After the customary thirty days of fasting, Muslims in Nigeria joined their counterparts in many parts of the world last Sunday and celebrated the festival of Eid el-fitr, marking the holy month of Ramadan. Islam provides that the fast is observed until the thirtieth day if the moon of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is not sighted on the twenty-ninth of the month of Ramadan.
As the injunction requires them to do, Muslims in the past four weeks have lived a life of moderation and self-denial, reframing from negative conduct and other acts that run contrary to the teachings of the Islamic faith. Ramadan, as usual, is a period when Muslims seek closer ties with Almighty through diverse acts of worship that include charity work, recitation of the Qur'an and observance of prayers at night.
The end of Ramadan should however not mean an end to the virtues of benevolence, good neighbourliness and tolerance which in the last one month characterized the private and public life of Muslims. The exhortation to share with others during Ramadan even the little that was available to them is an entreaty to eschew selfishness, greed and covetousness, which are evils that have continued over the years to hamper the development of the self and the Nigerian society. Similarly, people should not consider the end of Ramadan as opportunity to return to old habits. With the end of this year's Ramadan, celebration of the eid el-fitr should be done in moderation as a practical expression of its lessons.
Nigerian Muslims should on the occasion of this year's eid el- fitr pray for their leaders to be guided to the right path, and be imbued with the wisdom and the capacity for good governance. The leadership of the country has repeatedly let the nation down in critical times. The eid el fitr is a period for leaders to reflect on the state of the nation and strive to fulfil their obligation of making the living conditions of Nigerians better than what it is at the moment. Leaders should lead by example and be sensitive to the aspirations of citizens to a decent life, good education for children, clean and portable water, improved and affordable power supply, and good prospects for employment, especially of graduates and skilled workers.
Those entrusted with power should exercise it for the common good of the people they lead, which in specific terms should translate in to the provision of basic amenities and infrastructure that will improve their general living conditions. Further in the spirit of the season, Muslims should uphold the virtue of peaceful co-existence with adherents of other faiths and re-commit themselves to the pursuit of religious tolerance.
Persons and groups in the country who feel aggrieved should seek redress through non-violent means. The resort to violence only destroys what has been built, and cannot be a good way, or even an option, to express grievances. It also behoves on the government to explore all non-violent options in dealing with the current security challenges in parts of the country.
It is a fact the that the Nigerian constitution provides for freedom of religion and for Nigerians to freely observe their religious duties; but it is regrettable when government functionaries, including senior officials, abandon their official duty posts at a particular period of Ramadan to perform umrah, or the lesser-hajj, in Saudi Arabia. Such expensive trips could have been separately undertaken at different times within the thirty-day period of Ramadan to as much as possible minimise disruptions to government business.
It is Nigerian's prayers that this year's should be a hitch-free celebration. We wish everyone barka da Sallah.