The rivalry, The suspicion
The age-long rivalry, engendered by primordial sentiments, between the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani ethnic nationalities was largely responsible for the suspicion the Southwest Muslims have exhibited from the beginning of the introduction of Amotekun.
Apart from the plots by the Yoruba to expel the Fulanis from the Southwest due to the incessant farmers-herders clashes which has led to kidnapping, loss of lives and destruction of properties, farm products worth billions of naira, the Muslims believe that they have been grossly marginalised and victimised by their own ethnic brothers of different faith.
Muslim News investigations revealed that rather than prosecuting the criminals among the herders, the Yoruba irredentists have on several occasions threatened to send the Fulani speaking residents out of southwest.
The Afenifere group and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, for example, have been quoted by several media outlets to have vowed to expel the ‘bad fulanis’ from the southwest.
Many pundits have however argued that there is no way the threat messages of the two will not affect the innocent Fulanis going by the needless criminalization of the entire tribe by some sections of Nigerian media who often brandish screaming headlines in their publications in order to paint the Fulani Muslims, the descendant of Sheikh Alimi, who fought and conquered Yoruba and won Ilorin for Islam in the 19th Century.
Part of the persecution against them, Muslim News reliably gathered, was the harassment of Muslim female students in Hijab which is rampant mainly in many Southwest schools and other public places.
The recent University of Ibadan International School (ISI) Hijab saga which has deprived and stripped Muslim girls of their constitutional rights to education and religious freedom is a case study.
“If the proponents of Amotekun can disregard the Appeal Court judgement that affirmed the legality of the use of the Hijab in schools and continued to victimise our children. If they can force our wives to remove their Hijab during biometric and data capturing, which is unnecessary and in violation of their rights, if the so-called eminent lawyers, the legal juggernauts and the ever selective human rights activists could stomach the flagrant violations of many court judgments on hijab by their members, how come they now find their voice now. It will be hard for the Muslims to trust them.
“If they could take the training programmes of government establishment to churches and the rights of Muslims flagrantly violated and nothing happened. If they can generalise the criminality of some Fulanis and brand all Fulani herders as criminals and even link their activities to a phantom Islamization agenda (whatever that concept means to those parroting it), there is nothing these same persons and their acolytes among the Yorubas cannot do against us.
“Then, we cannot blame the Muslims who rejected and criticized the introduction of Amotekun except that they relied on unverified information,” said another respondent Abdullah Muhammad in a chat with Muslim News.
No consultation of Muslim community
There are also strong indications that the promoters of Amotekun didn’t consult the Muslim community and in fact alienated them completely in all the arrangements and series of security summits held before the public presentation of the initiative, Muslim News findings revealed.
In their separate press releases, both MUSWEN and NCSN confirmed that claim, noting that it is the height of rude insults to the religious sensibilities of Muslims in the region.
Sheikh Hadiyatullah of NCSN said, “It tells a lot about the real motives of the promoters of the programme. Little wonder no consideration was given to the legal conflicts such a programme would generate in the face of the extant law of the land which is the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Speaking at the press conference, Sheikh Hadiyatullah said that the furtive creation of the Operation Amotekun by the Governors of the States in the Southwest without proper consultations has left majority of stakeholders who are mostly Muslims in the region in the dark.
In the same vein, Professor Muslih Yahya, the Executive Secretary of MUSWEN noted that the promoters of Amotekun should have embarked on wider consultations with all segments of the Indigenes and resident communities in the South West geopolitical zone with a view to engendering the buy-in of all stakeholder groups.
“It is regrettable that right from the Security Summit that was organised by the State Governors in conjunction with the DAWN Commission, the Muslim Community in the zone was neither consulted nor involved in the process leading up to the inauguration of the initiative.
Kamaal Tayo Oropo, a member of Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), Lagos state chapter, said there would not have been any room for suspicion if they had carried all stakeholders along without bias to any group especially the Muslims.
According to him, “They ought to have engaged in painstaking town hall meetings and serious legislative debates; and not behave like some emperors. Even under monarchy, you don’t take a position as consequential as this, much less in a democracy.
