–Prof Ishaq Akintola
As the Federal Government of Nigeria declared today, 1st January 2018, as a public holiday thereby keeping faith with the practice since colonial days into Nigeria’s post-independence period.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned the Federal Government (FG) for granting official recognition to 1st January for Christians to enjoy while ignoring the myriad of petitions from Muslims dating back to the 60s demanding recognition for 1st Muharram as the first day of the Islamic calendar.
This was contained in a press statement signed by the director and founder of the Islamic human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, today, Tuesday 1st January, 2019.
“Nigerian Muslims feel marginalised. The reality of the Nigerian situation has subjected Muslims in the country to religious segregation. Today 1st January 2019 was declared by FG in recognition of the Christo-Western Gregorian calendar. This happens every year. In essence, FG recognizes the Christian calendar but spurns the Islamic calendar despite several petitions and appeals to it dating back to the 60s. In particular, MURIC has consistently made this demand at least for the past ten years.
This is religious apartheid. A society which desires peace must embrace justice and fairness. Justice is the soul of peace. Nobody can deny one and enjoy the other. It is this socio-economic imbalance that has been responsible for the absence of genuine and enduring peace in Nigeria.
Muslims suffered under colonial rule as every policy of the colonial master was designed to eliminate all vestiges of Islam. It is most unfortunate that successive post-independence regimes have pursued this lopsided policy and refused to review the situation. It is disappointing to note that Nigerian governments headed by Muslims have equally turned deaf ears to our complaints.
“From Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to Muritala Muhammad, from Ibrahim Babangida to Sanni Abacha, Musa Yaradua and now Muhammadu Buhari, no Muslim head of state had the political will to bell the cat. Though we are not unaware of the strategy of agents of neo-colonialism whose stock-in-trade is to blackmail Muslim heads of state with the ‘Islamisation’ agenda in order to put them permanently on the defence, we expect that every Nigerian leader must possess the courage to enthrone justice and equity.
“In this regard, we applaud state governments in both Northern and Southern Nigeria which have so far recognized the Islamic calendar and declared 1st Muharram as holiday. Most worthy of mention are former governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and governor Isiaka Ajimobi of Oyo State.
The fact that state governments did it and heaven did not fall shows that FG also can do it. What FG lacks is the political will. We are telling FG today that the courage to fail is cheap while the will to succeed is worth a king’s ransom. FG needs to wake up from slumber and do the needful. Justice delayed is justice denied. The time to attend to our grievance is now.
In view of this glaring injustice and the obvious lack of political will on the part of FG, MURIC hereby calls on Nigerian Muslims to prepare for a change in tactics. From now onwards, if FG continues with its lackadaisical attitude to the demands of Muslims for parity with their Christian neighbours, we will accompany our civil rights demands with peaceful protests. This is because it appears that the only language the government understands is physical appearance of agitators.
FG is the father of all. It must not be seen to favour one against the other. It must give all equally. A father who wants peace in the family must treat all the children equally. This is too glaring and FG can no longer pretend not to know that Muslims are asking for equal treatment.
The only difference in our struggle will be its peaceful nature because MURIC’s motto is ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’ and we will not abandon this golden principle. To start with, we are instructing our members throughout the federation to sit at home on 1st Muharram 1441 which corresponds to 31st August, 2019. However, Muslims will observe the sit-at-home on Friday, 30th August, 2019 to give more effect to their demand for parity and civil liberty.
“We refuse to be third class citizens in our own country. Nigeria belongs to all of us. We are not asking for any favour. We are demanding our Allah-given fundamental human right. Nobody has the right to take from us what Almighty Allah has given us. We will not be slaves in our land.
“In conclusion, we give notice to FG to brace up for peaceful confrontation with Nigerian Muslims or to grant equal status to 1st Muharram by declaring the day as a public holiday like 1st January.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)