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Farooq Kperogi, Adeola Agoro, Fourscore Building Collapse And The Southwest Religious Narrative




The Oasis Reporters


November 12, 2021






By Bolaji Adeniji



There is no evidence to support his claim of the numerical strength of Muslims over Christians in the Southwest

 



In the aftermath of the collapse of the 21-Storey skyscraper owned by the late real estate mogul, Femi Osibona of Fourscore Homes, many commentators have bared their minds on the fatal incident; and necessarily so.



As at the time of publishing this article, forty-three dead bodies have been recovered from the rubble – and probably still counting. The plethora of opinion that greeted the devastating occurrence centered on the possible compromise of structural standards by the builder and the culpability of regulatory agencies that had oversight duties over such gigantic constructions.



As families and friends of the dead mourn the victims, the jury is still out on what eventuated the gory caving of that imposing edifice; even as the Lagos State Governor has ordered a full-scale investigation of the calamity with a report demanded within a month.


While the construction industry players, government, media and Nigerians in general – shuddered at what befell them, looking forlorn at the “why” of this collapse, an academic and media scholar, Farooq Kperogi, ventured a different path in his own jejune assessment of the unfortunate ruin.

Kperogi, in joining the conversation, surprisingly looked away from the pitiable souls that met their sudden end in torrents of cascading hot bricks, snuffing life out of them inescapably. Rather, he chose to wallow in an inhumane and outright preposterous narrative.


Not only was his intervention sardonic, it is divisive and vexatious – a condemnable representation of what must not be promoted at this time in a country searching for peace, prosperity, nationhood and the closure of widening fault lines.


His take was that, while the nation was hurting from the realization of the disaster, a young Muslim job seeker, Adebowale Sikiru, granted an interview where he alluded to having been rejected a job offer by Femi Osibona, MD of Fourscore Homes, the firm that managed the construction of the ill-fated multi-storey building, few hours before its collapse.



The story was that he applied for the position of a site engineer and was found qualified enough to have secured an interview with Osibona. After the interview, Sikiru said Osibona asked him what church he attended, and he responded that he was a Muslim. “Ah, I can’t work with a Muslim”; Sikiru purportedly quoted Osibona to have said.


The account further said Sikiru left the site deflated, but on his way home, a friend who initially brought his attention to the job opportunity, called him to inquire if he was trapped in the building that had collapsed some moments earlier. Kperogi in his own warped conclusion then said, “It dawned on Sikiru that his rejection and humiliation on account of his faith ironically saved him from death”.

Ikoyi building collapse. Credit: ChannelsTv


What more, he held that this incident has brought to light, the “Insidiously widespread anti-Muslim casual bigotry in Yoruba land and instantiates what Yoruba Muslims routinely contend with in their own natal region on account of their faith”. How nonsensical; but I will get back to Kperogi later!


If anyone had missed that article, a certain female journalist, Alhaja Adeola Agoro (a Muslim convert by the way), did a supporting rejoinder to further accentuate Kperogi’s wild claims – using her own views and experience.


This writer would have also missed Agoro’s jaundiced material, but many thanks to a friend, Raheem Ajayi, who put up her article on a Facebook platform for public view; and of course, I know Ajayi is in alignment with the perverted narrative of both Kperogi and Agoro.


I gave a fitting response to it right there and then, but the fact that their story assaulted the sensibilities of Yorubas, Christians and those who suffered casualties in the collapse, it is a poisoned chalice that has potentials to create religious schisms in the southwest; and needlessly so. It is therefore imperative to engage it and create a proper context for that conversation; starting with Agoro. Like they say in court, I wish to join the matter as an interested party.


Referencing Kperogi’s inciting and divisive write-up, the riposte done by Agoro, despite being read with an open mind by this writer, is wrapped in subjective inference, narrow perception and inadequate understanding of the wider contexts of religion and its rippling intricacies in an ethnically plural and religiously heterogeneous country like Nigeria.


While there are pockets of isolated merits in some cited examples, her opinion failed the test of rigorous and scholarly inquest; and importantly, her chronicle can actually be argued for both religions – making her postulations pathetically weak. She struggled to justify how her sojourn to Islam opened her eyes to how peaceful and tolerant Muslims were compared to her former religion. She regaled us, albeit disingenuously, how Christianity “craftily” makes its adherent sanctimonious and portrays Muslims as ill-bred infidels; among other inchoate examples.


