The claim that Governor Seyi Makinde promised to declare Hijrah Day as a public holiday is not a statement of fact. I was not in this state at that particular time, but the person they quoted to have spoken on behalf of Engr. Seyi Makinde as a candidate then was Prince Dotun Oyelade. His statement was a reference to another statement credited to the candidate of APC in 2019, Bayo Adelabu, in the build-up to the gubernatorial election.
He (Adelabu) issued a statement that Muslims should not vote for Makinde because, according to him, Makinde as Governor would cancel the public holiday for Hijrah. At that time, Prince Dotun Oyelade, who was Makinde’s spokesperson, issued a statement to refute that assertion, to say that Governor Makinde, if voted into power, would not cancel any holiday that is properly put in place.
The issue is, when on the campaign train, a lot of things will be credited to a candidate but the people who are listening should listen well. The words you hear from hangers-on are different from what the candidate is saying. It has happened to President Muhammadu Buhari before. A lot of people chronicled lots of agenda that they claimed the President promised Nigerians in the build-up to the 2015 general elections. And when he came into office, they told him they have listed a lot of promises. The social media was agog and the Presidency had to issue a statement that President Buhari campaigned on a three-point agenda and things outside those agenda, which are contained in some publications by some interest groups or individuals, are their own wishes.
So no clear word could be traced to the governor about the said holiday?
There were many issues surrounding the Hijrah holiday. First, the particular date the Hijrah falls into became a problem because the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, actually approved that Friday, August 21, 2020 should be observed as Hijrah day following a recommendation by the National Moonsighting Committee of the Council. And some other persons were claiming it was Thursday, August 20, 2020. Even if any government in power wanted to declare holiday, which one would be declared?
Then, in the case of Oyo State, somebody raised the issue and informed the government that Hijrah Day was on the 20th and Isese Day (Traditional Worshippers’ day) was also on the 20th. Do you declare holiday on such a date and say half of today is for the traditionalists and the other half is for Hijrah? So, there was no clear word from the government on that.
The individual said the government should declare a work-free day but the lawyers looked at the documents and they said there is nothing like work-free day, a public holiday is a public holiday. Then, somebody said the previous government declared holiday and they looked at the papers and said they didn’t see any Gazette to show that the government actually instituted that holiday.
I want those who are agitating to take their battle through due process. They can write to the House of Assembly, they can write to the Governor, they can write to the people in government who are also Muslims. We have eminent Muslims in government. Incidentally, we have the number two citizen of the state, our leader, Engineer Rauf Olaniyan. So, they could write through all those people to help them insist that the government should put it in proper perspective by declaring holiday and by putting it in the law.
But the last administration declared the holiday…
Yes, but why did the government spend eight years in office without putting anything on paper to the House of Assembly to legalise the declaration of holiday for Hijrah?
They talked about the non-declaration of Hijrah holiday and they have threatened the governor over 2023, but how come President Buhari, the leader of Nigeria at this time and a notable Muslim leader, did not declare a national holiday for Hijrah? If non-declaration of the holiday will obstruct the celebration of Hijrah across Nigeria, how come the President didn’t declare the holiday? How come states of the North, where we have 90 to 95 per cent of Muslim population in communities, did not declare holiday? It is only Kano and Gombe, and Osun states that declared the holiday.
Was it true that the Deputy Governor made a commitment that the government would declare the holiday this year?
Well, they should bring out the voice note. Luckily for us, he is a Muslim and they can approach him to challenge him that he made the promise during his campaign and the government failed to fulfill it.
I will also put them to the challenge; even if Governor Makinde made the promise on the campaign train, he has policy issues, payment of salaries to workers on 25th of every month and other developmental agenda that he has to contend with. There are also national issues.
Religious leaders should be wary of those who are masquerading as politicians with interests in 2023; those who are trying to use them for 2023. Those who signed the statement about Governor Makinde not declaring the holiday are using themselves for politics. Yes, the words are very clear. Someone said 2023 is coming. What does 2023 mean in this context? Is that not politics? That is far away from the realm of religion. Religion belongs to God.
Are you taking those statements serious?
Why would someone make a statement about the governor’s capacity and it will not be taken seriously? It is not the first time Muslim organisations will accuse the government of Engr. Makinde of unfairness. MURIC once said that Muslims in the state were being marginalised when Governor Makinde announced the composition of Governing Councils of tertiary institutions that belong to the state.
They did not fact check the persons that were announced. We did a simple analysis and my office released a statement, saying clearly that the Muslims that were appointed into those governing councils were in the majority and nobody said anything again. When people have nothing to say, they try to sound like a broken record just to seek relevance and that is what is happening here. Religion is a personal thing and we have to be careful when we use it, because we will answer to God for it.
On the national stage, these two religions happen to be the closest ever. NSCIA and CAN are doing things together, promoting interreligious harmony and tolerance. In this state, Governor Makinde is an epitome of religious tolerance and his personality encompasses that. He built mosques. He has been sending Muslim faithful on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Let us ask those who signed the statements to put out a list of those they have sent to Jerusalem, if they want to really tell us they are promoting religious harmony. Our government is here to promote religious harmony and we will not tolerate anybody that wants to distract us with religious dichotomy. In Yorubaland, we value our unity. The religions are inter-related and interwoven. There are much uniformity in the Holy Quran and the Bible.
I don’t believe that the statements being issued represent the Muslim community. This state is a state of religious harmony. This is a state where families are divided into two big religions. We have the traditionalists and they also have numbers in this state and across Yorubaland. You cannot tell me that there is a family in Oyo State here that does not have Muslims and Christians, either as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters.
The governor has explained several times too that his family is like 65 per cent Muslim. So, why would anyone be promoting religious intolerance in the name of politics?
Are you suggesting that politicians are behind the statements?
I am not suggesting but confirming that there is an agenda by some persons to use religion to distract the present government. And it has been stated right from 2019 by one particular candidate that he would use religion to unsettle Governor Seyi Makinde when he is sworn-in, and that he would use religion to get into the Government House of Oyo State in 2023.
The faces behind the plot had chances of being in power before but what was their scorecard? We know and can release their scorecards. We know from where these things are coming and we are just sounding a note of warning to them. Those who want to derail this state with the issue of religion should pocket it, because the people will rise against them. We do not want religious dichotomy and religious intolerance in Oyo state.