Say first mosque in Rivers was built in 1896
Over 120 mosques And Islamic Schools in Rivers
Okafor Ifiebor/ Port Harcourt
Muslim groups, led by the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs also known as Jama’atul Nasrul Islam, JNI, have taken on Governor Nyesom Wike over his repeated claims that Rivers is a Christian state
While faulting the claims of the Governor which they described as inconsistent with the oath of office of taken by Wike when he was sworn in as Governor, the Muslim groups also noted that Muslims have been in Rivers State since 1896 when they claimed the first mosque was built in the State.
“I repeat once again without apologies, Rivers is a Christian state. That is why nobody can touch us. When it mattered most, the Christian community prayed and God heard your prayers. I will continue to support the activities of all churches. This government will always partner the churches, whatever the programme they are engaged in. I urge the church to continue to pray. Each time you pray, put us in your prayers,” Wike said at a crusade organized by Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Ministries in Port-Harcourt, recently adding that he owed no one apology for saying so.
The Governor repeated this at the 2019 Election Victory Thanksgiving Service in his honour and Deputy Governor Ipalibo Harry Banigo by all the Anglican Dioceses of Rivers State at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Port Harcourt held yesterday, 7 July.
He said: “I want to use this medium to thank the Church for their support. It is important for us to realise that but for the support and prayers of the Church, we wouldn’t have attained victory. I heard that some people are angry that I declared Rivers as a Christian State. With what happened on March 9, 2019, it re-emphasised my conviction that Rivers is a Christian State. Nobody can intimidate me into changing my position.”
While faulting the claim, the spokesman of JNI, Mallam Ibrahim Aselemi, in a statement said: “The leadership of JNI has borne these utterances of the Rivers State governor with philosophical patience; hoping he will realize his errors.
“But the latest outburst by the governor has become a source of worry to the Supreme Council because we believe the statements are divisive, Islamophobic, undemocratic, unconstitutional, inconsistent with his Oath of Office. They are, to a large extent, hate speech.”
Also, the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisation in a statement said the governor’s assertion that Rivers state is 100 per cent a Christian state is not correct as its lacks both historical and the reality on ground.
The state secretary of National Council of Muslim Youth organisation and the President National Association of Ikwerre Muslims, (NACOMYO), Alhaji Akaraka Abu Ibrahim Asuru stated this in a statement signed by him on behalf of the organisation.
He said ‘’Governor Nyesom Wike’s recent statement that Rivers state is 100 per cent a Christian state was very unfortunate and goes a long way to show that the Governor does not possess the historical knowledge about the existence of Islam in the state. For the purpose of clarity and better understanding, it is pertinent to go into archive.
Alhaji Akaraka revealed that, ‘’There was the presence of Islam and Muslims in the state before the creation of Port Harcourt 1912. Even when Major Galway visited Elele in 1896, Mr A.B. Harcourt whose name was used in naming the present city of Port Harcourt, reported the presence of Muslims at Elele in large number. History has shown that Elele Central Mosque, being the oldest mosque was built before 1896.
He added that, ‘’Chief Dikko who was the leader of the Muslims was appointed by the Governor General, sir Frederick Lord Lugard as a warrant chief of Ikwerre Native court of Appeal that sat at Choba.
“Among the early converts to Islam were some natives from Ibaa and Elele in 1902 which include not limited to such persons as Musa Banwo, Suleiman Otopo and Musa Wokah.’’
‘’The above historical fact apart, it is rather startling to hear the governor make claim under reference in the face of over 120 mosque and Islamic schools in River state some of which are under the Imam-ship of Rivers indigenes.
‘’The above fact is just but a little insight into the falsity in the rather distorted claim without delving into the presence of other religious group within the state.”