By Bola Bolawole
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Religion is the opium of the people – Karl Marx (1843).
In the aftermath of the collapse of the 21-storey Ikoyi skyscraper, conscious and deliberate efforts have been made in some quarters outside and within the South-west to foul the air, pollute the age-old cordial relations amongst Yoruba Christians and Muslims, and trigger a religious crisis that will consume the Yoruba people and their civilization and cause them to remain slaves to the hegemonic, feudalistic and conservative forces fighting tooth and nail to maintain and reinforce their stranglehold upon the Nigerian polity. The “foreign” wing of this army of vile, despicable, vacuous and vicious elements is made up of latter-day immigrants to the space called Nigeria but who, ironically (although puerilely, arrogantly and mischievously), regard the same Nigeria as the fiefdom of their fore-fathers and the people who are autochthonous to the area as second-class citizens that must be dispossessed of their land and other ancestral rights and be extinguished or pushed into a hole like the colonists did to the red Indians in America and other parts of the so-called New World. The “local” wing are the enemies within, those that the Yoruba call the “Omo ale” as opposed to “Omo oko”, the biblical Esau selling their birthright for a mess of pottage, and who, for the pecuniary gains of fleeting posts and perishing filthy lucre, compromise the interests of their own people while teaming up with the invaders to impoverish, imperil and even annihilate their own people and its civilization. Whitelegs (let’s not call them Blacklegs) are to be found in all climes and through all ages. Their god is money and they will do anything for money, position and influence. Ungodly people, they are those William Shakespeare referred to in the Merchant of Venice as an evil soul producing holy witness; a villain with a smiling cheek; a goodly apple rotten at the heart: and like Marx posited in the opening quote, religion is a convenient excuse and deliberate weapon they employ to achieve their wicked goals.
The South-west is the most peaceful region of Nigeria as of today and this does not augur well for those the Yoruba will call the “arije ni modaru”. Those who fish and prosper in trouble waters, having tried but failed to spread their evil dragnet over Yoruba land through direct invasion, have now beaten a retreat and devised a detour to achieve the same nefarious end of unnerving, unhinging, suppressing, oppressing and subjugating the Yoruba and taking over their ancestral land and destroying their civilization and culture in the same way and manner they are doing elsewhere. Religion is their new-found strategy. By imagining, concocting, feigning and creating a non-existent enmity between Yoruba Muslims and Christians, by pretending to love the Yoruba Muslims more than the Yoruba Muslims are loved by their own Christian brothers and sisters, and by posing as the mujahideen who will fight Yoruba Muslims’ battles against imaginary and orchestrated Christian “enemies”, they intend to be gifted the foothold into Yoruba land that their failed direct invasion could not provide. Let the Yoruba Muslims beware of those shedding crocodile tears and bearing Greek gifts! It is deceit, not love, and this has been their stock in trade from time immemorial. Their history, past and present, gives them away unmistakably as blood-thirsty hounds. As the Yoruba will say, the love that the poultry farmer has for his chicken does not transcend that of fattening it for the soup pot! Such is the emergency “love” of some Northern Muslims for Yoruba Muslims!
History teaches that Islam got to Yoruba land around the 14th Century during the reign of the famous Emperor Mansa Kankan Musa of Mali; that was long before the jihad of Uthman dan Fodio in 1804. So, the Yoruba Muslims were neither evangelised/conquered by nor had they anything to learn on Islam from the so-called Sokoto Jihad. Pure and simple, the jihad was a territorial conquest camouflaged and disguised as a holy war. If Northern Muslims (many of them Muslim only in name, who cannot even read or understand the Quran) – if they truly love Yoruba Muslims as they now mischievously profess, ask them what love they have shown to their own Northern Muslim brothers and sisters! Shouldn’t their charity begin at home? That Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world is because of the grinding poverty in much of the North. As the Yoruba will say, when a man says I will buy you a lace material, first of all check the quality of the clothes he himself is putting on. He who does not love his own brother cannot love you whom he derisively and derogatorily calls “keferi” (kafirs)! If he feigns love, be careful; he has a hidden agenda!
