Jude Owuamanam, Olalekan Adetayo and Success Nwogu
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday joined Muslim faithful for special prayers to mark Eid-el-Fitri, the end of the Ramadan fast.
Buhari, however, did not take part in the Sallah prayers at the National Prayer Ground, located opposite the Military Cemetery on Airport Road, Abuja, as it is customary with top government officials.
This year, the President decided to take part in the prayer session at a prayer ground located inside the Mambilla Military Barracks, Aso Drive, Asokoro, Abuja.
No official reason was given for the decision, which a source described as a “last-minute decision.”
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, notable political leaders in the state, were, on Wednesday, absent at the Yidi Prayer Ground, during the Eid-el-Fitri.
Some of the politicians, who were not at the ceremony, included Senate President Bukola Saraki; Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed; Speaker, state House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad; a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Kawu Baraje; members of the national and state assemblies and many government appointees, especially from the Ilorin Emirate.
In Jos, Plateau State, the streets of the state capital and Bukuru metropolis were almost empty as Muslims celebrated the Eid-el-Fitri.
The situation was also compounded by the uncertainty surrounding the actual day of the end of the Ramadan fast.
In Abuja, many people, including top government officials and journalists, who thought the President would pray at the National Prayer Ground as usual, hurriedly left the ground and rushed to the barracks when they finally found out that Buhari would not observe the prayer at the prayer ground.
Buhari was joined at the prayer ground by top government officials, including the Minister of Defence, Masur Dan-Alli.
Security chiefs, including the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Munguno (retd.), and the acting Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, also joined the President’s entourage.
Meanwhile, security was beefed up around the two prayer grounds and other ones across the Federal Capital Territory while the Eid-el-Fitri prayer lasted.
There had been speculations that the Boko Haram sect might carry out attacks during the Eid-el-Fitri.
At the Mogadishu Barracks, along the Abuja-Keffi Expressway, worshippers were seen being frisked before they were allowed access into the prayer arena.
Their cars were also thoroughly searched before they were allowed to park inside the car park behind the barracks’ Mammy Market.
Armed soldiers, attached to the Guards Brigade, policemen and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, maintained visible presence across major areas in the FCT while the prayers lasted.
They were also sighted at major fun spots in Abuja.
Saraki, Baraje absent, Ahmed picks private mosque, worshippers miss prayer
Despite the absence of Saraki, Ahmed, Baraje and Ahmed among many other at the prayer ground, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, and Chief Imam of Ilorin, Alhaji Muhammadu Soliu, however, observed the prayers at the Yidi Prayer Ground.
Speculations had been rife in the state that some people were planning to disrupt the prayers at the venue.
Also some workers in the state, especially employees of the 16 Local Government Areas were said to be aggrieved as a result of the hardship they were experiencing because of their unpaid salaries.
Some miscreants had, last year, stoned and threw sachet water at Saraki and some other dignitaries at the prayer ground.
Also the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Samuel Okaula, drafted 1,500 police officers in Ilorin, especially at the prayer ground and the palace of the Emir of Ilorin.
It was gathered that Saraki, Baraje and Ahmad had travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Lesser Hajj while Ahmed was said to have worshiped in a private mosque in Ilorin.
The ceremony at Yidi ground, which normally commences at about 10am, however, started at about 8.45am, catching many of the intending worshippers unawares.
Those who came later missed the prayers
Sulu-Gambari and Soliu made short speeches before they departed the Yidi ground at about 9.30am.
The Emir, according to a statement by the National Secretary of the Shehu Alimi Foundation for Peace and Development, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, urged Muslims to continue to exemplify the worthy life of Prophet Mohammed and extend such to adherents of other religions.
Sulu Gambari urged Kwara State residents to continue to live in peace and always shun violence.
It was gathered that heavily armed security operatives later escorted the Emir out of the Yidi Prayer Ground to his palace.
The Olofa of Offa, Alhaji Muftau Gbadamosi, in a statement, told Muslims to examine their lifestyles and continue to be steadfast in their relationship with fellow human beings in line with the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the exemplary leadership of Prophet Mohammed.
Gbadamosi said, “As a person, group, society and nations of the world, we need to learn how to take care of the destitute and the less privileged amongst us.
“This Sallah is indeed a very unique one. Its uniqueness is borne out of the fact that it did not only mark the end of Ramadan, but an end to the long-time litigation over my appointment as the Olofa of Offa.”
Residents desert Jos roads
In the Plateau State capital, it was learnt that the residents stayed indoors for the greater part of the day due to fear of violence, though this did not stop some faithful from going to their various prayer grounds.
The ceremonies at the prayer ground were performed peacefully amidst tight security.
Speaking at the Wednesday’s celebration at the Central Prayer Ground in Jos, the Chief Imam of Jos, Sheikh Lawal Adam, said after the fast, Muslims were expected to continue with the good deeds of assisting the less privileged as learnt during the Ramadan.