Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Wednesday approved the Hijrah public holiday for Muslim faithful in the state following the persistent clamour for it by the Muslim community.
Hijrah holiday, which signifies the commencement of the Islamic New Year, has its origin in the migration by Prophet Muhammad in 622 ce, from Mecca to Medina upon invitation in order to escape persecution.
Governor Makinde, in his address at the 2021 Mawlud Nabbiyy, held at the Government House Remembrance Arcade, Agodi, Ibadan, the state capital, on Wednesday, said the declaration of the holiday was in response to the demand by Muslims for annual public holiday.
The programme organised by the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Alhaji Makanjuola Akinola, was attended by the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; the Chairman, Muslim Community of Ibadan and former President, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, Chief Bayo Oyero; the Chief Imam of Ibadan, Sheik Abdul-Ganiy Agbotomokelere; wife of former governor of the state, Alhaji Mutiat Ladoja; former Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu; and wife of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaja Bose Adedibu.
The governor said, “There are two major things that I will like to address here today for the record; first, holiday for Mawlud celebration. Some people said Seyi Makinde did not want Muslims to be celebrating it. Last year, we missed it.
“When the Special Adviser on Islamic Affairs came to meet me that for this year, even despite the COVID-19 and few restrictions, that it would be nice for us to do it. Then, I gave him the go-ahead.
“The first file that was brought to my table, the date was close before the file got to me. Immediately I saw it, I called him and I said we should pick a date that would allow us to give enough notice to our religious leaders for them to turn up. This is the reason we picked today.
“I said to him that it would be better for it to be late than for us not to mark it at all. But now, we know what is right, and the promise is from this point forward, we will be celebrating it when we suppose to do it, and when it is being celebrated across the globe.”
“Second, you asked for holiday for Hijrah. Some people said that the public holiday had been declared in the state before our administration came to power but this administration cancelled it. I have travelled across the globe, I remember that there was a time that my assistant then, who has become a great man today, Alhaji Akeem Azeez, was in Hajj. Then, I was flying from Dubai to Kuwait. I told him that we were flying through the border of Saudi Arabia.
“So, when this issue of Hijrah came up, I asked them that in all these Arabian countries if they do observe public holidays for Hijrah. I asked few questions too. Why is it not a national holiday? Is it that some people are trying to play politics in Oyo and Osun states? Are they doing something that our religion mandates us to do? I also asked questions in line with the four major pillars of this administration, which are health, education, security and economy.
“If you look at our economy, we anchor it on two pillars. The first one is my Special Adviser on Economy, Prof. Musbau Babatunde, and the person in charge of Oyo State Investment Promotion Agency, Segun Ogunwuyi. One of them is a Christian and the other one is a Muslim. I called them and asked if the public will take us seriously if we declare many public holidays and we want our economy to grow. I said if at every opportunity, we declare public holiday, will the public take us seriously?
“So, some suggestions and discussions came up on whether we should continue with it or not. But we could not conclude and we continued with the discussion. But today, since it is the Aare Musulumi that asked for it and you our clerics, you kept silent; it is like you approved of the demand. Well, you put the government in power and what you want is what the government should do. So, from this point forward, we too will be observing Hijrah as a public holiday in Oyo State.”
The Aare Musulumi and other Islamic clerics who spoke on the occasion expressed heartfelt joy on the development, describing the governor as the right person worthy of the exalted seat in the state.