Today, Wednesday, May 12 is the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month in the Islamic calendar. It marks the beginning of Eid el Fitr, also called ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’. It comes up at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. In the spirit of the festive season, the Federal Government has declared today and tomorrow public holidays.
A press release by Dr. Shuaib Belgore, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Interior, quoted the minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as calling on “all Nigerians, at home and abroad, to use the period of this year’s Eidul-Fitr celebrations to pray for peace, stability and economic transformation in the land.” It said Aregbesola noted that “development cannot thrive in a rancorous atmosphere,” and so, he urged “all Nigerians to be law-abiding and embrace the spirit of love, self-discipline, kindness and tolerance, as taught by the Holy Prophet Mohammed” (Peace Be Upon Him). He also called on all security agencies to be more courageous and patriotic to surmount the ongoing battle against resurging insecurity and activities of criminal elements.
The minister assured that the resolve of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to end the scourge of crime and criminality in the country and restore peace to every nook and cranny of Nigeria was “sacrosanct”. He said, “This administration will not be deterred in its efforts until every Nigerian and resident of the country is free to move around without fear of any threat to his/her life and property. We are, therefore, putting necessary measures and strategies in place to strengthen the stability of the country as well as ensuring economic prosperity of our dear nation.”
In normal times, the Eid is an occasion for celebration, characterized by feasts and general merrymaking by both the old and the young. Indeed, the first three days of Shawwal are spent in celebrations. For the young, in particular, it is an occasion for a fashion parade, when they strut in their new fineries. For them, no Eid el Fitr is complete without donning brand new attires to impress one another and the ‘competition’. Sadly, at a time when all Muslims should be cheerful, they are not. The mood is somber, no thanks to the Covid-19 global pandemic that has killed over two million people across the world. The death toll is rising by the day. Nigeria’s infection cases have overshot140,000, with over two thousand deaths. The silver lining is that more than half of infected persons have recovered fully and rejoined their families. However, the signs are all very clear that the Sallah day celebrations in the country, in general, but the North specifically, may never be the same again for a long time to come.
In spite of this new global public health challenge, we urge the Muslim faithful to not give in to fatalism but do their part in the fight against Covid-19. This requires that everybody conforms to the safety protocols given by the health authorities. It also means that our Muslim brothers and sisters pay more than perfunctory attention to what Eid el Fitr requires of them. This is an occasion for honoring God and serving humanity.
As we bid farewell to the holy month of Ramadan, let us welcome Eid el Fitr with a renewed attitude of gratitude and forgiveness in our hearts. In particular, we should strive to inculcate the lessons of the month in ourselves and give peace a chance in our dear nation. We want to use this opportunity to once again call on our leaders to change their ways of doing things and put the nation first and always in both their deeds and utterances. We wish all Muslims in Nigeria happy Eid celebrations.