Reply To Punch: Aregbesola’s strange holiday in Osun

I read the above captioned editorial in your PUNCH edition of Tuesday November 20, first on-line and later on page 18, of that edition and I have the following observations. You claimed that the decision of the Osun state government to declare Hijrah holiday for its over 50 per cent Muslim population in the state…”
New Editor
November 22, 2012 3:00 pm
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Hijrah fireworks in Osun

I read the above captioned editorial in your PUNCH edition of Tuesday November 20, first on-line and later on page 18, of that edition and I have the following observations.

You claimed that the decision of the Osun state government to declare Hijrah holiday for its over 50 per cent Muslim population in the state “was odd and totally uncalled for”.

Interestingly, you quoted Public Holidays Act, which empower a state Governor to declare a public holiday in a state but you put a caveat that: “such powers should not be used to further religious interests”, but can it be used to further political interests?

Mark you, Public Holidays Act (PHA) chapter 378 recognises declaring public holiday on “New Year Day”, not January 1, but New Year Day.

In the said editorial, you also stated that “Interestingly, many predominantly Muslim states do not even have public holidays for Hejira”, this is wrong and not correct as Iran , Malaysia, and some states in Nigeria like Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara do declare public holidays for Hijrah.

You may also wish to go to Israel (the origin of Christianity) and complain to Benjamin Netanyahu on why Sunday, Christmas day, 1st January, Easter, etc are not declared Public holidays? As you claimed about Saudi Arabia not declaring public holiday for Hijrah.

Aregbesola acted within the law and if the PUNCH Management thinks otherwise, Court should be the option rather than writing a strange editorial.

Another misinformation and a wrong mind set in the said editorial is what I termed the wrong definition of the word “Secular”.

You stated “and what was the fortuitous holiday meant to achieve in a secular society like Osun”,

There is no such society or state in Nigeria. Nigeria is a multi-religious state and not secular. Secularism means a state without any religion or a system of social teaching which allows no part for religion.

In as much as I am not speaking for Osun state government nor the Governor as I have no such power or affiliation but your claim that Aregbesola “false optimism that his frivolous holiday “will promote religious harmony in the state” falls wide of the mark”, is unfair on the Governor nor the state, as there was nothing wrong in giving a holiday to the Osun worshippers to be able to worship their deity. This to me is the spirit of religious harmony.

I am aware that the Ijebus do have Ojude Oba celebration on the third day of Ileya celebration in Ijebu-Ode, if such day falls within Mondays to Fridays; the Ogun state government usually gives a work free day with the Governor in attendance to mark it.

The editorial also claimed that “Already, Nigeria is known for too many holidays. Excessive public holidays cause productivity slowdown and set the economy back”.

In as much as this statement seems to be considerate, a friend from Saudi Arabia sent in this while writing this rejoinder that “Saudi Arabia gives 10 days each as holidays during the Eid-el Fitr and Eid-el Adha. 15 days before and after, yet that did not affect its oil production and supply and we have not heard that OPEC has been disturbed by it.”

Another friend from Malaysia wrote: “When will Nigerians have large hearts to see clearly for eyes cannot do it! So if Saudi doesn’t have it, we must not, then let’s copy Saudi to the letter, Saudi weekend is Thursday and Friday, lets embrace it.

Saudi women cover, lets embrace it, etc.

Moreover, we had Hijrah day as public holiday in Malaysia. Funny enough, Tuesday (Nov. 13) was Deepavali holiday for Hindus while Thursday (Nov. 15) was Hijrah holiday for the Muslims.

When will Nigerians have large hearts to see clearly for eyes cannot do it!

I doubt if any country has holidays for religions as Malaysia withThaipusam and Chinese new year holidays for Buddhists, Deepavali for Hindus.

To crown it all, all states in Malaysia have Saturday and Sunday as work free while only Melaka spend weekend on Thursday and Friday.

All these rapport and accommodating values exist among Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist citizens of Malaysia till this 3.26pm Tuesday, 20/11/2012 (Malaysian time)’’.

Malaysia, I learnt, has about 13 National Holidays and variety of other holidays at the state level and this does not disturb its economic advancement.

Also, Dominican Republic as listed below has 17 holidays in a year and it has nothing to do with her economic development.

Dominican Republic

1 January – New Year’s Day
6 January – Dia de Reyes (Epiphany)
21 January – Dia de la Altagracia
26 January – Duarte Day (Juan Pablo Duarte)
February – Dominican Carnival
27 February – Independence Day
24 April – Viernes Santo
1 May – Labor Day and Ascension Day
22 May – Corpus Christi
Last Sunday in May – Dia de las Madres
Last Sunday in July – Dia de los Padres
16 August – Dia de la Restauración (Restoration Day)
24 September – Dia de las Mercedes (Mercedes’ Day)
6 November – Constitution Day
5 December – Discovery Day Commemorates the arrival of Christopher Colombus
24 December – Christmas Eve
25 December – Christmas Day

For want of space, I will like to recommend this site to the Punch editorial team on the list of holidays country by country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_holidays_by_country

In Nigeria, however, States like Kano, Sokoto on Thursday Nov. 15, 2012 declared work free day to mark the new Islamic year 1434 A.H in the states while Niger and Zamfara declared half-day. Cross check this with your correspondents.

Nigeria Public Holiday Act recognises New Year as public holiday and such, it must be declared for both Muslims and Christians being the two major recognised and predominant religions in Nigeria.

To Muslims worldwide, January 1, is not their New Year, but Muharram 1, which coincided with Thursday Nov. 15.

So, what Governor Rauf Aregbesola has done was to encourage religious harmony and peaceful co-existence in the state in accordance with the law which other Governors in the country should emulate.

When the Federal Government declared May 29, as Democracy Day and some states especially in the South West declared June 12, as their own Democracy Day, the Punch editorial did not see that as odd and championing regional or political interest?

Why is it that anything that has to do with religion, especially Islam, we hypocritically pretend as if it does not exist?

Religion is already part of us and cannot be exclusively in the private realm in this country as appointments, elections, public gathering, pilgrimages, education curricula, mode of dressing, praying and speaking are part of our life.

I am of the opinion that Gov. Rauf Aregbesola and his executive council team should be commended for their pro-activeness as against this strange editorial on a matter that the state has constitutional right over.

Even, before he became Governor of Osun State, I have seen and read Aregbesola identifying with the Osun worshippers and Christians in Osun state. So giving everybody in the state its due, will not only promote peace but religious harmony among the adherents of the faithful.

I don’t know of any state or country that goes into crisis as a result of public holiday as alleged in your strange editorial that Aregbesola’s fairness in Osun was capable of causing religious mayhem in the state.

You wrote: “The abusive manipulation of religious causes has to stop. Osun State should not be turned into a new centre of full-scale religious extremism in the country’’

This definitely is provocative and itself capable of causing disaffection among the people of Osun state who are not complaining.

As media practitioners, I think our judgment on all issues should not be biased, tainted, subjective and coloured with political undertones. It must be factual, accurate, fair, objective, educative and corrective.

Thanks.

Abdur-Rahman Balogun

Chairman, Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN)
[email protected] (08052729751)
Plot 570 Jikwoyi-Karshi road, Jikwoyi,
Abuja.

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