How can Northern Muslims claim to love Yoruba Muslims when even the illiterates and cretins among them detest Yoruba Muslims leading them in prayers? Even the vilest of Northern Muslims believe (erroneously, myopically, and provocatively, though) that they are better Muslims than the more illustrious and better accomplished Yoruba Muslims! Those Northern Muslims now posing as defenders of Yoruba Muslims’ rights should explain to the Yoruba why they annulled MKO Abiola’s presidential mandate in 1993 and prevented him from becoming president, despite the fact that he won the election free and square! Was Abiola not a Muslim? His running mate who later ditched him was a Muslim. The military president who annulled his mandate was a Muslim. The man who arrested and detained Abiola was a Muslim. The man under whose watch Abiola was allegedly murdered in detention was a Muslim! All of them Northern Muslims! Yet, Northern Muslims love Yoruba Muslims and will now defend them against their Christian brothers and sisters! If they are deceiving you, please don’t deceive yourself!
Can we ever have another Yoruba Muslim closer to the Northern Muslim Establishment – in fact, ingrained into it – like MKO? Yet, they deceived him! They lied to him! They frustrated him! They let him down when it mattered most! They broke his heart, so much so that he warned us about them that “With friends like these, no one needs an enemy”! In a flash they forgot all his good deeds towards them! They humiliated him; perhaps, even worse than they had done to other Yoruba leaders like Awolowo, Benjamin Adekunle, Tai Solarin, Ayodele Awojobi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Gani Fawehimi, Adekunle Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya. The list is endless! If Northern Muslims truly love Yoruba Muslims why, then, is the disgusting treatment being meted out to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Is Tinubu not a Muslim? Thrice Muhammadu Buhari contested the presidency and lost, until Tinubu gave him his back in 2015, but see how they have rubbished their benefactor! If this is not the hallmark of ingratitude and deceit, then, I don’t know what is!
Tell the South-west to beware! The Northern Muslims and their southern hirelings beating the drums of war for Yoruba Muslims do not mean well. They are the latter-day Alimis intent on continuing the conquest of Yoruba land from Ilorin where their fore-fathers were forced to stop. Their collaborators in Yoruba land are the modern-day Afonjas who, for selfish reasons, are teaming up with enemies to endanger the peace, tranquillity and prosperity of the Yoruba homeland. See how the flotsam and jetsam of the North daily pour into Yoruba land, fleeing from the misery that their leaders, these self-same Northern Muslims, have enveloped their land in? But for Sunday Igboho and the others who rose up to the challenge when the Yoruba were practically (and deliberately?) abandoned in their hour of need! But for the octogenarian Prof. Banji Akintoye who picked up the gauntlet! But for the governor of governors, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (aka Aketi), who provided leadership not only for the South-west but also the entire southern Nigeria, treading where even angels might have feared to tread!
Yoruba land is one place where religious crisis must never be allowed to rear its ugly head. It is not in our blood or character. It is not in our culture and traditions. It is not in our style of resolving disputes. We are too urbane, too civilized and too cultured for that. Religious crisis is not a recurring decimal in our long but chequered history as it has been the case in some other places. Yoruba land is one place where both Muslims and Christians are to be found in practically every family and home. Yoruba land is one place where “carpet-crossing” or “defection” from one religion to another is commonplace, easy and seamless to execute and where eyebrows are seldom raised. No honour killing! No blasphemy issues! No political Sharia of amputation of limbs and stoning to death hypocritically visited only on the poor and downtrodden “talakawa”! In Yoruba land adherents of the religions mesh. But to every rule there are exemptions; thus, it is not impossible to find religious zealots here and there but they are the exemption rather than the rule. Such lone and far-in-between incidents do not define the Yoruba worldview on religion and the aberrant must have picked up their discordant tunes from somewhere else! Guess where?
Yoruba land is one place where religion hardly determines friendship or influences relationships. Religion has NEVER been an issue here. That is the beauty of Yoruba land which the enemies of progress will have destroyed. May they fail!
Bolawole is a respected columnist and former deputy editor in Chief of The Punch