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*Nigeria: Fasting Without Tears In Sokoto State
By Amiru Adamu
O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation.( Soorah al-Baqarah: 183) Fasting during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims all over the world observe Ramadan fast as a religious obligation upon them, so as to please Allah (the most High) and to earn His blessings and rewards. They abstain from food drinks and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset with the intent of worshiping Allah and earning His pleasure, drawing practical lessons and gaining spiritual experience in forbearance and self-restraint from indulgence in legitimate pleasure for certain time. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat).
In Sokoto the month of Ramadan, means a free Breakfast for the less privileged for 30 days. The Ramadan feeding programme of the Sokoto state government came into being at the inception of the present administration. The programme was introduced as a government policy in 2007, and is being coordinated by the ministry of Religious affairs in conjunction with the state’s ministry of social welfare.
On coming to power in 2007, the Aliyu Magatakarda led administration of Sokoto state, introduced the Ramadan feeding programme to demonstrate its commitment to human development and welfare.
Under this programme the state government assists several thousands of people with free food in a bid to easing the difficulties which many always encounter feeding themselves during the fasting period. The month of Ramadan, survey has shown, normally witnesses scarcity of foodstuffs, which always results in the poor segment of the society finding it difficult to break their fasting appropriately. The food scarcity, survey, has equally shown usually results from the unscrupulous activities of some people who hoard the food items with a view of maximizing profits at the expense of the less privileged. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria showing its 36 states (including Sokoto State), and Federal capital (Abuja or FCT)
Before the coming of the Magatakarda administration, the practice had been for the government to earmark huge sums of money for the provision of Ramadan food items in the name of the less privileged, but it eventually ends up in the houses of the rich and privileged, class of the society who usually don’t need the gestures, leaving the poor class who really desire the assistance in the lurch.
Indeed, the present revolution began in 2007, when the present administration decided to use the money earlier earmarked to as usual, take care of the few privileged people in the state, to feed about 500,000 people during the 2007 Ramadan period. The positive response from the people encouraged the administration into expanding the programme in 2008 with a budget of 120 million as against the initial budget of N 70 million in 2007. 2009 and 2010 witnessed a rise in the budget of the programme which resulted in the increase of the feeding centers from 70 to 120, cash providing centers inclusive.
To improve on the programme owing to its positive impact, the administration last year (2011) decided to further expand it to the 23 local governments of the state. Each local government was instructed to establish two pilot feeding centers and a total budget of N 118 Million was provided for that purpose. This year (2012)N160million was made available for the Ramadan feeding programme.
To ensure sanity and transparency in the distribution, the feeding committee created more feeding centers to further decongest the existing ones. In addition, certain mosques, Islamic schools, hospitals and prisons are also being used. The aim is to ensure that the food gets to the right people and avoid a possible hijack by a few people.
Though one is not out to hold brief or campaign for the Magatakarda administration, it equally makes sense to first and foremost salute the courage and good sense of justice shown by the administration in making the programme a populist one. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State
Like earlier stated, before now, the rule had been for successive administrations in the state to provide such food items as rice, cooking oil, milk, sugar etc. for only a few privileged people who already have more than enough. This in most cases led to many, especially the poor skipping fasting because they were not sure of how to break the fasting at the end of the day. And even when some decided to participate they usually did so with so much pains and hardship with many always besieging the homes of the few privileged to pick crumbs.
Besides, the programme should be praised by all sincere and committed Muslims, because it is in tandem with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h and Islam. Although the holy prophet was known to be generous during his life time, it is on record however that he showed more generosity during the holy month of Ramadan and in the process promoted one of the cardinal points of Islam which is the act of giving out freely especially to the needy.
By focusing on the welfare of its people, during the Ramadan period and beyond, the sokoto state government in all ramifications has kept faith with its avowed policies of developing the people and implementing a Shari ‘a governing system in Sokoto state. To those who believe that Shari’ a is all about the amputation of Arms, stoning of adulterers to death and flogging, Sokoto state's example has given a food for thought. And to those who pretend about implementing Shari ‘a, and end up using it to achieve some political goals, sokoto state has shown the way forward. Similarly to those whose faith in Islam has been shaky, due to oppression, suppression and deprivations, the sokoto state example should reassure them.
The Sokoto state Ramadan feeding programme has improved the economic activities of the state, for all food items used by the programme are purchased within Sokoto. It has also improved harmonious coexistence within the populace as people from all walks of life irrespective of tribe; religion or political affiliations break their fast at the same place, thus promoting peace and tolerance amongst the populace. Amiru Adamu is the publisher of Northern Wind Magazine.
Amiru Adamu is the publisher of Northern Wind Magazine.
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