For the second time in two months, Nigerians, especially Muslims in the country, yesterday celebrated a Sallah free of bomb attacks. This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari, who is in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State, for the Sallah celebration, expressed appreciation to Nigerians for supporting the federal government’s policies, programmes and actions aimed at improving security, revamping the economy and combating corruption.
Unlike in the past when occasions such as yesterday’s Sallah celebration witnessed movement restriction especially in states in the North Eastern part of the country, residents particularly in Borno State, which was the epicentre of Boko Haram activities for over six years, trooped to worship centres for Eid-el-Kabir prayers, and later retired to different spots in the metropolis for celebrations.
The Eid prayer ground located at Ramat Square in Maiduguri, the state capital, was filled to capacity as worshipers moved in without restriction to observe the annual rite.
Unlike previous years when there used to be restriction of vehicular movement in and outside the city because of the activities of Boko Haram, this year’s Sallah was marked with Muslim faithful going about celebrating without fear because of emerging peace in the state. Demonstrating the return of peace to the state, the governor, Kashim Shettima, alongside the senator representing Northern Borno senatorial district, Habu Kyari and the director-general, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari, were in Konduga local government area of the state yesterday, where they prayed with returnee Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) from the area.
Governor Shettima who expressed excitement over the emerging peace in the state, explained that his decision to mark the Eid prayers outside the state capital for the first time in six years, was to take the message of peace in Borno to the world.
“Konduga is not more important to us than Askira Uba where two Emirs have returned, it is not more important to us than Gwoza which is bigger and more populated, Konduga is also not more important to us than Monguno, Kukawa, Damboa, Ngala, Dikwa or any other part of the state where our citizens have returned.
“We chose Konduga because of proximity to Maiduguri given the fact that some of those working with me need to go back and slaughter their rams which are mostly in Maiduguri and they also need time with their families, while we have other activities scheduled at the Government House in Maiduguri.
“So, Konduga is a mere symbol in this instance which represents all the communities where our people have returned. We are here in solidarity with them, to celebrate the Sallah with them, to strengthen the fact that they are no less important than those who were not affected by the insurgency, to reaffirm our commitment to resettlement of IDPS.
“We came to share this moment with them and to also reassure them that we wouldn’t have allowed them to return to Konduga if it was classified unsafe, this is why we are here with them. We are determined to restore the dignity of our people, to reinstall civil authority, to rebuild their schools, hospitals, markets and homes so they can return to safe homes and I want to reiterate that we will not allow our citizens to return to unsafe communities,” the governor stated.
Also, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Garbai Elkanemi, who observed the two Rakatt prayers with the faithful in Maiduguri, told Governor Shettima when he visited, that he was full of gratitude to Allah for the restoration of peace in his domain. He attributed the peace in the state to the handiwork of Allah and efforts of President Mohammadu Buhari and the Nigerian military, who did everything possible to save lives and properties of the citizens from Boko Haram terrorists who almost overran the state.
The royal father said his visit to the governor was established tradition on occasions such as the Sallah celebration. In Katsina, President Buhari who joined Muslim faithful to pray at the Central Eid Ground in Daura, in an interview with newsmen at his residence shortly after observing the Eid prayer, appealed to Nigerians to show support and understanding with the current federal administration as it works towards national economic recovery.
The president affirmed that the significant successes recorded in the fight against insurgency would serve as an impetus for investment, economic recovery and growth. He said government was also working on policies that would facilitate youth employment and empowerment through private sector engagement and other efforts to boost the capacity of small and medium scale enterprises to create jobs.
The president also declared that patriotic Nigerians had nothing to fear in the fight against corruption as his administration will ensure justice and fairness to all. According to him, those who abuse public trust will face justice in addition to returning their stolen assets to the nation’s coffers.
A statement by the senior special assistant to the president, Media, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as having said: ‘‘We should thank God this year. The report I’m getting, which is very pleasing, is that we will have a bumper harvest this year.
‘‘I want Nigerians to realise that what this government inherited after 16 years of the PDP government was no savings, no infrastructure, no power, no rail, no road and no security.
‘‘Nigerians can see what we have done on Boko Haram and what we are doing to resolve the problem in the Niger Delta.
‘‘Before the elections, we identified three major problems confronting our country. The first is security; we need to sufficiently secure our country to manage it well. The second is economy, especially job for the youths and fighting corruption, which are continuous.
