Weekly Trust

A mosque for Murtala

One Christian joyfully provided the ceiling for the famous Murtala Mohammed mosque in Edo state.

The Murtala Mohammed mosque at Aviele in Edo state is as popular as the late head of state after whom it is named. No wonder the mosque which sits at a point on the Benin- Auchi expressway, like Murtala Mohammed himself, is still quite popular today, and people speak of a time when it was really famous. At that time they say, and they are  speaking now   of a  moment in the late 70s and 80s,many people travelling  from the north to Benin  or travelling to locations  further  south wards, would stop at Aviele to pray at the mosque. After saying their prayers they would then proceed on the journey. Travellers   going northwards and coming from Benin would also stop at the mosque to pray. It then became a magnet of sorts. This mosque has always been fondly referred to in Hausa as ‘Massalachin Murtala ‘or’ Murtala’s mosque’ Alhaji Auto Audu, a retired principal, tells Weekly Trust that soon after the assassination of Murtala Mohammed, he had a  strong wish to build a mosque in honour of the late head of state . He approached the people of Aviele, and they supported his dream. His words ‘I was driving my car from Ijebu Ode to Lagos. I gave a lift to somebody. Between Sagamu and Ikorodu I started crying. Then the man asked me ‘Alhaji, what’s making you cry?’ I said’ I have a thought and I don’t know how it will materialize. This is why I cried’, I said to him. He now said ‘May your wish come true’.The wish I had was that I had a desire that a mosque be built in honour of late  Murtala Mohammed.I was not having the means to do this.I only had the wish.’He  said that when he returned to Aviele he discovered that his people wanted to build a mosque, and he told them that they would call the mosque Murtala Mohammed mosque.He now  reached out to late Waziri Ibrahim,who  was a good friend of his.His words ‘I now told him that I want him to come to my place ,and lay the foundation stone for the mosque.Waziri Ibrahim said okay that he would come .I thought it was a  joke. We made invitations and he came ,and everybody was surprised.’ He adds that the late Otaru of Auchi supported the project immensely and gave a donation.’ The foundation stone was laid on April 2nd 1976, and we said then that within a year the mosque will be opened .My people cooperated. If I was given a donation of one Kobo, I would bring it to this place. Within one year we were able to achieve it’.
 Alhaji Audu tells the moving story of how a Christian from Uromi provided the ceiling for the entire mosque. His words ‘We now got to the stage of doing the ceiling, but we had no money for this.Then I went to a friend of mine, Mr. Iluobe, a Christian from Uromi  and told him about the difficulty we were facing . He said I should come the next day, and the next day to our joy, he brought the ceiling boards. So, we were able to catch up with the date.’ Again, Waziri Ibrahim as well as many other guests were present at the opening of the mosque. The architecture of the mosque draws from Egyptian sources. Indeed, Alhaji Audu studied in Egypt, and actually returned to Nigeria with a plan for the mosque which had been given to him in Egypt. His words ‘Within six hours they got the plan out for me’. Now, the Benin-Auchi expressway is about to be dualised, and there are fears that the mosque may be affected by this. Nevertheless, the mosque, which has a separate section for women and another upper section for conferences, is still bound to remain as popular as it has always been.

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