The mosque is the heart of the Islamic life. It is the place where the Almighty Allah (SWT) is communally worshipped and glorified through the five daily prayers offered by Muslim faithful. It is also a place for the regeneration of spiritual power, recital of the Qur’an and making supplications. Due to its centrality and importance to the practice of Islam, Muslims, who can afford it, strive to build mosques as a way of expressing their devotion to Allah and delighting Him.
As a demonstration of their commitment to Allah and their love for Islam, many frontline Ibadan citizens such as the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao; the current Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta, Alhaji Daud Akinola; the Seriki Musulumi of Yorubaland, Chief Yekini Ayoade Adeojo; Alhaji W.O. Lawal and a horde of notable others have built mosques.
But among those who have put up mosques in the city of Ibadan, Engineer Seyi Makinde stands out. This is not because he probably built the largest or the most beautiful mosque or because he is a governor. No. His case is exceptional because he is a Christian. Not only that, his late father, Pa Olatubosun Makinde, was a Church warden for about seven years. So, the question is what is the son of a Church warden doing building mosques? Well, the answer is that Makinde is not a religionist but a humanist. He does not view people from the prism of religion but rather from the spectrum of humanity. His relationships are not determined by religion or region but the content of character, quality of contributions and love for that which is noble.
Makinde believes that human beings thrive only in an atmosphere of freedom; freedom to live according to their personal conviction, for as long as such is within the ambits of the law. However, as a leader, he does not just believe in the recognition of such freedom, he also subscribes to providing the environment for everyone to live in accordance with their conviction so that they can experience fulfillment. This is why Makinde built the Omitutun Mosque at the Omituntun House to create opportunities for his Muslim associates to practise their faith without let or hindrance even on his premises.
The construction of the Omitutun Mosque commenced in 2013 and was completed in 2014. On its completion, Makinde employed a resident Imam, who does not only lead prayers but also teaches Arabic Studies to young Muslims, inculcates in them Islamic values and exposes them to the practice of the religion.
In the course of reconstructing the Iwo road interchange in Ibadan to ease the traffic gridlock that had become the ensign of that area, it became imperative that the Adogba Central Mosque in that axis had to give way. When the decision to pull down the mosque as well as a nearby church was generating furore, the governor did not only visit the mosque but he joined the worshippers during a Juma’t service to observe the prayer and explain the rationale behind the government’s decision. He could have sent an aide but out of respect for the leadership and membership of the mosque, he personally visited the mosque and worshipped there to explain the situation to the jama’ah.
While addressing the worshippers, Makinde said, “The main reason I decided to come here is, there are reports that the State Government wants to demolish the Adogba Mosque. Yes, it is true. The church that is close to this mosque will equally be demolished, but I want it to be on record that, first, I worship in the mosque today. Second, what we want to do to this mosque can be likened to the popular saying that suggests that the palace of a king that gets destroyed can only get beautiful later.
“I make bold to tell you that we won’t demolish it and not rebuild a better mosque. They have looked for another land that is close to where we are and I will ensure that I donate personal money to begin the building of the new Adogba Mosque. I built a mosque at Omituntun House. The new mosque will be twice bigger in terms of size than this current one and will be a reference point. We will have a meeting with those that are running the mosque to see how we can achieve this.” True to his promise, Makinde facilitated the building of a new Adogba Central Mosque that is in every respect superior to the demolished one.
Commenting on the new structure, the Chief Imam of Adogba Central Mosque, Alhaji Abdul-Kabir Amzat, described Governor Seyi Makinde as a man of his word who never fails to keep to his promises.
According to Alhaji Amzat, “When Governor Makinde came to us that he would demolish our mosque for the provision of infrastructural development for public benefit and promised to build another mosque with modern and improved facilities at a nearby site, we were afraid of the fulfillment of that promise but to the glory of Almighty Allah, the governor has exhibited his uniqueness, reliability and piety with the modern construction that beat our expectations within an unimaginable period.”
The Chief Imam added that the newly built complex is an Islamic centre with a standard mosque, an Arabic School, an Islamic Model School, a Research Centre, a Library, an Event Hall and an ample parking space with a good road network for the benefit of the community.
In his tradition of supporting the Islamic and other faiths, Makinde, long before his rise to the saddle as Oyo State helmsman, had been organizing annual Ramadan lecture to encourage and challenge Muslims during the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is in conformity with his belief that everyone must be allowed to give expression to their faith. So many practitioners of the Islamic faith have also realized their dream of going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land through the gesture of Governor Makinde.
The governor, who is guided by the principle of fairness, justice and equity, has instituted a system that does not place any religion above the other in the state. To underscore this, he approved that Hijra New Year Day be observed as a public holiday in the state. He also ensures that the two major religions are adequately taken care of during appointments, while guarding against the sidelining of any religion with respect to government support.
At the presentation of buses to Ansar-Ud-Deen Society during his first term in office, the governor said, “I want to say it again that I love the Muslims and the Christians as well as the traditionalists.
“We must not discriminate and we have to be fair to everybody. And we believe that whatever we do, we will get the reward from God. We are serving you as your servants. I came to you to give us the opportunity to serve you and you did. So, I believe we must serve you with the fear of God.
“So, today, I want to fulfill part of the promises I made before I got elected as the governor of Oyo State. I promised that, when I become the governor, I would do my best to support people from both religions.
“That is why I want to donate a bus each to the Ansar-Ud-Deen of Oyo State and that of Oyo Town, to propagate the message of Islam.”
Oyo State has experienced religious harmony in the last four years because of the governor’s fair disposition to all religions. With the governor’s style, religion adherents in Oyo State have come to respect other people’s religions. This is why during the last election when some people wanted to stoke the fire of religion to sway the electorate, they ran into a brick wall as they were ignored by the populace.
Consequently, Muslims massively voted for Makinde just like Christians and traditional worshippers did. The implication of this is that he who leads with fairness has nothing to fear in the day of reckoning.
–Sulaiman Olanrewaju, the Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor, writes from Ibadan.