The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has been accused of reportedly earmarking the Muslim ‘Id praying ground situated at Bodija, Ibadan for the construction of a recreation centre.
The alarm was raised by an Islamic human rights organisation, Muslim Rights Concern, in a statement on Friday.
In the statement, titled: “Has Makinde Seized Bodija Muslim Praying Ground?” the human rights group sought to know the true position of things and asked the Governor to clarify his government’s stand.
The statement, signed by the group’s Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said: “Reports reaching us indicate that the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has allocated the Muslim ‘Id praying ground situated at Bodija, Ibadan, for the construction of a recreation centre. As a human rights group dedicated to the promotion, projection and protection of Allah-given fundamental human rights of Muslims, it is natural that we will be worried.
“But even in spite of our concern, we are careful not to create tension and this informed our careful choice of words and caption. We are asking the Oyo State governor if it is true that he has allocated the only ‘Id praying ground being used by Bodija Muslim Community for the construction of a recreation centre. It is our right as voters and citizens to interrogate the actions of government. Afterall probity and accountability are basic principles of democracy.
“Governor Makinde should note that religion is a very sensitive thing and any issue that may trigger controversy is better left untouched by governments. In particular, converting a place of worship where Muslims call on Allah to a recreation centre where fun seekers manifest all kinds of lewd, obscene and vulgar profanities sounds more like mocking Islam.
“Nay, it sounds more like telling Bodija Muslims and, by extension, Muslims of Oyo State in particular and the Nigerian Muslim Ummah in general that they are insignificant. This may depict insensitivity to the religious feeling of a large proportion of the Nigerian population. It should not happen at a time when Nigeria is trying to get all hands on deck to nip the current spate of insecurity in the bud.
“The governor may also like to note that Muslims of Bodija and environs have been using this spot for ‘Id prayers for decades without interference from any quarter. Neither should it be assumed that the spot is not being fully utilized or that it is a once-in-a-year affair. The Muslims use it for other purposes apart from ‘Id prayers. These include, but are not limited to, Muslim family picnics and Muslim trade fairs where Islamic wares are displayed and new initiatives, innovations, skills and ventures of Muslim youths and those of Muslim women in particular are displayed.
“Every Muslim community in Nigeria has its own praying ground where ‘Id prayers are observed and other Islamic activities take place. These open spaces provide avenues for open enterprises unlike the enclosed and restricted atmosphere in the mosque. Bodija Muslim praying ground is no exception.
“Governor Makinde should mark our words, Bodija Muslim praying ground has become sacred land and converting it to any worldly use is sacrilegious. We say this with all seriousness. No man seeking heavenly guidance and protection will challenge the Creator of all things, both living and non-living, by seizing the very property on which His Name is called.
“In addition, it is our hope that we are not witnessing a systematic, well-rehearsed and gradual elimination of Islamic landmarks in Oyo State. It was not long ago that a mosque in Iwo Road was marked for demolition by the same administration. It caused not quite a little stir. If that was mere happenstance, is the seizure of Bodija Muslim praying ground a coincidence, a declaration of hostility or an enemy action?
“More importantly, the Muslim Rights Concern is concerned about the fate of this coming ‘Id prayer in the next 72 hours in Bodija. We are not sure where Muslims residing in Bodija and environs will observe this year’s ‘Id prayer coming up on Tuesday, 20th July, 2021. Are we sure that policemen will not be drafted to the spot before the arrival of Muslim worshippers on that day to make it impossible for Muslims to make use of the praying ground?
“The governor needs to assure the teeming Muslim population in the area not only that this will not happen but that reports of the allocation of the Muslim ‘Id praying ground for the construction of a recreation centre is not true. Mr. Governor sir, don’t try to buy time because there is no time for sale. Bodija Muslims are warming up to roll their mats on the spot in 72 hours. To be or not to be? That is the question begging for your answer. Will Bodija Muslims be allowed to pray on the usual spot in two days time? Or have you seized Bodija Muslim praying ground?”