Alhaji Abubakar Orlu is the vice president-general of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), in Rivers State. The octogenarian is the South-South and South-East Muslim leader and coordinator of JNI in the South-South zone. In this interview with TONY JOHN, he speaks on the alleged demolition of a mosque in Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt, and governance in Rivers State.
As a elder statesman and renowned Muslim leader, what can you say about the allegation that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, demolished a mosque in Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt?
That is a fabricated allegation. Those who fabricated such news to cause problem in Rivers State, or attack a section of other tribes and religion, God will not be with them. All the prayers they are praying against Governor Wike will not work. They accused him of demolishing a mosque, which mosque? Even as a Muslim, I know where we gather to pray is a prayer place of God. That matter started with former Governor Chibuike Amaechi. He destroyed a structure there when he was in power. That time, they went to court against Amaechi; I am not interested in the owner of the land but, that time, Amaechi said the land belonged to government. After their case, according to them, Wike came and told them that they could not put a structure there because it was government land. That is the claim of two of them (Wike and Amaechi). What I am saying is that there was no mosque on that land and Governor Wike did not demolish any mosque. Wike loves the Muslim community in Rivers State and it would be very unfair to accuse him of demolishing a mosque that never existed. Instead of them to say that they were stopped from erecting a structure, they accused him of demolishing a mosque. Now, if you go to the site, one would ask why didn’t the governor demolish the three-room building behind, which, according to members, is the Imam’s house? The so-called mosque, if at all there was any, was not up to DPC level. There was no DPC. When there is no DPC, what then did you destroy? Did he destroy the ground? Is the ground the mosque? And Alhmadulilahi, everything is there for one to see. If you go there, you will see the pillars. They were the pillars removed during the time of Amaechi, over six years ago. In real sense of it, nothing concerns Wike and his government because that problem didn’t start with him.
As a Muslim, what do you think the people that circulated the allegation want to achieve?
They want to achieve hatred between the Christians and Muslims, especially in Rivers State. They know that this is a very sensitive issue. It can cause serious disharmony and hatred in the country. It cannot pay them anything. I am the leader of Muslims in the state today. Nobody has done what I have done. I was turbaned in 1982, as a Muslim leader. I have certified documents in respect of that from the then Sultan, as the leader of Jama’atu Nasril Islam. Supreme Council is political. What I have done today, since I took over the mantle of JNI, no Muslim has done it.
What is your reaction to the threat by the Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje, to sue Governor Wike over the alleged mosque?
All of them, especially the Kano State governor, do not have knowledge of what they are saying. They only believe in the propaganda given by their people. It is not good for us to practice religion and live on propaganda. It cannot help the country. Anything they like, whether as head of state or President, to pray, God will not answer their prayer because Wike did not demolish any mosque. If they come here to see what they are calling a mosque, putting in newspapers and social media, they would mind what they are saying.
What is your advice to the state government in this matter?
Before that, in the first place, who can you go to to get a building approval plan? Have they shown you their approval plan? Can you enter somebody’s land and start constructing a building with approval? It is not done that way. My advice to the Muslims all over the world that are interested in this matter, because the news has gone viral, is, if the governor has said no, if it is government land, we have to appeal to him. I would not be happy to see a mosque being destroyed, because I am a Muslim. If Wike destroyed a mosque, a worship centre, I would ask him why. But he didn’t do that. It is very unfortunate that the Muslims have taken the matter too far. Even though they have tarnished the image of the governor and the Rivers State Government, I can still appeal to the governor, if the land belongs to government, he should allow the Muslims to apply to build on the land. It will not be by force. It is the governor that can say yes or no.
So, who are they that want to destroy Governor Wike’s name and the state?
Let me tell yu why they want to destroy his name. This thing started during the time of Dr. Peter Odili as Rivers State governor. When government would appoint the Pilgrims’ Welfare Board, and allot slots for intending pilgrims, the so-called chairmen, they have a group among them, would sell all the seats to non-Rivers State Muslims. They would sell the seats meant for Rivers to other states. The first, second and third years of Governor Wike, he allotted seats to Rivers State Muslims. After processing all the documents, reaching Abuja, they would sell all the seats to others, and the people behind such acts did not how the governor secured the vacancies for them. Let me ask you, if you are the governor and seeing the money go in such a way, won’t you see it as a waste? Is the Pilgrims’ Welfare Board a place to make money? It is not. That is one. Two, They go to Government House every Sallah. He would give them money for Sallah festival. Two persons would take that money away and share. That is money for Sallah visit.
Looking at Wike’s governance, how would you assess him?
No past civilian governor has worked like Wike. The only man that I can compare to Wike is Diete-Spiff, the former military administrator of old Rivers State. He had the state in mind and he worked for the state. That is exactly what Governor Wike is doing. He has done one thing or the other in all the LGAs. But it is quite unfortunate this set of people do not see anything good in the governor. The area the governor needs to concentrate on now is the construction of the four flyovers he announced. Anybody criticising cannot achieve anything.