By Femi Abbas
For every activity of man that yields successful or unsuccessful result, there must be a history from which others can learn a lesson. Sometimes, it is man that makes history and some other times, it is history that makes man. Whichever is the case, however, the symbiotic relationship between history and man is a confirmation of the fact that none of them can be separated from the other.
There can be no history without man just as there can be no man without history. The genesis of Ramadan Lecture in Nigeria is one historic contribution of Nigerian Muslims to the popularity of the fourth pillar of Islam called Ramadan Fasting. For Nigerian Muslims who are between the ages of 45 and 50 years, it will be noticed that one of the most prominent components of Ramadan month today is Ramadan Lecture. That component which was not in existence before 1985 is so rampant today that most African Muslims can hardly think of Ramadan without Ramadan Lecture. it has virtually become a spiritual phenomenon strongly waxed into the fabric of the sacred lunar month called Ramadan. Whether in Lagos, Sokoto or Calabar or even in Abidjan or Harare or Kinshasha, once Ramadan arrives every year, most African Muslims engage themselves passionately in Ramadan Lecture, either as preachers or as programme sponsors or as audiences.
Incidentally however, the genesis of that phenomenon does not seem to be of any concern to many who see it as just an addendum to the sacred month of fasting. Even when it is an undeniable fact that Ramadan fasting as a pillar of Islam has been in existence for almost one and a half millennia, it hardly occurs to most Nigerian or African Muslims of today, that Ramadan Lecture which began in Lagos in 1985 is Nigeria’s own contribution to the enhancement of the liveliness of the fourth pillar of Islam called Ramadan Fasting.
How did the idea of Ramadan Lecture which many African Muslims are now taking for granted come about? Who were the inventors of this ingehuous idea that has become a global heritage and, what was actually the role of Bashorun MKO in this historic invention?
How Ramadan Lecture Started
The world is dynamic, not just intellectually or religiously but also environmentally.
Its dynamism varies from time to time and from place to place. The tendencies for that dynamism are what have perennially constituted the accessories of human progress. This is not peculiar to a period in history or a section of the earth in the geography of the world. Without such tendencies, the rapidity of human progress would not have probably been in synergy with the propensity of man to surrender to the unquestionable might of Allah.
Perhaps, nothing gives more glamour to the month of Ramadan in Nigeria today than Ramadan Lecture. But only a few people know that the idea of that concept emanated fortuitously from a probing question once raised by the late Alhaji Saka Fagbo in 1984. It was the needed answer to that question that prompted the actualization of that concept to the amazement of most old cadre Muslims.
The whole story started with the gathering of some brothers, including the late Alhaji Salam Fagbo, Alhaji Mojeed Sofola, Alhaji Abdul Kabir Ayomaya. All the three were then staffs of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). And, yours sincerely from Concord Newspaper was in that accidental gathering. At that occasion, Alhaji Salam Fagbo raised an inquisitive question that germinated into what came to be called ‘Ramadan Lecture’ in 1985.. The group was later to be joined by Alh. Abdur-razaq Gawat (also of NTA).
Venue of the Episode
The episode took off from the Channel 7 branch of Nigerian the NTA, Tejuosho Street, Surulere, Lagos. where Alhaji Fagbo was then the General Manager.
The question that sparked off the glorious idea went
as follows: “What can we do to give seasonal happiness to Nigerian Muslim children that would be similar to that of Christmas Carol which Christian children enjoy in December every year?” Ater some hours of deliberations on that challenging question, the brothers harmonized their thoughts and concluded that festive happiness could not be limited to children alone saying such an Islamic programme would be more beneficial to all and sundry if it was well packaged with Islamic knowledge and intellectualism. To give the new idea a befitting publicity, yours sincerely was mandated to brief the then Baba Adini of Yoruba land Bashorun MKO Abiola who was also the publisher of Concord Press. At that time, yours sincerely was also Abiola’s Special Adviser on religious Affairs). After briefing Bashorun Abiola, I also advised him to take up the sponsorship of the proposed programme. As expected, Bashorun Abiola did not only accept to sponsor the programme, on television and radio stations in Lagos State, he also voluntarily offered to be the permanent sponsor Tafsir on radio and television stations throughout the 30 days of the month of Ramadan every year in all the Southwest States plus Kwara and the then Bendel states, for as long as he was alive.
Bashorun Abiola’s historic acceptance to sponsor that programme became the catalyst for the mobilization of Muslim groups and communities in the southwest of Nigeria where Ramadan lectures were being organized. And, with time, the idea of organizing Ramadan lecture was adopted in other parts of the country and thus became a National affair that some other Countries in the West African Sub region started to emulate.
Today, Ramadan lecture is like a summer rainbow beautifying the Islamic Sky across the Continent of Africa in the sacred month every year.
First Ramadan Lecture
The very first Ramadan Lecture in Nigeria was delivered by the late Alhaji Abdus-Salam Olatunde at the main auditorium of the University of Lagos. Thereafter, some other Muslim philanthropists joined the train by organizing and sponsoring similar programmes during the month of Ramadan.
The innovation called Ramadan Lecture is a further confirmation that the real bastion of propelling Islamic religion in Nigeria is in the Southwest, particularly Lagos. It should be recalled that some of the most prominent Islamic organizations in Nigeria today, such as the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Ansar-ud-deen society of Nigeria, Anwar’ul-Islam society of Nigeria, Naiwa-rud-deen society of Nigeria, zumratul Islamiyyah society of Nigeria, NASFAT, Fathu Quareeb, FOWMAN, The Criterion, The Companion and many others emanated from Lagos.
It is our prayer that ALLAH should preserve the souls of those who have died among the innovators Ramadan Lecture as well as the originators of the above mentioned Muslim organizations and grant them everlasting bliss while guiding the only living one amongst the inventors of Ramadan Lecture towards further progressive efforts in projecting Islam in Nigeria.