Gang-up, Threat to life of MURIC Director
There were gang-up that singled out the Director of MURIC, Prof Akintola from the supporters of Amotekun who felt aggrieved by his criticism of the security outfit and his stands for the oppressed Muslims in Nigeria.
A death threat with the title, ‘THIS COBRA NEEDS TO BE KILLED’ was widely shared on social media particularly on WhatsApp platforms where the call was made for the assassination of Prof Akintola.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, January 28, MURIC said a twitter handler directed a death threat to Professor Ishaq Akintola about a week ago, adding that the writer wrote a chilling comment on Akintola’s picture and posted it.
The statement also noted that the post was, in turn, screenshot from the Whatshap status of a contact who identified herself as Tosin Elizabeth a.k.a ‘Hidee’ with telephone number 08163964812.
“There is one big cobra we must kill, before it kills all of us with its venom. This MURIC man, Professor Ishaq Akintola, must be tamed, else he will succeed in destroying Yorubaland with venom from his religious stupidity,” the exact threat message in part.
In a bid to counter MURIC Director on Amotekun, a faceless Islamic group, the Coalition of Progressive Yoruba Islamic Groups (COPYIG) accused him of desperately working to destabilise Yorubaland and spur the region into an inter-religious conflict.
The group argued that Prof Akintola has dedicated his entire lifetime to the promotion of religious distrust, cruel hatred, violence, armed rebellion against Yoruba people and their history and religious bigotry.
However, checks by Muslim News discovered that the allegations against Prof. Akintola by the faceless group are tissues of lies as there was no time he ever advocated or called for what he was accused of. Instead, our findings revealed that he has on several occasions promoted unity of Nigerians even as he called for Muslims rights to be respected.
Prof. Akintola, who was among the Muslim News 2019 Personalities of the Year has on several occasions tackled and condemned Boko Haram, the dreaded terrorist group who hide under Islam to indiscriminately kill Nigerians irrespective of their religious leanings.
Findings by Muslim News further revealed that COPYIG is a faceless group unknown to the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), an umbrella body for the Nigerian Muslims in the media.
“Yes, its obvious it’s a caricature group. If it is a Coalition of Muslim Groups, at least, they should be able to mention all the organisations that formed the Coalition but they won’t because they are a faceless group purposely created to attack Prof Akintola and anyone seen as a stumbling block to the Amotekun agenda,” one of the Muslim journalists who preferred to remain anonymous for security reason said.
Several other personalities, including the former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani Kayode (FFK) and a newspaper columnist, Dare Babrinsa, among others, have at different times castigated Prof. Akintola for standing for Islam and defending the oppressed Muslims.
But Prof. Akintola has since vowed neither to be intimidated nor silenced by the forces of oppression until the oppressed Muslims are liberated.
The Relief after Controversies
As at the time of filing this report on Friday, 31st of January (for Muslim News February print edition), the controversies over the Amotekun seems to have simmered down, following the agreement reached by the Federal government and the Southwest governors, as both parties agreed that legal framework must first be put in place.
The Attorney-Generals of the six southwest states have also met in Ibadan to begin the process of making Amotekun laws in their states. The Punch newspaper quoted the Ekiti State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, in an interview, saying:
“The legal framework being drafted by the attorneys general will contain the mandate of Amotekun. The mandate is very crucial and it will be clearly stated; then the administrative structure, particularly as it relates to the issue of accountability and their power particularly as it relates to that of arrest.”
Muslim News also gathered that the recruitment exercise which had earlier generated heat has been suspended till further notice, with the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu saying that those willing to work in the new security outfit will be trained by certified security experts.
While no date or procedure have been announced, the Muslim Community has called for transparency and fairness in the recruitment exercise.
In a press statement released on Thursday, January 30, Prof. Akintola of MURIC said there are positive signals emerging from the Amotekun camp.
“We have seen that the initial haste to form a regional security unit has been reduced. They are sitting down to map out strategies. At the same time, they are putting together a legal framework to legalize the initiative. These are good steps and they were part of the areas of our initial concern.
The Varsity lecturer stressed the need for the exercise to be fair, transparent and void of religious bias and ethnic witch-hunting, adding that, “Muslims will join the security network once there are assurances of fairness and transparency.
In case you missed part 1, read below:
Amotekun: The Leopard with grey spots (Part 1)