The immediate question to ask Agoro is if at her age, she not heard or encountered hostile Muslims who will not touch anything or anyone Christian? Does she understand the concept of “Keferi” or “Kiriyo” – the derogatory references to Christians by Islamic bigots? Have Agoro and her likes ever bothered to do a survey of religious uprisings and determine which religion the culprits practice and their reasons for doing so? Agoro’s journey to Islam from Christianity and the perceptions she predicted her reasons on, are parochial and puerile justification for her religion switch – which she is entitled to anyways.


Human interactions have clearly shown that there are liberal Muslims and liberal Christians; likewise, there are intolerant Muslims and Christians; but we all know – by plenteous evidence – those who exercise the doctrines of their faith with debilitating fanaticism that leaves tears and blood in trail!


On the balance of scale using empirical facts and unimpeachable proof, we all know the timeline of religious fundamentalism in large swathe of Nigeria and the culpable elements. I have met pleasant Muslims and Irascible Christians; and vice-versa. Therefore, the thoughts, beliefs and actions of each person – are individualistic to that person; and not a reflection of the acceptable norm of any religion.


Even when we know how Muslim adherents have tortured, maimed and killed people who do not subscribe to their faith, some of us still defend that religion saying those devious elements are the misguided ones; and not a referendum on the religion itself. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we have been careful not to give a verdict of finality that attempt to tilt the preponderance of tolerance and liberality to one religion in favour of the other.


Back to Kperogi and his outlandish claims of marginalization of Southwest Muslims,he dropped the ball there and degraded his own lofty intellectual stature on the altar of religious agitation – as it were now. Creating a nexus between the collapsed Fourscore building and the refusal of the owner, Osibona (now late) to grant the Muslim boy employment, is the height of intellectual debauchery, moral degeneracy and the externalization of his pent-up animosity against the Christian faith. No man must play politics, ethnic or religious card with human lives; for the dead cannot speak or defend themselves. For those of us alive, we will not have our psyche assaulted.


Kperogi in his repugnant article, latched on to the testimony of Sikiru to embark on a medley of invented and asinine tales-by-moonlight on how Muslims have been marginalized in terms of social and economic opportunities in the Southwest. He lied when he said, “Yoruba Muslims are seething with frustration and deep-seated inferiority complex on account of their faith-based systematic exclusion and demonization, but they are grinning and bearing their fate in smoldering silence out of social pressure, out of anxieties about social ostracism”.

Where are the Yoruba Muslim complainers Kperogi talked about? He again said, “They say they are habitually ridiculed for their faith, sneered at for their Muslim sartorial choices, alienated and rhetorically marginalized, and outright denied opportunities by people with whom they share the same ethnicity”….“Several of them are forced to convert to Christianity or hide their faith to fit in. It is Yoruba Muslims who are required to downplay or hide their religious identity in the interest of an overarching Yoruba identity because, over the last few decades, Christianity has been rhetorically constituted in the popular imagination as a core constituent in the construction of Yoruba identity. That’s why prominent Yoruba Muslims almost always have to invoke their connection to Christianity to fit in”. This is a shameful and unfortunate story!

In same article, Kperogi imprudently exposed his baleful underbelly by listing how Muslim Yoruba elites have had to flaunt their Christian wives in order to be socially acceptable; citing the likes of late Gani Fawehinmi, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, eminent Jurist, Prince Bola Ajibola and current House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

He even denigrated Professor Bolaji Aluko as a religious bigot. He listed how Muslims in the southwest have been rejected job offers on the account of their faith and have had to in some instances hide their religion for societal acceptance.



First off, one shudders at the data that he used to come by these absurd claims. A total of 43 persons have been confirmed dead from the fourscore rubbles, and these are definitely Christians and Muslims. If a certain Sikiru was rejected employment, how did that approximate Almighty Allah’s plan of excluding him from the impending calamity; or put in another way – the collapse being a punishment for rejecting the young man?


Have Christians not been rejected opportunities or do we say all job applicants of that faith are gainfully employed today in Yoruba land? In Nigeria of this time, the Southwest is still the most religiously tolerant and least combustible when it comes to religion practice. The festive periods for both faiths are a time when faithfuls on both sides relate, mingle freely and even share whatever is on the offer for celebration.

Has he bothered to observe how many offices and institutions in the Southwest build mini-Mosques beside their offices just for Muslims to pray – Whereas, a Church is not built for same purpose? Has any Muslim been lynched around the southwest for airing their views? What tolerance could be more than all these? Kperogi’s bitter plate served many unsubstantiable claims that have hideous intent and dangerous motive.

