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By Wale Sadeeq
“A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and in his own house,” so say the Scriptures. This was, however, not the case for the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who was recently celebrated by the Muslim Community of the state in grandeur. The community said it decided to roll out the drums in honour of the governor in acknowledgment of his penchant for promoting religious harmony and for delivering good governance.
The Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba venue of the ceremony witnessed an unprecedented gathering of Islamic faithful, scholars and preachers from Oyo State and across the Southwest zone, under the aegis of Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN). At the epochal event, the enviable award of “The Most Equitable Governor in the History of Oyo State” was conferred on Ajimobi for what the Muslim community called his equitable, fair and just relationship with Christians, Muslims and traditionalists across the state.
Already, Ajimobi’s closet is replete with diadems from various groups, associations and educational institutions in recognition of his efforts that has changed the face of the state in the last six years. But, the latest award is priceless because never in the history of the state had any governor been bestowed with such a honour by the Muslim community. Among key Muslim leaders that graced the event were the Secretary of MUSWEN, Prof. Dawud Noibi; Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta States, Alhaji Dawud Akinola; Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheikh Abul-Ganiyy Abubakar; popular Islamic preacher, Sheikh Muideen Bello and Prof. Kamil Oloso.
The Chairman, Muslim Community of Oyo State, Alhaji Kunle Sanni, told the gathering that the award was not born of “hypocrisy, politically-motivated praise-singing or sycophantic favour-seeking.” Rather, he said that it was a meritorious honour that was derived from the Holy Quran, Chapter 55, verse 60, which reads “with what shall we reward goodness except goodness. Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?”
Sanni said: “One day, somebody came to the holy Prophet Muhammed (SWA). He said I love somebody. The Prophet said: `Have you told him? He said ‘No.’ The Prophet said: ‘Go and tell him.’ For the goodness that the governor has done for the sake of religious harmony in Oyo State, we want to exhibit the Islamic spirit of appreciation by saying Jazakumullahu khairan (May Allah reward you abundantly).
For the records, he said that the Muslim community decided to honour the governor in appreciation of his ‘unprecedented disposition’ to legitimate demands by Muslims when compared with the lukewarm disposition some of his predecessors to such demands.
Going down memory lane, he disclosed that Colonel Adetunji Olurin (who was Military Administrator of the state from September 1985 to July 1988) was the only governor that fostered harmonious relationship with the Muslim community, since the administration of Chief Bola Ige. He said the late Cicero of Esa-Oke, who governed the state between 1979 and 1983, also maintained a balance between Muslims and Christians and consulted widely among all religious leaders before taking decisions.
“Let me state without any fear of being contradicted that when Governor Ajimobi first came on board, it was not easy between us. Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao (the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland) used to settle quarrels between us, because he (Ajimobi) misunderstood our quest for justice to mean Islamic fanaticism of the highest pedestal. However, we wrote a stinker to him one day when we felt short-changed in a board he inaugurated. Instead of getting annoyed, he invited us to a meeting. He said we should convince him that he had been unjust. To our surprise, the governor bowed to our superior argument and included more Muslims in the board.’’
Another reason the religious leader adduced for the honour conferred on the governor was his decision to acquiesce to the Muslim’s demand for the declaration of a public holiday to mark the first Muharam, the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Besides, Sanni said the governor wormed his way into the heart of Muslims through the composition of a balanced executive council and boards of government parastatals, as well as his decision against the clamour for the return of mission schools to original owners. In a similar vein, he said that the governor had impressed the adherents by permitting wearing of hijab by Muslim pupils in public schools. Although, the governor’s annual tradition of breaking fast with a large population of Muslims during the 30-day Ramadan since 2011 had its blessings from Allah, he said that it could also not go unnoticed by the community.
Sanni said: “When we asked that our Muslim girls be allowed to wear hijab, we did not say Christian girls should be forced to adorn same. The day we went to the governor on the hijab proposal, he did not think twice before granting our request. That was 10 years after two Muslim governors rejected our appeal. May Allah bless the soul of one of them; the other one is still alive.
“Since January 1 is the beginning of the Christian year imposed on us by the Colonialists, the governor has made history by righting the wrongs that had been done against Muslims for ages. He has succeeded in maintaining religious peace in Oyo State where his predecessors have failed. That is why he is being honoured. May Allah elevate him beyond his imagination and make him worthy of Aljannah in the hereafter.’’
Sheikh Bello, who also extolled the governor for advancing religious harmony, urged him to ensure the emergence of a successor that would sustain his legacy projects and complete projects he might leave behind.
The fiery preacher said, “Lagos is working today because Governor Akinwumi Ambode started from where former Governor Babatunde Fashola stopped by ensuring the completion of all the projects he inherited. I want to beg you not to install anybody who will not sustain your legacy or abandon any project you may leave behind. You are a listening governor, unlike some of your predecessors. Now that they are out of office, they have ruined the chances of any of their family members to aspire to such position again because of their maladministration and incompetence.”
The governor also received commendations from other speakers, including the Chief Imam of Akobo Central Mosque, Sheikh Abibullah Buhari and the Are Musulumi of Yorubaland, for his efforts at promoting good governance and peaceful co-existence among religious adherents in the state. In his acceptance speech, the governor expressed appreciation to the Muslim community for finding him worthy of the honour, which he described as symbolic.
According to him, Muslims don’t just give such an award to anybody.
Ajimobi said that when he was contesting for governorship, he told God that if he would not use the position to worship Him and serve humanity, He (God) should not allow him to win. He added, “I thank God that what we are doing today is a celebration of answered prayer. I’m what I am today because God has destined it.’’
He used the occasion to appeal to the people of the state to always thank God for His good deeds and that they should always forgive any wrong done to them in order to have their prayers answered. Ajimobi, has vowed to sustain the development, peace and harmony he restored to the state.
Sadeeq is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Oyo State on Media (Print)