Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to the Oyo State governor, speaks with IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI on the controversies over the decision of the state government not to declare a public holiday to mark Hijrah 1442 AH and how the Makinde administration has been reversing the trend of infrastructure deficit in the state, among others.
There are insinuations that Governor Seyi Makinde reneged on his promise not to cancel the Hijrah public holiday put in place by the immediate past administration in the state. I don’t have my facts, but the governor during the campaign was said to have promised to declare Hijrah a holiday. Now they are accusing the governor of reneging on that promise and threatening not to support him in 2023. What is happening?
In your question, you said you don’t have your facts. But I have my facts. 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 that they quoted to have spoken on behalf of Engr. 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 Seyi Makinde because, according to him, Makinde as governor would cancel the public holiday for Hijrah. At that time, Prince Oyelade, who was Makinde’s spokesperson, issued a statement to refute that assertion, to say that 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 that you hear from the candidate, the promises that the candidate made and the words that you hear from hangers-on are different from what the candidate is saying. It has happened to President Muhammadu Buhari before. Many people chronicled lots of agenda that they said the president claimed to have promised Nigerians in the build-up to 2015 general election. And when he came into office and was sworn in, they told him about all the 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, it was just a response from Prince Oyelade that Governor Makinde would not cancel any holiday properly put in place. There is no clear word they can claim came from the governor himself.
But was it because there is no clear word that can be traced to the governor the state didn’t declare the holiday?
There were many issues that surrounded 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 21st, 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. 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 in 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.
So, if you are a lover of your religion, quote and unquote now, and you want a particular holiday to be institutionalised, how do you do that? Do you just do that at the whims and caprices of your thinking? No, you do it according to law.
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 and 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 was said to have declared the holiday…
Yes, but why did the government that spent eight years in office not put anything on paper to the House of Assembly as to the declaration of holiday for Hijrah? They talked about the non-declaration of Hijrah holiday and they have threatened the governor over 2023, but why is 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 it? Why did states in 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, just those two states that declared and Osun.
There was also the viewpoint that the deputy governor made a commitment that the government would declare the holiday this year
If they claimed that the deputy governorship candidate at that time also said something like that, well, they should bring out the voice. 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 during the campaign, as Muslims, what have they done to make him actualise the promise? That is not the only thing he would be thinking. He has policy issues, payment of salaries to workers on 25th of every month. The day must be sacrosanct and it is. And he has other developmental agenda that he has to contend with. There are also national issues because, as a governor, he is nationally recognised and he is doing well in the state.
Certain leaders, including some of those who signed the statements that you are talking about, have been visiting the governor independently and talking to him. Why have they not raised the issue? Even those that are not meeting him physically put calls through to him and he picked their calls as a listening governor. On his own, he consults them. Why are they making it a political agenda now? It is wrong for any political leader to stand on the altar of religion to make political statements.
Religious leaders should be wary of those who are masquerading as politicians who are trying to use them for their 2023 interest. 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.
I saw another one signed by Alhaji Kunle Sanni, which was very bad. But as someone that grew up in the Yoruba culture of Omoluabi, it is difficult for me to pick words with elders. But elders should be mindful of their legacy. This is not the first time some religious groups will be going beyond their brief.
Are you taking the statements seriously?
Why will one not take a statement like that seriously? Except one is not a serious person, why would someone make a statement above his capacity and it will not be taken seriously?It is not the first time Muslim organisations will accuse the government of Engineer 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 to say 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 too much uniformity in the Holy Quran and the Bible.
We saw that they did not have anything to do or say. So, they thought that we would sit down and be responding to things that have no basis. We have put down the facts and anybody who is reasonable out there would look at the facts. I don’t believe that the statements being issued represent the Muslim community. We are all together in this state. This state is a state of religious harmony, whether you say it or not. 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 altogether. So, 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.
As for me, I have my uncles as Muslims; they are my direct first cousins, uncles, among others. 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 Makinde when he is sworn in, and that he would use religion to get into the Government House of Oyo State in 2023.
You can conduct your investigation. One thing I will put you on notice about is that when these faces come up, ask them questions. They have had chances of being in power and holding offices before, but what was their scorecard? We know and can release their scorecards.
These are some of the people that you can call ‘Akótilétà’ (prodigal sons) in Yoruba. Some of them do not mind to carry the budget of their constituencies to somebody in Benue or Maiduguri or somewhere else just because they wanted money in their pockets.
They don’t mind sharing the money for constituency projects that they give them with the people in the ministry. They collect half of the money and tell the people that the government did not do it.
We know where these things are coming from and we are just putting a warning to them. Those who want to derail this state with the issue of religion should pocket it, because the people of Oyo State will rise against them. It is against the interest of Yoruba land for anyone to want to derail a Yoruba community with religion. We do not want religious dichotomy and religious intolerance in Oyo State.
Are you advising those agitated to take the demand for the declaration of Hijrah holiday through appropriate quarters?
I am just analyzing what has happened and the vile that was expressed in that statement. And I am telling them, if no declaration of a holiday for Hijrah is what caused declaration of ‘war’, how come the head of Muslim community in the whole country (Sultan of Sokoto) did not say we must declare holiday for Hijrah? Why didn’t he tell the governor of Sokoto that he must declare holiday? Why was there no statement from NSCIA that Hijrah Day must be a holiday? So, what is now the situation of Oyo State that warrants them to say we did not declare holiday and that means we have marginalised Muslims? Are we going to say President Buhari has marginalised Muslims? Are we going to say all the governors in the North have marginalised Muslims?
Anybody that brings himself out of the mosque and out of the church to jump into the political terrain will see the fire of the pen of political writers. He would no longer be addressed as Your Honour or clergy or whatever. The political writers will x-ray him, because you are not talking religion again when you are talking about 2023.We respect our elders, but they should be circumspect in the legacy they are leaving behind for the next generation. We respect elders; elders too should respect themselves.
Those who are stoking embers of disagreement, dichotomy, and all that should pocket their anger against Governor Makinde. If they don’t like his face, they can vote for whoever they want to vote for in any other election. But for this current government that we are talking about, God has given Governor Makinde this power and God says he is the owner of the seat of power. If God says Governor Makinde will continue in that position, there is nothing any human being can do.
If you check the two statements published by MURIC and NACOMYO, I will say they have no right to use insulting words against the governor. Governor Makinde is my leader and the father of the state. We (government)cannot bandy words with them, but we have to say it the way it is. We are pained to react to them because they are elders in the state. They should be the ones guiding our governor and people like us. They should not be the ones going about and mixing religion with politics.
I think people should be concerned about development rather than politics. Are they saying Governor Makinde is not working for the people of Oyo State? Are they not seeing that all the abandoned roads are coming back to life now? Have they not gone through the Old Ife road that links Alakia Airport to see that work has commenced there? Why is it that it took somebody eight years and the road could not be fixed? Why did it take somebody eight years to abandon the Akobo road and keep people in the travails of traffic along that axis? But while Governor Makinde is trying to reverse all that, some people are trying to distract us by talking about religion. Everybody is free in Oyo State to practise his religion and the government will keep supporting the people to engender freedom of worship. But the government will not support religious intolerance in any way.The two religions that we have here: Islam and Christianity have so many things in common more than any of the other religions.
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