The Executive Chairman, Agege Local Government area of Lagos State, Alh. Ganiyu Kola Egunjobi recently made the headlines for leading a team of the council officials to shut down a mosque in the area where worshippers defied government’s ban on congregational worship amid the coronavirus and viciously attacked officials of the State taskforce on the pandemic. In this interview, the Council Chief recounts the incident and speaks on other sundry issues.
You led a team of your council officials to shut down Agege Central Mosque two days after the officials of the Lagos State government Taskforce on COVID-19 were attacked by worshippers at the mosque where over 300 worshipped in contravention of government’s order. How did you go about it to the extent there was no crisis?
To set it right, the said mosque is not Agege Central Mosque as widely reported by the media, it is Hausa Community Mosque, better known as Moshalashi Alhaja. It was an unfortunate incident that if we had let go and failed to rise up to the occasion as a grassroots government it has dire consequences, which would hurt public policy in a great deal.
It was quite appalling, a clear breach of government’s order, and to add insult to injury they attacked officials of the State Taskforce on COVID-19. We all know the state government has the capacity to deal with the situation but because mischievous bigots, ethnic jingoists and misguided elements among us may seize the moment to fuel the crisis, so it required local solution and so we stepped into the breach. And what did we do? I had to meet Sarkin Hausawa, and other stakeholders before we moved to the place, chased everybody out of the mosque, fumigated it, which I personally did and locked it up.
Two days after that exercise, the state Commissioner of Police also led a team of his men to shut down two mosques in the area, generally what would you say is the level of compliance in Agege?
It is a disservice to deodorise the level of compliance with government’s orders on social distancing and congregational worship in Agege. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, there is only a case of coronavirus victims in Agege but this is not to say that we are doing the right thing.
Structurally, habitually and traditionally, we are very communal with substantial population of several Nigerian tribes and nationals of our West African neighbours, such as Burkinabe, Malians, Senegalese and Ghanaians. We are a confluence of West Africans and the way we roll is at variance with social distancing. So the council’s job is well cut out for it.
Most people here are of the view that only the rich contract coronavirus and don’t give a shit about all our sensitisation efforts. We are trying to disabuse their minds of the erroneous belief but we can only try.
Long before the lockdown was imposed, immediately after the news of the index case broke, the council have been carrying out aggressive sensitisations across all the nooks and crannies and stakeholders but the compliance is nothing to write home about.
I do tell those who insist on having religious gatherings and congregational worships that we cannot be more catholic than Pope. Pope suspended all religious ceremonies from catholic mass to funeral in Vatican.
The grand zero of Islam, Saudi Arabia, the authorities called off all-year-round lesser hajj, Umrah, suspended congregational prayers of all forms and shapes in all the country’s mosques except the Grand mosque, Haram in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina where there are strict restriction on the number of worshippers while prayer outside the two holy mosques are prohibited.
In this prevailing situation in which we are viciously attacked by a common enemy in the form of a deadly virus, it is unkind to be politically correct and I took exception to what Governors Aminu Masari and Yahaya Bello have done in Katsina and Kogi respectively by lifting ban on congregational worships.
My wish and prayer are that the Lagos State government should scale up enforcement during the Ramadan fasting which is scheduled to commence in less than two weeks’ time.
I’m not a nominal Muslim, I practise, but no religion not even Islam subscribe to suicide or attempted suicide. We cannot continue to press the self-destruct button in the name of worshipping God.
COVID-19 has adversely affected the economic conditions of the average person, what is your council doing to mitigate this situation among residents and business owners?
Surely, the global economy is a candidate for recession with fear rife that the recession may surpass that of 2008.
In Nigeria, already we are seeing sign of things to come. The federal government had rethought its budget in line with reality, Lagos is mulling review of hers to be in tandem with the reality on ground and all these will cascade down. Like I do tell people, we are in the middle of a war.
However, the council is on a mission to ensure that life goes on in Agege. We have continually embarked on sensitisation on the deadly disease and the place of personal hygiene and social distancing in curtailing its spread. We are carrying out fumigation exercise across the community and have provided several palliative measures to ensure the indigents in our midst are not totally foodless.
Three days back another token effort was made to support indigent families with 400 50kg bags of rice, 150 50kg bags of beans, 600 2kg bags of Semovita, 150 bags of garri, and 100 gallons of cooking oil shared among them. The leadership of Community Development Associations were tasked with the distribution of the foodstuffs.