MURIC is a Threat to Our Democratic Harmony
Anthony Kila alerts the public to the potential threat to peace and harmony promoted by the Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concerns
Dear Readers By now, you must have come across the news that a Muslim concerns group has faulted the endorsement of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos, for a second term in office by the Governors Advisory Council (GAC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In the headlines that most news outlets used to report MURIC’s position, rejects was the word used not even “fault”. I got the news via a WhatsApp group and the reaction of most was around the lines of this man has come again… or “who gave him the mandate anyway” some irreverent commentators even jokingly expressed doubts about the sanity of the group’s head. Thinking about it later, it dawned on some of us that laughing away events and statements like these might come to haunt us later in life. In the face of news of violence by criminals and terrorists, indolence of public offices, preposterous demands and ideas from organized groups in the society, and desperate state of citizens and consumers, I am sure just like me you have found yourself asking or being asked the question “how did we get here?”. It is a common refrain that we tend to hear and use when faced with desolatory events and state of the country. The “how did we get here?” refrain comes up especially when the sad events we are informed about or that we have to deal with are either totally alien to our usual or imagined way of being a people or counter to our projected idea of Nigeria. I have often replied that “we got here” because of our inability to recognize the possible drama, where not tragedy, a comedy can led to. Evil rarely happens all of a sudden, it tends to come gradually from lone voices and little accidents, it then grows into disaster when we don’t curb or at least recognize it for what it is and when it rears its head. It is easy in this context to see how right the Spanish essayist and philosopher, Baltasar Gracián is when he warns us “never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.The Muslim Right Concerns Group known as MURIC is, by all account, a numerically small group whose strength lies in its access to media and other communication channels. Many of us started noticing the group on WhatsApp and then in the press. Let us be clear, there is nothing wrong in being small and there is no particular virtue in being big. MURIC is lead and represented mainly by a seemingly innocuous scholar of Islamic studies called Professor Ishaq Akintola who is now more known for his MURIC activities than for Islamic eschatology. It is what an individual or a group does that matter.And therein lies the rub because for some time now, MURIC by a deliberate, voluntary and coordinated effort has consistently become the leading voice for unnecessary and toxic divisiveness. A simple search online will give you a clear idea of what I mean. I suggest you type in MURIC into any search engine of your choice. The result will amaze you. This latest stunt pulled by MURIC should make us think seriously about our democratic harmony. It is worth remembering here that MURIC did not reject Babajide Sanwo-Olu because of any act or omission as governor. The rejection was not justified by any allegation of anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic policies or programme. It did not even accuse Sanwo-Olu of discriminatory appointments and nominations. Rather it was based on call for rotation hinged on flawed arithmetic and an ahistorical understanding of Lagos. MURIC wants Babajide Sanwo-Olu out of office simply because he is a Christian. Yorubaland where MURIC operates freely and where it is recognized and given a slot on discussion tables is a place that rightly prides itself for its cosmopolitanism and Lagos is an embodiment and capital of that cosmopolitanism. In Yorubaland and culture there is no basis for religious separation let alone religious discrimination: everybody is related to someone from another religion. Please note that in saying everybody is related to someone from another religion in Yorubaland is a factual not a figurative statement. This harmonious living has allowed Yoruba people to easily separate religion from politics and it has never mattered to Yoruba people how a politician prayed or what he or she eats. The easily predictable effect of such arrangement is that in most cases merit and personal relationship trump religious sectarism. It is difficult to diagnose with precision why in the world MURIC will want to destroy such an enviable harmony. It is not logical, because there is no clear benefit to most, to conclude that of its own volition, MURIC wants to turn Lagos to the Nigeria of today wherein division or at least suspicion of division reigns. Such conclusion will not make sense without explaining why. There are politicians who for their own ambition need to divide people into religious and ethnic group. They tend to do so in order to take advantage of their own people and subjugate those different from them. By its own admission, MURIC is not a political group, are we to suspect that MURIC is acting as an agent at the behest of a principal? Yes, you are right, if such principal exists then such principal that cannot show his or her face and voice cannot mean well for our democracy and harmony. The freedom that we and even MURIC enjoys and that allows us to live in peace and for prosperity, no matter how relative and improvable the situation, is the fruit of a system that allows us to learn, love and trade in harmony, not in division and suspicion. It is the duty of all of us to judiciously and jealousy guard that harmony and democracy against all those who threaten it in an open and consistent way. Our religious leaders and academics as well as our politicians and the media must show they have foresight. Today it is MURIC, tomorrow it might be someone worse.
*Prof. Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos