Ameer Jama’a tu Ta’awunil Muslimeen a.k.a. Ta’awun has been founded in Iwo, Osun State since 1994. But it hit national limelight around 2012 when the Islamic group was linked with providing security for Governor Rauf Aregbesola, an allegation the group stoutly denied while saying, however, that it was close to the governor. About the same time a report by the Director of State Security Service had allegedly linked the group with Boko Haram. The DSS is said to have apologised to the group over the linkage as Boko Haram and Ta’awun are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of their beliefs and objectives. While the original Boko Haram led by Mohammed Yusuf is opposed to Western education, seeing it as evil, Ta’awun believes in education and has in fact established several nursery, primary and secondary school across the South-west. Ta’awun is now celebrating 20 years of its creation and WESTERN POST’s team of OLAOLU BILAU and BIODUN AKANDE headed for Iwo last Thursday to speak with its founder and president, Sheikh Daood Imran Molaasan on the achievements of the group so far, whether it still maintains its relationship with Governor Aregbesola and how the country can combat the menace of the Boko Haram sect, which is getting more virulent in its attacks.
What does Ta’awun means?
Ta’awun is an Arabic word and simply means cooperation. I mean cooperation of Muslims because cooperation gives room for achieving better results. In our movement we lay emphasis on rendering assistance to fellow Muslims and the society at large.
You started this movement in 1994 and you set out to achieve certain goals, would you say you have achieved your major objectives as far as Ta’awun is concerned?
One of the major aims of the organisation is to eradicate illiteracy among the Muslims and we have been able to record a high degree of success in that. We are able to cater for our children by giving them good education right from primary to tertiary school. We have about 35 primary and secondary schools spread across the cities and towns in the South-west and a higher institution where our Muslim brothers and sisters have access to quality education. These institutions were basically founded to equip students with sound Islamic knowledge, high moral standards and also to have knowledge about the Western world. We also advocate justice because we believe without justice the society cannot be in order so whether you are a Muslim or Christian does not matter to us because our own is to fight a justifiable cause and defend what is right regardless of whose ox is gored. Also in the health sector, we have a certain number of hospitals that are purposely created for business and charity.
Apart from working on propagating Islamic ideologies and understanding, we are also fighting corruption in our own way by cooperating with the government and other related government agencies. Therefore, in our bid to fight corruption we found out that we need to participate in politics and that is why we have a section in our organisation handling political matters. Other departments handle education, health, student affairs, charity and social affairs, information, Da’wah, women’s wing and security.
How do you get funds to execute these projects?
As I said earlier we have ventured into several businesses that are generating income for us. Shops both lock-up and open, schools, hospitals, ICT center, printing press and internet radio and TV to mention a few. We are also into farming with many plantations of arable and cash crops, fish farms, poultry farms and cattle rearing are also inclusive. Again, both the weekly and monthly contributions from members also help our organisation financially as we don’t depend on foreign assistance. We are also into construction business as we have a department staffed with qualified personnel that can handle small and turnkey projects.
Are you essentially based in Iwo or have branches spread across the country?
Though our headquarters is in Iwo, we have branches in all the states of the South-west. We have also established presence in some states such as Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and the FCT, Abuja and we have plans to have presence in more states of the federation.
People got to know much about Ta’awun at the time Governor Aregbesola came to power and with your closeness to the governor it was alleged that you were providing security for him. He has been there now for 4 years, are you satisfied with his administration’s performance?
Yes, we are satisfied with his government. But let me correct the impression that we are providing security for Aregbesola. We don’t provide security for him in anyway. We are only assisting the administration in our own way. We have two of our members working with the administration; one as personal assistant and the other as a board member. In addition we have a security outfit that basically provides security for us during organised public procession, public programmes and conferences and they also control traffic during such procession. The only thing is that Aregbesola made use of our security outfit the first time we invited Governor Aregbesola to our programme as we normally do for any personality that we invite for any of our programmes. They will stay with him even right on the podium.
Did your group vote for Gov. Aregbesola this time round?
Yes, we voted for him because he is our brother and we have the trust in him. We did not support the last administration because of corruption. Being a religious organisation, we only believe in justice and equity.
Was it on the basis of religion that you voted for Gov. Aregbesola?
Although being a Muslim is a plus for him but we also believe that he can perform creditably well than others. That does not mean that we are against Christians but we only support what we believe in.
How do you describe your relationship with Aregbesola as of now?
Very cordial. We are still with him but we are calling on the party leaders including the governor to reform the party. Our own is not to work for the party but to support Gov. Aregbesola.
Is it true that you organised a debate for House of Representatives aspirants under the platform of APC in Iwo?
Yes, it is true.
Why did you limit it to APC?
We only started with the APC, our next target is PDP. Let me add this, if the APC leaders refuse to listen to us by carrying out necessary reforms and go by the wishes of the people, I mean by picking the right candidate that people want, we can decide to support the PDP if their own candidate has the backing of the people because we in Ta’awun only support what the majority wants. We listen to the voice of the people before we take our decisions.
In 2012, the SSS linked you with Boko Haram and you addressed a press conference where you refuted that allegation and demanded that the SSS director should apologize openly. Up till now he has not apologised, is the matter now in court as you threatened then?
We actually threatened to go court but he has apologized to Ta’awun and the Governor as well. Linking us with the Boko Haram was mainly political as we don’t have anything to do with them. We told them that misinformation led to the spread of Boko Haram and gave an advice that we can organise large conferences and seminars in cities across the nation to properly educate the people on the teachings of the Holy Quran and the ideals of Islam. Renowned Islamic scholars including myself will be invited to give lectures at the seminars and it will be broadcast live on major television stations in the country. In the light of this, a proposal was sent to the Director of SSS to be able to actualize our objective which he also forwarded to Abuja from where they now advised him to see the governor to deliberate on the matter. And the governor also showed interest but insisted that the whole process should be in collaboration with Ta’awun, but up till now nothing has come out of it. And thank God we have had the grace to be defended by those who have nothing to do with Ta’awun in the likes of the former commissioner of police in the state, the state government and even the state House of Assembly wrote a letter stating that we are a social Islamic organisation concerned with Islamic propagation and charity. I keep saying that Christians and other faithful are not our enemies but friends. It is also on record that we have never had either a murder or arson case. In a nutshell the case has been settled out of court.
From that time till now, Boko Haram has killed many people, maimed many, destroyed many villages and houses. What is Ta’awun’s position on how to stop this menace?
The first step to be taken in stopping the Boko Haram menace is a change of government because we believe that the so called sect has a foreign support. The level of sophistication of their operations in terms of logistics, fire power and finance lend credence to the suspicion that they have sponsors outside Nigeria. We don’t need to wage war against ourselves in Nigeria, what we need is peaceful revolution through votes. We need to have God-fearing people at the helm of affairs instead of putting a round peg in a square hole. Another way to contain Boko Haram is through enlightenment. Conferences and seminars organised by renowned Islamic scholars would afford the people the opportunity to understand the tenets of Islam.
The third way out is for the government to constitute an independent body that would comprise men of high integrity, highly experienced people who have excelled in their chosen professions and most importantly God fearing. It is not even out of place to have some nationals of some countries that have good relationship with us as members of that committee.
What do you mean a change of government?
Yes a change of governement because we believe there are about four factions of Boko Haram. There is the original Boko Haram founded by late Yusuf Mohammed which is no longer there now. There is also the Boko Haram founded by I think foreign bodies and the Boko Haram founded by the government. Some soldiers are believed to be working for this and we must check this.
Talking about the vacant Oluwo of Iwo stool, it was allegedly reported that you posted on your website that the kingmakers in Iwo had picked Alhaji Azeez Adio (Samah) as the next Oluwo of Iwo, is that true?
No it’s not correct; we didn’t mention names. What we said was that the government has commenced the process of choosing the new Oluwo and has narrowed it down to the Adegunodo ruling house where Alhaji Azeez Adio and Pharmacist Femi Adebayo come from. Why we spoke on the matter was to douse the tension being mounted in the town as regards the selection of the new Oba, and also for people to know that the government is seriously working on it.
What advice will Ta’awun give Governor Aregbesola in respect of the vacant Oluwo stool?
We want the selection process to be very fast so that the new king can be installed on time, and the process should also be fair and transparent enough so as not to give room for any form of acrimony or legal tussle that usually follow the installation of a new Oba. Let me also state categorically that we (Ta’awun) would prefer a candidate who has the wherewithal, a person of no mean repute and highly influential to be chosen as the next Oluwo.