Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State stormed the Ado Ekiti Eid praying ground on Friday, September 1 in full Islamic regalia – with a turban and a tesbih (rosary) to match – and joined thousands of Muslims to observe the Eid-el-Adha prayer. However, many prominent Muslim scholars, including Sheikh AbdurRahman Ahmad, Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafii, Professor Lakin Akintola and notable Islamic organisations faulted his action.

They described the move as not only highly sacrilegious but unduly provocative – constituting a mockery of and a grave insult to Islam.

However, the Governor, who is a Christian, justified his move, saying: “I got elected by everyone’s vote. Choice of religion is free. As a leader, appearing in Muslim regalia with a turban is to say that I must be part of everything the Muslims do and make them realise we are all one family.”

As if that was not enough, the Governor, who recently declared his intention to run for President in 2019, dared the Muslims again. He appeared in another Muslim attire to observe the last Solatu-Jumah (Friday prayer) in congregation with the Muslim faithful, as part of the activities lined up to celebrate his third anniversary in office. As usual, he “prayed” on the first row, directly behind the Imam, like he did at the Eid-el-Adha prayer.

What are the implications of these actions? In case the Governor did not know, the front row he occupied, both in the mosque and at the praying ground, is not meant for ordinary Muslims, much less non-Muslims. According to the Shari’iah, it is meant for the scholars and knowledgeable ones – preferably the Huffadh (memorisers of the Noble Qur’an) – who are learned enough to correct the Imam should he make mistakes during Salah (prayer).

The continuous flagrant violation of Islamic rulings and etiquettes of the mosque as well as the Eid ground by the Governor is worrisome. It is an indication that the Ekiti Muslim community has gone to sleep or pretended as if all is well. They might also be afraid to tell him the truth to avoid embarrassment. Without doubt, anyone who knows the peculiar mannerisms of the Governor, his usual disposition to wise counsel and his antecedents will think twice before attempting to admonish the self-styled “Oshokomole”. Ekiti Muslims will not forget so soon how the Governor unabashedly treated the revered but fearless Muslim cleric, Alhaji Muyideen Ajani Bello earlier this year (March 25) at a prayer session organised by Ansar-ud-Deen Islamic Society in Ado-Ekiti.

Multiple media reported how Mr Fayose verbally attacked the cleric, who advised him to be more cautious in his public utterances as the Governor of the State. Though the Governor was subsequently appeased to leave the venue, having already performed his role, he bluntly refused all entreaties, an action that led to a three-hour disruption of the programme.

What exactly does Governor Fayose want from Ekiti Muslims? From all indications, he has no relationship with Islam. His wife is a devout, born-again Christian and he has consistently shown his disdain for Islam and Muslims with his appointments and policies, and displayed unapologetic disrespect for the sanctity of the mosque. One would wonder what the mystery behind his unholy romance with the Ekiti Muslim community is, when they have suffered and are still suffering under his administration.

This is the man who has been accused of humiliating and marginalising Muslims since he assumed office as the Executive Governor of the State in 2014.  For instance, close to the 2015 Eid-el-Adha festival, the Ekiti State League of Imams and Alfas issued a communiqué, where they alleged that Muslims were grossly marginalised in his administration, and called on the Muslims in the state not to accept the ridiculous Eid rams or food items from him. Sadly, the poverty-stricken Muslims defied the order, and rushed for the Governor’s Sallah rams and other gift items as part of his “stomach infrastructure” agenda.

The Governor also threatened to demolish mosques built within the premises of petrol stations in Ekiti. In fact, his boys were about to carry out the threat before the matter was laid to rest following interventions from Muslim leaders and organisations in the Southwest. It will also be recalled that the same Governor, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, kept criminal silence when some touts who disguised as masquerades attacked fasting Muslims in an Ekiti mosque with dangerous weapons. They vandalised the mosque, cars and properties worth millions. Till date, the blood of the innocent victims spilled in the holy month is still begging for justice!

Many are however insinuating that Fayose’s sudden show of love and affection for the Muslims might not be unconnected with his Presidential ambition. Like every other Nigerian politician, the Governor is trying to redeem his battered image by impressing the Muslims with his pseudo-religious costumes, which have earned him condemnation rather than praise. His Muslim/Hausa-inspired campaign poster with the caption “Shugaban Najeriya Insha Allah” shows that he means business, though many see him as a joker and pretender who might end up contesting for the Senate.

Whichever way, I can only wish him well in his quest. However, it is pertinent for the Governor to realise the need for him to respect our religious beliefs and obey its rules. Even if he must visit our places of worship, he should desist from playing politics with our religion.

Suratul-Kafirun (Q104) was explicit about this issue. Allah instructed the Prophet (peace be upon him) to tell the unbelievers: “I do not worship what you worship nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”

According to Surah Tawbah (Q. 9: 17), Allah said, “it is not allowed for the Mushrikin (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) to pray and worship Allah in the mosques, or to look after their cleanliness and their building, while they witness against themselves of disbelief.

Allah continues in verse 18 that, “the mosques shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, perform the Salah, give Zakah and fear none but Allah. It is they who are on true guidance.”

In a multi-religious country like Nigeria, it might not be easy to stop the Executive Governor of the State from attending religious or ceremonial services in the mosques. Or how do you tell a desperate Mr Fayose; “Your Excellency, you are not allowed to pray in a mosque” without consequences? This is a man who allegedly sacked his media aide because he failed to organise adequate media coverage for the controversial Eid-el-Adha prayer he (Fayose) attended.

In all situations, the truth of the religion must be established and its rules obeyed even if non-members of such religion detest it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the best Jihad (striving on the Path of Allah). He replied, “Speak the truth even in the face of a tyrant.” The Muslim community in Ekiti State has a big role to play in educating the Governor. There is nothing wrong if the Governor decides to celebrate with them during their festivals or other days, but he must abide by the etiquettes of the mosque and other rulings guiding the Islamic religion. He could as well join the congregation after the Salah might have been completed.

In my in-law’s town, Aran-Orin, Irepodun area of Kwara State, their King, (a Christian) does celebrate the Islamic festivals with the indigenes yearly. As a sign of love, he attends the Eid prayers with his Chiefs, but they do not observe Salah (prayers). They sit on their separate mats and watch the Imam as he leads thousands of Muslims in prayers and delivers the Khutbah (sermon).

Let Aran-Orin serve as a model for Ekiti and other states.

– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”. Email: [email protected]


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