When the Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOY) put out the press release titled “WHY WOULD YOU SHUT DOWN MOSQUE IN OYSADA, AN OYO STATE GOVT AGENCY, DR. DEBO AKANDE?” it came as a shock to many. The description of the Director-General of OYSADA, Dr Debo Akande, as “anti-Islam” and a despot who unilaterally decided to “stop Muslims from obeying the command of Allah,” runs contrary to everything that OYSADA stands for and represents.
While Oyo Affairs will not spend so much time dissecting this press statement, it is important to clarify the circumstances that led to the OYSADA leadership requesting that the praying areas used by both Muslims and Christians at the agency be discontinued. We have deliberately used the phrase “praying area” because to describe the structure used as a “mosque” is demeaning.
As can be seen in the pictures, the building is dilapidated and is not fit for use. These were the major considerations that led to the temporary closure of these areas.
Whereas contrary to what was presented in the statement, separate rooms were provided and assigned for prayers to Muslims and Christians.
Speaking on the matter, a staff of OYSADA who spoke on conditions of anonymity stated that after returning from the pandemic break, they met the toilet in a deplorable condition, the stench was so bad that they had to restrict the use of the worship centres as well as the storage facility.
He said, “The plan was to quickly renovate the place, so that we can go back to using them. But as I speak to you the file is still being processed.” He continues, “We have been living together in peace. Some people want to just aggravate the situation to suit a narrative”.
Also, Mr Fajimi, the former Director of Administrative Services at OYSADA and a Muslim who was privy to the meetings held with members of MUSCOY said there was no plan to keep the area permanently closed. He said the temporary closure as communicated to the leadership of MUSCOY was to enable needed rehabilitation to be done.
In his words, “there was no plan to leave the place permanently closed. [Dr Akande] said the place will be re-opened after meeting with management. [MUSCOYS] should have reported exactly what happened and not present this story the way they did. People should always try to find out the true situation before they begin to tell stories.”
So contrary to what is being touted, neither the Director General of the Agency, Dr Debo Akande, nor any members of the agency are anti-Muslim, nor have they taken any actions that would lead to the vitriol that is being poured out against them. It is simply a case of a misunderstanding of a matter and then blowing it out of proportion in order to stir up emotions.
Come to think of it, if he is anti-Muslim for “closing a mosque”, is he also anti-Christian? Surely, if one religion was being exalted above the other, the Christians would be allowed to continue using their space while Muslims were stopped.
Interestingly, Alhaji Dawud Makanjuola Akinola the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta States, who has waded into the matter, saw the need “to ensure the hygienic and pious worship by Ummah, by commencing “the construction of modern toilet facilities for the OYSADA mosque.” If there was nothing wrong with the facility, why would they want to expedite repairs?
It is worthy of note that Dr Akande, who is being accused of being anti-Muslim, attended Islamic Mission Primary School, Bode Ibadan, after which he attained a Diploma in Islamic Studies to deepen his knowledge of the Islamic faith. In his previous role with the British Council, he designed a major project on climate and faith where he worked extensively with His Eminence Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and the President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA); Sheikh Dr. Qaribullah Sheikh Nasir Kabara, the spiritual leader of Qadiriyya Sufi Order in Nigeria and West Africa; and Christian leaders like Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Prelate of the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria and other similar faith leaders across 12 countries in Africa. Similar to many families in Oyo State, although he is a Christian, Dr Akande has relatives that are of both faiths.
While this is election season, it is important that the good people of Oyo State resist any attempts to use issues of religion to divide and polarize us. Governor Seyi Makinde has always maintained zero tolerance to religious discrimination, and it is these very tenets that everyone in his administration, including Dr Debo Akande, has strictly adhered to.