© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
REPORT: Many controversial statements of MURIC’s Ishaq Akintola
ISHAQ Akintola, founder of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) several times has been in the eye of the storm, especially because of many press statements he issues on behalf of his organisation which according to him are in defence of the Nigerian Muslims.
Often, the professor of Islamic Eschatology has made spurious allegations as well as unguarded statements capable of causing disharmony and creating tension among people of different religious beliefs in the country.
In this report, The ICIR compiles some of such statements made at different occasions by Professor Ishaq Akintola
Deaths in Kano meant to reduce Muslim population
In April, Akintola alleged in a statement that went viral that the rising deaths in Kano State, which has now been confirmed to be from Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by the Presidential Task Force, was a deliberate attempt to reduce the Muslim population in the state.
In the statement, Akintola asked “Is this a deliberate attempt at debilitating the Northern population with its attendant impact on Muslim majority population in the country?
This comment made without evidence attracted condemnations from members of the public who described it as a ridiculous one coming from a professor who should understand better.
Despite the backlash that trailed his statement which many considered unguarded, Akintola again, in another press statement issued on May 5, said the death toll in Kano from COVID-19 ought to be higher than that of Lagos, despite his previous attempt to downplay the number of death in Kano.
In the new statement he disagreed with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ( NCDC) and rejected the number of new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Kano state. He questioned why cases in Lagos were higher than that of Kano after concluding that the deaths in Kano were tactics by the Federal Government to reduce the number of Muslim populace in northern Nigeria.
“We beg to disagree. If all other figures are correct, that of Kano is unacceptable. Kano is presently known to be Nigeria’s epicenter of the pandemic. So how can Lagos be 62 and Kano is just 2? How can the figure for COVID-19 cases be 2 in a city where people are dropping dead? How can Kano’s figure be the same as those of Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Osun, Kwara and Plateau? We charge stakeholders to put their heads together on this simple logic.”
MURIC says Amotekun is ‘anti-Islam’
On January 17, 2020, Akintola was reported to have asked Southwest governors to change the name of the new regional security outfit recently set up to fight kidnapping and other crimes in the region on the ground that it was anti-Islam.
Operation Amotekun was launched on Thursday, January 9, by the South-West governors in Ibadan, Oyo State. The South Security Network nicknamed Amotekun, a Yoruba word for leopard was an initiative of the Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti states government after countless cases of kidnapping and banditry in the states.
Akintola’s MURIC argued that the name of the outfit as well as recruitment of its personnel was skewed against Muslims. He hinged his argument on the Bible’s Jeremiah 5:6 which says, ‘A leopard shall guard over their city’. He alleged that the name was chosen from the Bible verse thereby making it more of a Christian initiative.
Christians enjoy more holidays In Nigeria than Muslims
Earlier in the same month, the founder of MURIC argued again that Christians in Nigeria enjoy more holidays than their Muslim counterparts.
“MURIC asserts clearly, categorically and unequivocally that Muslims are in bondage in this country. Why should one group get all the honey in the land while the other is ignored? We demand equal rights and justice,” Akintola had written in a press statement.
This came after the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) claimed that Christians were being persecuted in the country.
However, The ICIR found out that while Christians enjoy four public holidays in the calendar year, Muslims have three out of the12 public holidays in Nigeria. Also, states like Osun and some northern states have declared Islamic first day of the lunar month as a public holiday, thereby making MURIC’s claim totally misleading.
US working with CAN to create religious tension in Nigeria
While condemning the United States’ designation of Nigeria as a country that has engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom in December 2019, it was reported that Akintola through MURIC claimed that the United States was working with the CAN to create religious tension in the country.
MURIC also said CAN has swallowed the bait of “religious persecution” which the US uses in international politics.
“CAN has only manifested its naivety in modern international politics. The US has thrown religious persecution as a bait. Unfortunately CAN has swallowed it, hook, line and sinker,” Akintola said.
“Our message to CAN is this, allow America to set fire to your country and we can assure you that it is not the Muslims alone who will face turmoil. Whether to avoid foreign interference in your country and live in peace with your Muslim neighbours while you watch your children and grandchildren play peacefully in the garden or to open the doors wide for an army of occupation which will bring general pandemonium, the choice is yours,” he added.
The MURIC founder then likened CAN to a “mischievous housewife who beats up the husband but screams for help.”
MURIC threatens WAEC, warns against deliberate exclusion of female Muslims from exams
In February this year, MURIC accused West African Examinations Council (WAEC) of being used by certain forces to retard the educational progress of Nigerian Muslims.
