the Governor had to join prayers at the same mosque and personally plead and seek the Imam’s approval before the government could proceed. That’s a picture of a state already captured!
Come to my own state, Osun. Did we not have a Governor who pretty much overturned historical education systems in favour of Muslims? Did he not unnecessarily overheat the State polity in order to curry favour from a small band of Islamic zealots masquerading as leaders? Today, it is virtually impossible to hold a major state position without some Muslim connection being put to play. Competency pretty much an irrelevance.
Let’s take a brief walk into history. About 30 years ago, when elections to be the 3rd Republic Governor of Lagos State were at hand, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was fully entrenched in the State. But one of the reasons why the National Republic Convention (NRC) won was because key elements in the SDP including Shehu Musa Yar’Adua wanted a Muslim to emerge as the party’s flag bearer. The schisms that followed that stated desire cost the party dearly.
The fact above leads me to my final point on this matter. Over the years, it has become clear that non-Yoruba Muslims (Nigerians and non Nigerians alike) find the level of religious tolerance amongst the Yorubas strange and unacceptable. Concerted efforts have been made and continue to be made to change this situation. They would rather there’s a “winner takes all”, antagonistic relationship between brothers and sisters. The idea that siblings can follow different religions and be at peace is one they will rather not have. They’d rather we have another Kaduna – where Christians are second class citizens, barely tolerated on their own ancestral lands. Or Kano, where an Hisbah acts against the dictates of the constitution, with non-Muslims bearing the brunt of the nonsense there.
Farooq’s article is another message to Yorubas. Either defend your liberal outlook to life and freedom of religion that this entails, or be swept into the needless and diabolical religious wars that have rendered most of the North of Nigeria, the Sahel, and Horn of Africa largely ungovernable. Stand strong on the tolerant culture of your forebears or be consumed by the flames that do-gooders desire to light on your roof. May we make the right choice!
*Chris Adetayo is a public affairs analyst