The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, for directing his COVID-19 advisory at Christians only while ignoring Muslims in the southeastern state.
Mr Obiano had on Sunday given guidelines to the people of Anambra State as he announced a relaxation of lockdown measures.
He said food markets, bars and restaurants “are to reopen for normal business with immediate effect.”
However, with regards to religion, he advised Christians and Church leaders “to conduct mass and service in strict adherence to the principles of social distancing to ensure that worshippers are not endangered.” He said no vigils and crusades would be allowed for the time being.
Mr Obiano did not mention mosques and Muslims in his church.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Director of MURIC, Ishaq Akintola, took a swipe at Mr Obiano for the governor’s “one-sided” statement that focused on ” Christians and church attendance protocol during lockdown in the state to the detriment of his Muslim subjects.”
Read MURIC’s full statement
The governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, on Sunday 26th April, 2020, gave guidelines to the state’s residents regarding the relaxation of lockdown in the state. However, an Islamic human rights association has criticized the governor for focusing on Christians and church attendance protocol during lockdown in the state to the detriment of his Muslim subjects.
This was contained in a press statement circulated on Wednesday 29th April, 2020 by the group’s director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“We are bemused by the one-sided statement accredited to the governor of Anambra State on his advisory to residents of the state on easing the lockdown. He kept referring to churches and church leaders thereby giving the impression that he only recognizes Christianity in his state.
“Obiano said and we quote, ‘With regards to religious groups, leaders of the church should ensure that worshippers comply with the standard protocols of COVID-19 which includes wearing of face masks to church, use of hand sanitisers, social distancing and regular washing of hands.
“Church leaders should decide how best to conduct mass and service in strict adherence to the principles of social distancing to ensure that worshippers are not endangered. Please note that there should be no crusades and vigils for the time being.’
“Political office holders should understand the complex nature of our communities. They should allow liberalism to flow in their speeches and actions. This particular speech of Obiano gives the impression of a governor who will not recognize the presence of Muslims in his state, talk less of granting them their Allah-given fundamental human rights.
“There are implications in such utterances. They come from the subconscious. They reflect the belief and attitude of the speaker. The question that comes to mind naturally after reading the governor’s speech is whether Anambra is also a Christian state. Is it like Wike, like Obiano? We are therefore constrained to ask the governor, ‘Is Anambra State also a Christian state? Do you recognize the existence of Muslims in the state? Who will guide the Muslims in Anambra concerning COVID-19 religious culture now that you have refused to address them? Are Muslims in the state safe under you?’
“We remind Governor Obiano that apart from the large number of Northerners in the state, there are thousands of Anambra indigenes who are Muslims. These people also yearn for his attention, guidance and care in this difficult period. A governor in the Nigerian context cannot afford to be governor of the Christians or that of the Muslims alone. Once you are governor you are governor over the adherents of all faiths. Obiano is the father of all in Anambra State. He should be impartial and his guidance and assurances should go to all, not to Christians alone.
“We therefore call for the governor’s understanding of the fears of Muslims in his state and across the country. He should clarify his statement. If a governor mentions the church in an official statement, he is expected to mention the mosque also. Obiano is not a church leader. Nigerians know him as a political leader and a sitting governor for that matter.
“For the avoidance of doubts, MURIC has no apology for making statements like this. Leaders must be interrogated. Democracy bestows the power of interrogation to every citizen and even more so civil society. We have the right to raise questions. It is democracy in action. Unfortunately what we have these days is parochial democratic practices. The Nigerian society has been compartmentalized into a ‘four legs good, two legs better’ environment a la Animal Farm. George Orwell must be laughing his head off in the grave. Otherwise why is it business as usual when some individuals and groups make sweeping statements and even threaten the peace of the land but Muslims (particularly MURIC) must not even ask ordinary questions without any hullabaloo?
“The aim of our detractors is to portray us as extremists and terrorists. But they have failed woefully because MURIC has never issued threats against anyone. We have never incited anybody to violence. We have always promoted dialogue in keeping with the motto of our organization which is ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’.
“Only a section of the country can talk without being shouted down even by those who should know better. The common dogma these days is that Muslims must keep their mouths shut. Muslims must not challenge the status quo. MURIC must not ask questions. We refuse to be intimidated. We will never succumb to the whims and caprices of agents of neo-colonialism, political shenanigans and religious demagogues.
“Imagine if the governor of any of the Northern states had said half of what Obiano said or if President Buhari mentions mosques without adding churches immediately after, all hell would have been let loose. But nobody said anything about Obiano’s parochial utterances. They regard it as normal. We challenge this lopsidedness. It is not democracy. It is neither helping civilisation nor promoting the cause of humanity.”
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