The Sokoto Caliphate and Kanem-Borno Empire were in a very significant warm embrace as a single brethren bound by the bond of the Islamic faith last Friday when the 20th Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, commissioned the Maiduguri Central Mosque completed during the reign of the 20th Shehu of Borno, the present Shehu, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Kanemi.
The idea to demolish and reconstruct the old Maiduguri Central Mosque, which used to be a small unattractive Islamic worship place not befitting the historic status of Borno in the history of Islam as well as the fast growing city of Maiduguri, was mooted during the military administration of Col. Abdulmumini Aminu in Borno State in 1986.
It was immediately, thereafter, demolished and the reconstruction of the present modern 15,000-capacity beautiful edifice and learning complex commenced. The construction of the new mosque, Daily Trust Saturday learnt, scaled several ‘unsayable’ myths and administrative hurdles over the last 33 years.
At last, it has been completed and commissioned, standing elegantly right in front of the Shehu of Borno’s Palace, adorning the heart of the city.
It seems significantly reminiscent of Shehu Laminu’s (Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Kanemi, the 29th Century founder of the Shehu dynasty in Kanem Borno) remarkable commitment to the cause of Islam and the sustenance of a reformed Islamic domain in the Central Sudan.
The present Shehu, Abubakar Garbai Al-Kanemi, the 20th Shehu, is a descendant of Shehu Laminu, the first Shehu.
The mosque was designed as an Islamic resource centre with 10 classrooms, two libraries, one of which is an electronic-library, media centre and other offices while the prayer halls have 37 air conditioners, 34 ceiling and standing fans, as well as 28 Soffit fans. The mosque also has 90 ablution points,18 conveniences, eight water reservoirs, a dedicated transformer and two standby generators.
“The idea initially mooted was to maintain the old one within the context of the new one designed, but the architects advised against that, and, therefore, the construction of the new one, as you saw it commissioned, commenced,” Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, one of the major facilitators of the Mosque construction told Daily Trust Saturday.
The erstwhile Nigeria’s ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China narrated the story of the new Mosque. “A committee was immediately constituted in 1986 by the then Military Administrator, Col. Abdulmumini Aminu, for the construction. Most of the members of that committee are now late, so I need not mention their names. You can only say, may their souls rest in peace,” he said.
“So, in 1987, when I was the Chairman of Monguno Local Government Area, we were told to make personal contributions and plead with the business community to do so towards the construction of the new mosque; and that was how contributions began to be solicited all over, and to flow in towards the cause of the mosque.
“I was also prominently involved in the affairs of the mosque in 1997 when I was the Secretary to the State Government and Head of Service,” he continued, recalling, “that was when I was opportuned to plead with the then President Sani Abacha through his son, Mohammed Abacha, to assist in completing the mosque; consequently, Abacha sent us N50 million for that purpose.
“But the mosque was still not completed, because Allah had not willed that it would be completed at that time; again, when I served as SSG during the tenure of former Governor Ali Madu Sheriff, I could recall that he also made substantial contributions to the reconstruction of the mosque,” Amb. Jidda recalled.
“However, most significant contributions leading to the completion of the mosque came during the tenure of the present Governor Kashim Shettima. I was also the SSG before I resigned and before I resigned, I was involved in processing requests for contributions.
“I can recall that Governor Shettima and I had always been discussing the embarrassing situation of a mosque remaining uncompleted for over 30 years when even individuals can construct mosques in a matter of months. We saw no reason whatsoever why the Maiduguri mosque could not be completed after such a long time.
“As SSG, I worked on the memos concerning the mosque, and I advised the governor generally on how to get people to support the construction of the mosque without necessarily taxing public resources; at last, it has been completed and commissioned.
“Governor Kashim Shettima and the present Shehu of Borno deserve congratulations. The completion and commissioning of the mosque has broken the myth attached to the mosque that once it is completed, the Shehu, during whose reign it is completed, will die. The present Shehu, who us the 20th Shehu of Borno has, therefore, broken that myth, because it was completed and commissioned during his reign,” observed.
Amb. Jidda warned against politicising the construction of a mosque pointing out that after all, the person who started the construction of the mosque (Abdulmumini Aminu) hails from Katsina State, not from Borno.
“So the construction of the Mosque began without any politics, and it should, therefore, end without politics.”
Sultan Abubakar III, and the Shehu of Borno (who is custodian of the mosque), both showered encomiums on Governor Shettima for putting an end to 33 years of waiting.
“Borno is indeed lucky to have Governor Shettima especially at challenging times because he has proved more than capable of weathering the insurgent storm. He understands the needs of Borno people and certainly completing this mosque touches the heart of many citizens” the Sultan said.
On his part, the Shehu described Shettima as a true leader and one that will forever be remembered and celebrated by the people of Borno.
Governor Shettima said his administration intervened to meet a peculiar need of a majority population in the state: “Governance is about addressing basic needs and some wants that are peculiar to every society since all societies have their peculiarities.”
The state Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Mustapha Fannarambe said the secret behind completion of the mosque was Governor Shettima’s multiple unscheduled visits to site as that placed all workers and supervisors under pressure of meeting deadline. “The Maiduguri Central Mosque is tastefully built with the best standards. All facilities at the mosque are of reputable quality and they have been subjected to quality and functionality tests most times on the orders of Governor Shettima” Fannarambe said.