There is no evidence to support his claim of the numerical strength of Muslims over Christians in the Southwest. There are not enough evidences (save for two sequestered cases he referred) to support his claim of large scale rejection of Muslims in favour of Christians in the southwest job market. There are no evidences to support his claim of Muslims being coerced to convert to Christianity in order to be accepted. There is no evidence to back up his claim of Muslims losing their voice and being relegated in the social order of Yoruba land. What more, his tales of causal bigotry and habitual ridiculing of Muslims for their faith remains to be evidenced.

Farooq Kperogi suffered acute amnesia and grandiose delusion not to acknowledge the fact that many Christians have been rejected opportunities and even suffered mental assault on the account of their faith also. He forgot to highlight the physical damages, economic loss and fatalities Christians have suffered directly in the hands of their Muslim counterparts. As a scholar with analytical mind, he failed to contextualize the inequalities, social dislocations and economic deprivations in the system – as direct product of bad governance and mismanagement by elected officials.

He mischievously imputed whatever socioeconomic anomie his Muslim brethren suffer in the Southwest as being inflicted on them by Christians who wielded such patronages. Is he oblivious to understand that the existential realities we face are a Pan-Nigeria crisis at this time, which spares no one; irrespective of age, gender, tribe, religion and location?

On a flipside, Kperogi did not elevate his awareness to accommodate the psychological dimension of the human mind that is naturally enamoured to what appears like it. This means that people are naturally disposed and are “more likely” – not in all instances though – to embrace other persons whose social, ethnic and religious values aligns with theirs; and this applies to adherents of all types of religion.


This phenomenon is responsible for why a Muslim CEO is likely to have more Muslims in his employee than Christians; and vice-versa. An Igbo trader is most likely to have more Igbos in his employment than other tribes. A Hausa-Fulani public official is naturally more disposed to those of his religion and tribe than others.


While this may not be so correct it must be recognized as an inadvertent action by humans; and it takes being deliberate in policy and embrace of meritocracy principles to lessen its prevalence.


Bigotry is real but it applies to both religious sides, suffice to say, you cannot colour such issues as a Yoruba angst against Muslims; NO! Even in the wider Nigerian context, it took the enactment of a constitutional policy (Federal Character) to conscript us to making the distribution of opportunities fairly equitable; talk less of private empires and pseudo-government establishments.



Why has Kperogi not queried the dominance of Hausa-Muslims in important national offices – where the official language (English) has been eroded?

Are you not more likely to get into EFCC, NNPC, CBN, NPA, FCTDA and other “juicy” national establishments, if you are a Muslim and then a Fulani or Hausa?

In conclusion, Kperogi displayed no empathy to those that lost their lives in the Fourscore building collapse. He was not interested in an inquest into what could have caused such monumental fall and how we could prevent future occurrences by builders and regulatory institutions.



He rather stoked the fire of discord, created dissensions and attempted to set up Muslims against Christians in Yoruba land for no justifiable cause. By this particular indiscretion, Farooq – despite his brilliant assertions on some other topics – has showcased himself as a potential Islamist fundamentalist whose words and action must henceforth be viewed with utmost caution and trepidation.

He must have recognized the indecorous path he threaded when he closed the acerbic piece by saying, “…Not being a Yoruba myself, I know I will be viciously attacked by the people who lubricate and enjoy the current hegemonic high ground that puts Yoruba Muslims at the lower end of the totem pole, but I am not one to shy away from telling the truth because of fear of attacks. I resist injustice no matter who the victims or the perpetrators are”.

But I dare say, Farooq Kperogi, you have told no truth! Yoruba Muslims have not met anywhere to deliberate and issued a Communiqué that documents this phantom marginalization you quivered about and passed it to you.


There is absolute peace and religious tolerance in Yoruba land; neither is their social injustice aside the ones we all suffer from our public office holders. While we do not say there no cases or incidences just like any evolving society will have, Yoruba land can never be identified with institutional religious bigotry and intolerance like is prevalent in the North.



Someone said, “One of the greatest threats to the future of the world is untamed religion because it finds its root in the chamber of the human heart”. With his sweeping condemnation of the Yoruba Christians, Kperogi is one of such humans and he must be tamed!


Bolaji Adeniji is a Communications Consultant, Policy Strategist, Development Advocate and Convener, Forum for Governance, Leadership and Values (FGLV). Writes via bolajipundit@gmail.com


Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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