In 2010, the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State Area Unit under the leadership of Alhaji Qasim Badrudeen moved the yearly Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) to its Human Capital Development Centre (HCDC) permanent site at Noforija, Epe. The decision was welcomed by its members, whose efforts had been thwarted repeatedly by the Lagos State policy banning the use of public schools for social functions.
The student body was jolted by the unprecedented and historic move, no thanks to former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s eight years of anti-Islamic policies, which made it difficult for religious institutions to access government-owned schools for their educational and spiritual programmes.
Paradoxically, the Muslim community of Lagos State lost hope completely under the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola, whose Muslim name is Raji, meaning Hope or Hopeful. His reign saw, among others, the demolition of mosques, introduction and implementation of the cremation law, as well as compulsory autopsy for every corpse – practices that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Islam – and the ban of the Hijab on school uniforms – a move that was challenged by the Muslim students’ body and Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) at the Lagos High Court and Appeal Court.
What an irony, what an antithetical scenario; losing hope under a nominally hopeful personality.
As a regular visitor to the IVC, I witnessed many of these ugly events as they unfolded. The unwholesome disposition of Mrs. Sarah Sosan, the then Deputy Governor, will forever linger in our collective memory and shall never be forgotten by Muslim students. In 2009, Sosan unceremoniously revoked the approval already granted to MSSN Lagos by the Lagos State Ministry of Education to use the Lagos State Model College, Badore for its IVC, barely three days to the commencement of the programme. Allah in His infinite mercies provided Queens College, Yaba as a ready alternative, albeit, not without excruciating efforts.
So, when the decision to move the male delegates to the HCDC permanent site finally came the following year (2010), it made a lot of sense. Apart from the continuous denial from the hostile authorities, an average of N500,000 regularly spent on securing of venues could be diverted into developing MSSN Lagos’ 10 acres of land at the Human Capacity Development Centre (HCDC), Epe.
I saw the beautiful master plan of the HCDC, which comprises a mosque, a functional library, classrooms, dormitories, a multipurpose hall, an administrative building, vocational training centres, recreational facilities, and clinics. When completed, it will serve not only the members of the society, but the entire community of Epe and environs.
In 2015, the female members of the society joined their male counterparts for the first time at the HCDC for the centenary edition of the IVC, which held simultaneously at the MSSN B-Zone Permanent Site on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The IVC was also held at the MSSN A-Zone IVC in the North. MSSN has members across the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The HCDC–IVC Challenges
After about eight editions over eight years, delegates at the just concluded 104th edition of the IVC, held between December 23, 2017 and January 1, 2018 were of the opinion that no significant structural developments have been recorded on site. They argued that the only visible structures are the toilets/bathrooms and the utility building, consisting of about five offices.
The general atmosphere of the venue during the camping programme, which held during the harmattan period, was barely conducive for delegates from secondary schools, higher institutions and the working class, who made huge sacrifices to attend the spiritual, social and moral classes of the IVC. They left their comfort zones to sleep in tents and on mats in search of knowledge, which, according to Islam, is mandatory for all Muslims.
“Many of us already made up our minds before coming (to camp). We knew the situation of the camp structure-wise, hence, we’ve prepared ahead”, some of the delegates said. Others admitted that the IVC afforded them the opportunity of sitting to learn from renowned Muslim scholars, many of whom they watch on TV or listen to on radio.
In his response, the Amir of MSSN Lagos, Dr. Saheed Ashafa, said, “To us, there are lots of developments. We are moving and progressing, though the pace is slow.
But to the delegates, there is no progress and I quite agree with them because they haven’t felt the development.
“For instance, between last year and now, we have laid the foundations of our kitchens, we have also laid the foundation of half of the mosque structure, which will contain 5000 delegates at once, among other infrastructural developments. These gulped huge resources, but the delegates will hardly notice them. Hopefully, insha Allah, before next year’s camp, we shall have good stories to tell”, he said.
The Chairman, Planning Committee for the HCDC project, Engineer Kaamil Kalejaiye, while speaking with INDEPENDENT said, though the project is to gulp N1.2 billion, about 10% of the fund that has been expended so far was secured through the members’ contributions.
