Celebrating Eidul Fitri With Concord Reminiscences

23 August 2012

By Abdulwarees Solanke

Selamat Hari Raya Aidul Fitri: this is how the Malaysians, Bruneians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malays in parts of Thailand greet one another during the eidul fitri which is celebrated more elaborately than any other festival of Islam in those places. Ramadan spirit in those places was simply exotic. Opportune to experience Ramadan in the South East Asian region brings back the memories of Ramadan while the Concord Group existed. Every day was somehow festive in the late MKO Abiola's newspaper empire.

Starting full journalistic professional life in the dead Concord Group, how can I forget the memorable years of that institution founded by the late MKO Abiola. The Concord Group was where many made their names and influence, where many reached their fame and never floundered since; where many met their spouses and have built happy homes; where many struck their gold and remain in wealth; where many nurtured their faith and accepted their fate in life. In Concord, I met the best of my Muslim brothers, the most of my christian counterparts that we became friends, the league of my liberal colleagues with whom I share thoughts and ideas and one of my Marxist mentors who gave depth to my writings. At a time like this, Ramadan in the Concord years, we had no differences. We were just one family.

I still think of Liad Tella's everyday iftar in the concord years. Nobody was excluded from his sizzling hot ogi and moinmoin courses. I still think of Tunji Bello and Kunmi Olayiwola's gifts of bags of rice to Abdulfattah Oladehinde and my humble self; I can't forget Victor Ifijeh and sam Omatseye's fun and banters that we all fasting even when they had just finished plates of amala and ewedu; Kayode Komolafe, the Marxist in the house comes as a colleague with some smattering knowledge of Muslim values and practices and will not shy from asking you any question on Islam just as he compares Islamic humanism with the socialist welfarism. He also proudly tells you he possesses a collection of Islamic literatures, a gift from someone. The best of Kayode Awobadejo's management and organizational wizardry comes on display during Ramadan in the Concord. Dr. Hamidat Doyinsola Abiola becomes the Iya Adinni in Ramadan, donating the largest amount to the purse of the Muslim Community to host the sumptuous Iftaar in a banquet style. Between Tunji Bello and Liad Tella, I don't know who is the next largest donor, but Engr. Mudathir Abisoye, the Chief Engineer is the one who reaches out to all top management staff including Mrs. Kalejaiye to put something down twards the joint Iftaar.

Ramadan is usually a lively period in our Concord years. We were sure of holding two joint iftars in the newspaper house between the second and third weeks of Ramadan; we were sure of iftaar invitation to abiola's Crescent, off Toyin Street to break fast with the Bashorun and that was not for Muslim workers alone.

When Ramadan is in the air in Concord, everybody becomes extremely charitable, not minding your persuasion by creed. Everybody becomes Islamized in the salaamu alaekum, Ramadan kareem Greeting. Everybody looks for the best greeting card to give, whether Muslim or christian agnostic.
During Ramadan in national Concord and during our joint iftaar, it becomes a sin, and you could make enemies as a Muslim, if you forget to send a plate of the food we share in the masjid to your non Muslim colleague. It means you are partial and an extremist.

Pastor Segun Babatope, a frontliner in the Dr. William Kumuyi led Deeper Christian Life Ministry and chairman, editorial board would never assign an editorial commemorating the commencement or conclusion of Ramadan to anyone who does not understand the values and beauty of Islam or who would preach hate and division. He finds the best hands in the house to write such beautiful and colourful editorials that preach peace, harmony and brotherhood in Ramadan or any of the Muslim eids.

Femi Adesina, a leader in the Foursquare Gospel Mission, then Features Editor, before becoming deputy editor and ultimately the editor was always very sensitive to showcase Ramadan as a month of love and plenty, dedicating handsome features pages to Ramadan. Shola Osunkeye on the Weekend Concord would go places outside Lagos, giving scintillating reports on how Ramadan is turning many local economies and lives around. He would write reports on those who may be excluded from the joys of Ramadan to ginger others to do something to give them joy. Taiwo Ogundipe would go out of his place to discover muslims in entertainment whose soulful music will mellow hearts and wake them for Sahuur. Ramadan in Concord was always special.

Twelve years after the crash of the concord newspaper with no one to reassemble the wreck of that glorious newspaper whose 20 year existence between March 1980 and the end of Year 2000, is still unmatched in the Nigerian Newspaper industry, I still think of the unity in diversity and brotherhood in differences that Ramadan enhances.

The nearest I have had of such fulfilling experience in Ramadan is the one I tasted in Brunei Darussalam while undergoing my graduate studies in public policy at the country's premier university, UBD. Every night of Ramadan was a banquet. The next two or three weeks after Ramadan in the country are always spent in a grandeur of feasting nationwide in each family declaring a Open House. I intend sharing with you that experience in a feature I title Open Houses of Bandar Seri very soon if the time and space permit on this page.

Meanwhile, if concord were still I were I were writing on its pages as I am here now, I would have been giving you the details of the greeting contents of Ramadan cards from my christian friends and counterparts, my dear Muslim brothers, my Marxist mentors and liberal colleagues like Natty Nat Osewele who would have bombarded me with all fancy, colours and designs of cards, screaming RAMADAN KAREEM! As we celebrate conclude the fasting of Ramadan, I am also sending a deafening shout out of Selamat hari Raya Aidul fitri to all whom I have walked the journalism path in the last 25 years. NEITI's Waziri Adio is one. Olusegun Adeniyi is another. Dr. Akin Adesokan who started with the Guardian as a youth corps member serving in Yola in 1990 when I was the dan jerida Concord and Wakilin Abiola there also deserves my eid greetings as well as Aliu Muhammed, Yomi Idowu, Ayo Aluko-Olokun, Goke Odeyinka and Tunde Fabunmi, all very fine journalist of the Concord fame.

AbdulWarees Solanke, Head, Voice of Nigeria Training Centre (Transmitting Station, ikorodu), Lagos, studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos and Public Policy at the Universiti Brunei Darusslam and writes viakorewarith@yahoo.com , korewarith@voiceofnigeria.org



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