Chief Press Secretary to the Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, speaks in this interview with SOLA ADEYEMO, on the controversies over the decision of the state government not to declare a public holiday to mark Hijrah 1442 AH, how the Makinde administration has been reversing the trend of infrastructure deficit in the state and why religious harmony and tolerance must remain the watchword in the state
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. Now they are accusing the governor of unfairness and threatening not to support him in 2023. What is happening?
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 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 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.
A lot of people chronicled lots of agenda that they said the President claimed to have promised Nigerians in the build-up to 2015 general elections. And when he came into office and was sworn-in, 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, it was just a response from Prince Oyelade that Governor Makinde will 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 of the fact that there is no clear word that can be traced to the governor the reason 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 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 20th, 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 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, 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? Somebody wrote in his statement that the former governor was a lover of Islamoc religion. In which way has he shown love to that religion?
By not making anything documented in favour of that holiday? 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 Hijra?
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 he did not do that? How come states of the North, where we have 90 to 95 per cent of Muslim population in communities, did not declare a 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 on the campaign train, as Muslims, what have they done to make the governor 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 very 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 recognized 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. How come they have 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 with interests on 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. 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? I
t 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 marginalized 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 interrelated and interwoven. There are too many uniformities in the Holy Quran and the Bible that are similar. 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 and all that. 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 before. They have had chances of holding offices before but what was their scorecard? We know and can release their score cards.