According to him, “We have completed 50% of the foundation of the 5000-capacity Multipurpose Centre/Masjid. The next step is to complete the filling of the foundation and fixing the slab, stanchion and rafters, roof and block wall. We will also work on the toilet extension and female dormitory, among others.
“Our patronage of businesses in the area also impacts the community. For example we bought over 10,000 bags of sachet water; some sachet water companies do not sell this amount throughout the year”, he affirmed.
The Spiritual Side of IVC
The theme of the 2017 IVC was ‘In the Shade of the Qur’an’, and no fewer than 50 Muslim scholars spoke on different topics. Sheikh Isma’eel Busayri spoke on ‘The Greatest News’, Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafi’i on ‘Life of the Unseen in the Shade of the Qur’an’, Sheikh AbdulFattah Thanni on ‘The Key to a Happy Home’, Ustadh AbdulGaniy AbdulHadi on the Tafsir of Q. 2: 178-181 and Ustadh Sa’eed Salman on ‘Al- Qur’an: The Source of Civilisation’, among other prominent Muslim clerics such as Sheikh Thawban Adam Al-ilory and Ustadh Sulaiman Adewuyi, the Mudeer, Markaz IbaduLlah.
For most delegates, one of the high points of the camp was the joint Singles Seminar (for Brothers and Sisters) anchored by a seasoned marriage counsellor, Alhaji Sulaiman Dhikrullah, with the topic, ‘Nikkah: Between Facts & Fallacies’. A session for married couples, titled: ‘My Home: Between Fantasy and Reality’, which had panellists such as Imam Abdullahi Shuaib, Hajiyah Musliah Ajala Shuaib, Hajiyah Lateefah Muh’dAwwal and Hajia Bushrah Alli proved to be another interesting event.
According to the Society’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Miftaudeen Raji, the delegates were divided into Da’wah Class I, II and III, with dedicated time for Adhkar (supplications), Mua’yasha, and Qaariyatul Arabiyyah – the Arabic Village, where Arabic was the exclusive language of communication. There were both separate and joint sessions (brothers and sisters) for all categories, from secondary school students to undergraduates and other categories. The kids, The Future Leaders (TFL), were camped at a conducive venue within the neighbourhood, due to their peculiar nature.
Dr. Ashafa and Engr. Kalejaiye called on the delegates to endure and assist in mobilising funds, assuring them that there would be significant improvement before the next camp (December 2018).
“I call on our members at all levels to be patient with us. We want to assure them that before next year’s camp, we would have put in place befitting structures, especially now that the foundation is in place. We believe that, if we all work at the pace with which we have worked at the beginning, especially in the aspect of fund generation for the lofty project, there shall be befitting structures for not only the delegates, but for the officials as well”, they assured.
Reaching Out To Corporate Organisations/Government
It is therefore important for corporate organisations to extend their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to religious institutions, the same way they have shown unflinching support for the entertainment industry. In doing so, they will be contributing to the educational, moral and spiritual development of youths in various institutions in Nigeria.
They can do so individually or partner with the Lagos State government or Epe and Eredo local governments to provide additional infrastructural facilities such as classrooms, toilets, hostel buildings and good roads that will connect the centre to the community. More important is the provision of electricity, in order to reduce the money spent on fuelling generators.
If Lagos State government can sponsor and pump tax payers money into Eyo festival and Lagos Fiesta for years, they should also show support for student organisation programmes such as the IVC-HCDC project, to bring about a sane, crime-free and corruption-free society. Apart from the April and December IVCs, the MSSN also organises the Holiday Training Course (HTC) and other youth-oriented and educational activities.
In conclusion, it is high time the Muslim organisations rebranded their laudable programmes and reached out to government and corporate brands for the successful execution of their laudable activities. They must move beyond the traditional way of seeking sponsorship for their projects. Thousands of Halaal (lawful) establishments exist. Establishments such as telecommunications, non-alcoholic drink, food and beverage companies budget millions of naira for corporate sponsorship of different projects, but it is left to the Muslim organisations and Muslim student bodies in particular to search for such opportunities and make the best use of them.