We are not supposed to wear the toga of a politician on this platform even if we belong to a political party.
Rauf Aregbesola is my friend; He belongs to APC. Ibrahim Shekarau is my friend; He belongs to PDP. I have a personal relationship with Taofeeq Akinwale through MSSN; He used to be in the Labour Party. So, I have friends across the board of Nigeria’s political spectrum.
Aregbesola can best defend himself but I want us not to always remember the ugly side of Muslims. Let us remember their good side no matter how small, intangible or infinitesimal.
Aregbesola arguably is the best Muslim Governor ever from Yorubaland in terms of practice.
Long before he became Governor, he had associated with MSSN a little and a lot with NASFAT. We normally sit in the same spot in the Haram in Makkah during the last ten days of Ramadan when he was commissioner in Lagos state. He books hotels just for his luggage but performed his Tahajjud (Night Prayer) within the precinct of the Haram.
The day he became Governor, he dazed everybody when he quoted copiously from the Holy Qur’an “Quli allahumma malika almulk…” (Say, “O Allāh, Owner of Sovereignty…) (Qur’an 3 vs 26-27).
Throughout his sojourn as Governor and Minister, he starts his speech with Basmallah. Tell me any Governor from Kogi, Kwara and the whole of the South who has the courage to do this without thinking of the political consequences because of the inveterate animosity of the kufar (disbelievers) in our midst.
We have forgotten this unprecedented act that promotes Islam. A whole Governor doing this to launder the image of Islam? I am not very emotional. I shed tears when he sang on the day of his first term swearing-in:
Àwa ṣ’ọpẹ fún Ọlọ́run Ọba (2ce)
Ọba ti o dojú àdúrà tiwa
Ọba ti ko jẹ́ kí aṣetì ó wọ ọrọ wá ó
Àwa ṣ’ọpẹ fún Ọlọhun Ọba
This was after quoting from the Qur’an. Not a few Christians, on that day, manifested their unhappiness and anger. It was unprecedented. It was to them unnecessary. It was to them inexplicable.
He was the first Muslim Governor to toy with the idea of using Hijab and had a long-running battle with the Kufar in Osun state. Nobody remembers this again.
Later the Muslim Ummah in Osun appealed to him to declare the first of Muharram as a public holiday ostensibly to square with the first of January the Christian new year. He not only obliged the Muslims; government funds were used to celebrate it every year.
Before you say, Jack Robinson, many Governors in the North followed suit. Before you say Alif Ba Ta, Ajimobi also declared the first of Muharram as a public holiday in Oyo State. Ogbeni pioneered this without thinking about what the kufar would say.
It is worthy of note that Kwara which could be called a Muslim-dominant state had a reluctant Muslim Governor in Bukola Saraki who didn’t oblige Kwara Muslims. It was the last “1st Muharram” that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq a more devoted Muslim declared the day a public holiday in Kwara state.
It is like we are all suffering from collective amnesia to forget these good deeds of Ogbeni.
The idol worshippers are Nigerians. Their “Isese” is covered under freedom of worship by the Nigerian Constitution. They also approached Ogbeni that they wanted a public holiday. When I heard Ogbeni obliged them, I met him on why he should do this. Is he not promoting idol worship in contrast to the prayers of our Mallams of old (May Allah be pleased with their souls) “Kí Ọlọrun pá iná adẹbọ rẹ. Kí Ó gbé Sunnah Anọbi ga”. He said: “If Muslims believe it was an injustice to be denied a public holiday on the first of Muharram, would it not be an injustice to deny pagans of their own public holiday as well”. I concurred, but if I were in his shoes, I would not have done it without a court order.
So legally Ogbeni was perfectly right to have obliged the idol worshippers. Nigeria is not an Islamic state. For anybody to say Ogbeni was hobnobbing with the pagans at the inglorious expense of the Muslims when he was Governor was a pathological liar.
Tell me any Muslim Governor in Yorubaland who prays Jumah (Friday Prayer) from one Mosque to the other throughout the eight years he was in power except Ogbeni. Was he also going to church every Sunday or shrines every Wednesday? I think we should fear Allah.
In fact, my trick of seeing him without any security blockade was to come to Osogbo on Fridays. Since he doesn’t go to the office until after Jumah on Friday because he used to prepare his own sermon which he presents after the Jumat service in any Mosque where he prays, he gave me the honour of sitting with him at the Mosque and between the government house and the Mosque we would have discussed any issue I needed to discuss with him.
I know NASFAT is a very conservative organisation and definitely we cannot all be radical like Ta’awun, MURIC (Muslim Rights Concern) or NACOMYO (National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations). But I expect the Osun Branch to have told the whole world that Ogbeni actively participated in their activities like Ta’awun always defended Ogbeni.
I had gone with him to Tabligh Ijtimah in Ilorin. He had attended the December IVC (Islamic Vacation Course) which Amosun also did. He had sponsored many FOMWAN (Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria) national programmes in Osogbo. He had financed the National Conference of the National Dawah Coordinating Council. He gave money for the renovation of the Osogbo Central Mosque and the completion of the secretariat of the Osun State Muslim Community. We have forgotten all these?
I don’t want to be specific but I know we influenced him to appoint not a few Muslims to strategic positions which hitherto would have been given to Christians. Politicians don’t reason the way we do. They are more particular about winning elections and remaining relevant politically.
Asiwaju (Ahmed Bola Tinubu) had told us one day that if there is an association of mad people, they would manage to mobilise them if they would vote. People accused him (Rauf Aregbesola) of planning the defeat of Oyetola, a Muslim, in the last election but forgot that apart from Allah, he was the single most important strategist who won Oyetola his first term.
Allah witnessed that my humble self all the way from Oyo state was mobilised by Ogbeni to give a helping hand.
If you regard it as a mistake to give Isese holiday you are entitled to your own opinion.
As a mortal, he could neither be perfect, infallible and impeccable. As politicians, they have their idiosyncrasies that run absolutely against the moral ethos of Islamic nobility.
I know a lot of the criticism against Ogbeni stems from his differences with his former alter ego and principal, Asiwaju. Being a small fish among those who are trying to be part of the solution, any statement here can reverse my position 360 degrees to be part of the problem.
If we, his brothers, are unfair to Ogbeni, posterity would write his name in gold. To Ogbeni, let me tell him, “B’aoku, Ise O Tan (When there is life, there is hope)”.