‘‘For the youths, graduates and non-graduates who are interested in agriculture, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the CBN, is doing something to provide employment for them.’’
President Buhari will return to Abuja after the two-day public holiday declared for the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. Meanwhile, the emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, yesterday urged the federal government to ban the export of staple foods in order to make them readily affordable for average citizens in the country.
Speaking at his palace in Katsina metropolis shortly after observing the Eid prayer alongside Governor Aminu Bello Masari, the traditional ruler observed that the exportation of farm produce was fuelling the skyrocketing prices of staple foods due to the government’s ban on rice importation.
Usman enjoined Muslim faithful to intensify prayers so that the country can overcome its present challenges, and challenged Nigerians to embrace farming so as to reduce the over-dependence of the economy on the oil sector.
He expressed confidence that the bumper harvest expected across the North would guarantee food security if the nation’s food exportation is controlled. In his Sallah message, Governor Masari also expressed optimism that Nigeria would soon overcome its economic challenges as it had done in the past.
The governor called on Nigerians to continue to exercise patience with the efforts of the country’s leadership to surmount the diverse challenges facing the nation, and noted that the economic recession facing the country is a phenomenon affecting several nations of the world. The high point of the prayer led by Sheik Sufuyan Yusuf was the slaughtering of a ram each by the president and the Emir of Daura, Umaru Farouk Umaru, amidst cheers from a huge gathering of Daura residents who thronged the Kofar Arewa Eid ground.
Without Sacrifice, We’ll Never See The Nigeria Of Our Dream – Jonathan
Former President Goodluck Jonathan in his Sallah message, yesterday advised Nigerians to put the love of the country above personal interests, saying that is the only way to achieve the “Nigeria of our dreams.” Jonathan cited the example of Ibrahim who was willing to sacrifice his son, saying: “Let us imbibe Ibrahim’s ideals and put Nigeria first in all we do. I salute the Muslim Ummah this Sallah. Happy Eid-el-Kabir. Without self-sacrifice, we will never see the Nigeria of our dreams. And we always think, ‘what about me’ instead of ‘what about Nigeria’.
“On Eid-el-Kabir, we honour Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son. This must teach us that we must all sacrifice for Nigeria’s greatness,” he wrote on Twitter.
Abuja residents blame low-key celebration to economic recession
In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, residents blamed the low-key 2016 Eid-el-Kabir celebration on the current economic recession in the country. A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) who went round some parks in the FCT reports that the usual hustle and bustle associated with the celebration was lacking.
The residents told NAN in separate interviews that the low-key celebration and low turnouts to the parks by fun seekers was because of the current economic recession. At Water Fountain Park, Kado, Mr Dauda Ibrahim, a resident who was there with his children, said the economy was not favourable for elaborate celebration.
“It is no longer news that the country is in recession; therefore, I do not expect people to have elaborate celebration in this year’s Eid-el Kabir celebration,” he stated.
Another fun seeker at the park, Suleiman Mohammed, a civil servant, said he was there with his children to make them feel the joy of Sallah. Mohammed, however, lamented that inflation was on a steady rise and said it had forced people to have a low-key celebration.
“The money is not even there; what my salary can afford some years ago, it can no longer afford. It’s just unfortunate that things are like this,” he said.
At the children’s playground at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Maitama, Malam Yahaya Iliya, who came there with his children, affirmed that there is suffering in the land and thus most people could not afford to buy rams; rather they bought beef for their families. He, however, noted that the most important thing in the Eid-el-Kabir celebration was the act of sacrifice and tolerance.
“We should not allow the hardship in the country to take away our willingness to sacrifice for one another and to live in peace with one another. The current economic situation is unfortunate, but we should be optimistic that it shall be well, and that the country will be great again,’’ Iliya said.
At River Plate Garden in Wuse II, few fun seekers were seen sitting on mats, playing board games. One of the fun seekers, John Oche, a trader at Wuse Market, corroborated Ibrahim and Mohammed’s position; that the celebration was low-key.
“I can count the people in this park; no money, dollar is out of reach and the market is a no-go area because of the daily increase in the price of goods,” he said.
The situation was not different at Magic Land Amusement Park located near the City Gate. Mr Peter Okoh, the manager of the park, confirmed that the turnout of fun seekers to the park was low.