He made this strong assertion without naming the “forces,” adding that the group has received inundated reports from Muslim students, their teachers, and parents about a face recognition software used during WAEC registration which refuses to capture hijab clad girls.
He claimed that WAEC’s registration software was deliberately designed to automatically reject hijab but he did not give any technological backing to prove his point.
Nigerians hate Fulani herdsmen because they are Muslims
In one of his several controversial statements, Akintola in 2017 claimed in a statement that Fulani herdsmen were being attacked by Nigerians because they were Muslims.
He warned in the statement against “anti-Fulani sentiments” that were capable of inciting further ethnic violence across the country. His outburst was in reaction to the killing of 60 Fulani herdsmen in Shaforon, Kikem and Kodemti villages in Numan, Adamawa State.
He added that MURIC was “deeply disturbed by the rate at which ethnic violence was erupting in Nigeria.
“We are equally constrained to blame the recent attack on authors of hate speech, particularly those motivated by anti-Fulani, anti-North and anti-Muslim sentiments.”
However, none of the reports of the notable civil society organisations checked by The ICIR aligns in any way with Akintola’s religious claim.
In a report published by Amnesty International in December 2018, almost 4,000 people have been killed and thousands displaced in fighting between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s middle belt in the past three years.
Amnesty, who started documenting clashes in January 2016, said the violence was increasing with more than half (57 percent) of the 3,641 recorded deaths in the past three years occurring in 2018, and that the government’s failure to curb the violence and prosecute the perpetrators, was exacerbating the situation.
Another report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) in July noted that the conflict had evolved “from spontaneous reactions to provocations to become premeditated scorched-earth campaigns in which marauders often take villages by surprise at night”, claiming six times more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency.
Many Nigerians, including Muslims, have repeatedly denounced Akintola’s MURIC public and religious statement.
“There is difference between agitation and rhetorical question” – MURIC
In response to some misleading claims made by MURIC in the past, Akintola expressed in a response mail to The ICIR that his statement about the death in Kano is just a rhetorical question posed to NCDC questioning if there is an agenda to reduce Muslim population and not an assertion.
“ I am surprised that we claim to be educated in this country but all we can parade are educated illiterates. How come we don’t know the difference between an allegation and a rhetorical question? We asked NCDC if there is an agenda to reduce the Muslim population. That is the language of action everywhere in the world. You use it when you want to create an awareness or compel action. NCDC ignored the high death toll in Kano. Instead of doing something, it locked up its office in the state and left. Perhaps what many do not know is that we do not just speak without receiving some information, sometimes from very high places. So that question should be thrown at NCDC. Let the agency tell Nigerians what efforts it is making to stop the unending chain of deaths,” Akintola said
He added that “ An asymmetrical section of the Nigerian media used a totally unprofessional caption for the Kano story. They forgot that such action exposes them as parochial. They even ignored the part in the same press statement where MURIC blamed the people of Kano for ignoring official instructions on COVID-19 pandemic”
On the contrasting statements on Amotekun, Akintola maintained that MURIC’s statements were not contradictory and blamed the twist on the “enemies of peace”.
“We did not make contradictory statements. Our position has always been one. It is the enemies of peace who always deliberately twisted our statements. Our advice is that people should always endeavour to get our original statements. They can always get it on our website: www.muricnigeria.com”.
Akintola said his group objected to Amotekun and suggested ‘‘Oduduwa Guards’ as an alternative, and also rejected the idea of using churches to register for the outfit, likewise the idea of collecting reference letters from pastors.
“We also opposed the use of the initiative if it is for witch-hunting any particular tribal group. We remain adamant on our stand. We have not withdrawn this statement,” he added.
However, a group known as Coalition of Progressive Yoruba Islamic Groups (COPYIG) has described Ishaq Akintola as a big threat to southern Nigeria over his comment on Amotekun with an agenda to tear the country apart.
Mukthar Okunade, the national coordinator of the coalition, said Akintola is promoting rebellion against Yoruba people.
“It is unfortunate that one Akintola who leads MURIC has consistently fanned embers of disunity in Yorubaland hiding under the guise of Islam to set brothers against brothers, communities against communities and men against women,” he said.
“Akintola has no followers. He is an extremist and a sadist. He appears to have a suicide instinct. We urge him not to attempt to drag the entire Yoruba along on his pathway of mischief and treachery against the Yoruba people.
“In his riotous mind, blind rage and in a show of complete lack of wisdom, he claimed Amotekun is a Christian outfit. This shows how shallow and irresponsible Akintola is,” he said.