Is Ishaq Akintola a gun for hire?

Many people would find it extremely contradictory and laughable that Dialogue, not Violence, is the motto of the Prof Ishaq Akintola led Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), considering the torrents of toxic and vitriolic statements that constantly emanate from the organisation that appears to have only Akintola as its known member. The MURIC motto is a reminder of the dystopian 1984 novel by George Orwell, which tells the story of authoritarian communism that equally touches on truth and propaganda with a Ministry of Truth that constantly dishes out lies, like MURIC dishes out falsehoods. But for the intervention of the Almighty, the toxic press statements by MURIC would have precipitated violence in Nigeria, which it claims to abhor. MURIC is constantly on the warpath and clearly doesn’t believe in dialogue.

Akintola, a professor of Islamic Eschatology, of the Lagos State University, describes himself as a Muslim rights activist and MURIC as a child of necessity that was established to promote, protect and assert the rights of not only Muslims, but the rights of all men but from the perspective of Islam. His opponents, who are legion, vehemently disagree with his opinion of himself as a peaceful man or that MURIC believes in peaceful resolution of conflicts, in peaceful coexistence or the growth of the polity because his actions which speak volumes about him negate his talk.

The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN, civil/human rights lawyer and activist, once derided some activists and their mushroom organisations as “funds men” and one man organisation living off the cheap dollars from the West in the name of fighting against military dictatorship and the other causes that catch their fancy. And more, sadly, for Gani is that they were not in any respect substantially different from the government they reportedly claimed to fight. It’s to the eternal credit of Gani that he funded his political and human rights activities from his earnings.

The Akintola led MURIC has a duty to convince Nigerians that it doesn’t fit into Gani’s characterisation of civil society groups by publishing the names of his members, his office address, the other officials and his audited accounts to convince Nigerians that MURIC adheres to the high standards it demands from the government at all levels.

Akintola should take up the repeated challenge by Olabukola and provide convincing details that his organisation is not a one man band. Olabukola asked Akintola, who many see as religious irredentist, to produce the “authentic membership register of MURIC members in Odua Land or Nigeria in general. The headquarters, regional/state offices of MURIC. One man cannot be the only member and still call himself association. We need to know this, to know how to follow this man”. It’s a challenge that Akintola has to date not taken up.

Akintola has crossed swords with virtually every group in the six geo-political zones due to his penchant to issue unsubstantiated statements from the very mundane to the outlandish and on just about every imaginable issue that catches his fancy, the problem when you are the sole proprietor of a business concern with no other member to moderate his worst instincts. It’s a shame that Nigerian media have refused to subject Akintola’s unsubstantiated and spectacular falsehoods to scrutiny because of the grave implications they pose to a polarised country. While Akintola is entitled to freedom of expression, it’s a qualified right.

Keen observers of his divisive and explosive statements were alarmed when Akintola in the build up to the 2023 elections announced that “Yoruba Muslims will not vote for any Christian candidate from the South-west, but only a Yoruba Muslim presidential candidate in 2023”, because no Yoruba Muslim had ever occupied the position which showed a gross lack of understanding of the politics that led to the emergence of Obasanjo after the death of the charismatic Murtala Mohammed in 1975, or his second coming of Obasanjo, nor the emergence of Ernest Shonekan, as head of the interim government put in place after the annulment of the June 12 election believed to have been won by late Chief M.K.O Abiola. Akintola doesn’t seem to remember that Abiola, despite a Muslim/Muslim ticket, was enthusiastically supported by Christians because they trusted him.

Akintola should ask the North what it gained from eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, who failed to complete the Abuja-Kano highway or the Christians from Obasanjo’s presidency? Aren’t these reasons enough for the likes of Akintola to wholeheartedly embrace merit and reject candidates based on religion?

Akintola’s activities have rightly created anxiety beyond his native South-west zone. The Yoruba are extremely tolerant because most families and communities are mixed, and all adherents of the indigenous, Islam, and Christianity have cohabited peacefully, are suddenly becoming intolerant with pockets of crisis. The fact that Tinubu whom he was supporting because he is a Muslim, has a Christian wife and some children that have embraced Christianity ought to have taught MURIC to abandon its position rather he has declared war on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for allegedly appointing more Christian Yoruba to key positions since the inception of this administration at the expense of Muslims, lamenting that the crave for a Muslim-Muslim ticket has now turned into a Christian majority government.

MURIC is being accused of being responsible for the upsurge of religious intolerance in the region that had hitherto been peaceful. Akintola is a loose cannon and a very dangerous one, because religion is so deadly and combustive that it can easily ignite a crisis like his recent lie that the Sokoto state government had concluded plans to depose Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar the 20th Sultan of Sokoto without any efforts to verify the lie he was fed. The government took several steps and at huge financial cost to douse the security situation that was already deteriorating because mischief makers had lashed on Akintola’s falsehood to fish in troubled waters. A professor is supposed to be discerning and vigorously subject issues to further enquiries before reaching conclusions, but not Prof Ishaq Akintola, who obviously enjoys rumour mongering

The Sokoto state government should consider filing charges against Akintola and MURIC who everybody agrees is a ticking bomb that can go off at anytime and plunge the country into chaos to serve as a lesson to him and hopefully check his excesses. Thankfully, not many Muslims agree with his stance on several issues. For instance, the United Arewa Support Forum has cautioned him against “promoting religious irredentism in Nigeria” and appealed to him to “avoid unnecessary incitement in the media with patently false campaigns.”

Before the inauguration of President Tinubu and his vice Kashim Shettima, Akintola had alleged that there was a thick plot to assassinate Tinubu and Shettima. How Akintola got the intelligence remains a mystery. He had also joined issues with the Nigerian rapper, Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, over his video ‘This is Nigeria’ .

Will Akintola and MURIC stop crying wolf where there is none? Will he stop turning truth on its head and making despicable statements? Would he finally start subjecting himself to deep reasoning before issuing his statements? It’s doubtful that Akintola would change, considering that he has never been held accountable, and this is why the Sokoto state government must charge him to court for injurious falsehood.

If the Sokoto state government does, it would have done Nigeria a huge favour checking the excesses of a man that’s a problem to himself and society.

Adele Tunde writes from Ilorin, Kwara state