It was a peculiar mess (apologies to the late Ibadan stormy petrel politician Adegoke Adelabu) in Iwo, state of Osun, last Monday February 3 when two groups of students of the Baptist High School, Iwo, appeared at the schoolâ€™s morning assembly dressed in differing religious apparels over and above their state-prescribed school uniforms- the Muslim girls with their hijab and the Christians in coloured choir robes.
It didnâ€™t stop at that. The Christians, it was reported in at least two national newspapers, began singing their Alleluias whilst the Muslims chanted their Allau-akbars. The ensuing cacophonous hullabaloo overwhelmed the school authorities that had to call the state ministry officials for help.
The peculiar mess got more peculiar two days later when yet some other students suddenly appeared in masquerade outfits ostensibly as their own religious identity. O dear!
The Monday incident, as was the succeeding Wednesdayâ€™s, was clearly reactionary and instigated by those within the larger community angry and unhappy with the stateâ€™s OK for the Muslim students to wear the hijab in a supposedly Christian school.
The grouse against governor Rauf Aregbesola had piled in the hands of religious and political adversaries. The Baptists have been the most vociferous and antagonistic of all Christian orders for reasons lodged in history. And that Baptist High School, Iwo has repeatedly spearheaded revolt against the governorâ€™s educational policies of late, beginning with the school mergers and reclassifications. Then the most absurd same uniform for all state schools business.
The point has now been reached where men have lost their reasons and emotionality rules. It does not matter anymore that the school the Baptists lay claim to is theirs in name only, having long been taken over by the state decades before Aregbesola; it matters not that some wear is mandatorily prescribed by a religion whilst others are not. Change is hard to bear and privileges hard to forgo. Weâ€™ve always had Muslims in our societies and Muslim students in schools, even the Mission schools, without rancour or difference, why hijab now, the Christians wonder. But, does a long history of abuse or denial forfeit a legitimate claim or restitution?
I am sick and fed up with all the problems religionists of different faiths are bringing on us and into our lives. The tussle and competition for relevance and superiority are preposterous and nonsensical. God too is sick and tired of it all.
We should kill religion before it kills us all!
And my Facebook debate
The Internet â€˜Facebookâ€™ medium naturally was abuzz over the Iwo story and here are some interesting excerpts of the exchanges:
Ogbeni was always going to get into trouble and cause katakata with this thing. He is poorly served by his advisers. Restless, energetic, you are doing so well in all critical areas, transforming a rustic state into modernity before our very eyes. Then your demons take over, you dabble needlessly in religion, and you go and carry a log of wood on your head which serves as the residence of angry killer beesâ€¦ EgbonTundeFagbenle, you better phone Ogbeni and tell him to park well over this igioyin of religion he is carrying around on his head o.
I must clarify something, people. The schools are no longer missionary schools; they now belong to the govt. I am from Osun State, and I can categorically say most of the people who are crying wolf are from PDP, the banal party that just left after seven hopeless, vermin-infested years. We embraced Aregbe because PDP was rubbish. Now Aregbe has started not being able to contain his own demons. The main hydra-headed one is prideâ€¦ and this man has gone tone-deaf without a guide!
I am down in the mouth. Taiwo Olaniyi has put his finger on it, by and large. Amazing job, amazing zest, amazing commitment to developing the State of Osun; and now, amazing mess! The government should have changed the names of the mission schools once they were taken over and the missions have had nothing to do with the schools in decades, not a dime, not a thought. Missions are still allowed to start their own schools and run them the way they choose, Iâ€™m told. But, in any case, even if the schools bore no religious-affinity names, allowing â€œfreedomâ€ to wear religion-prescribed toga or insignia in public schools is invitation to chaos. It should be limited to schools owned by the religious group. For, as someone said, we of the IFA faith would soon be coming with our own stuff, and God help those who stand in our way! Now what is the way out in the middle of the sea!
Well this is what is obtainable in the UK. In the State Schools, kids are permitted to wear their scarf/hijabs in schools. A thing like the wearing of hijab, to me, becomes an issue when people make it an issue. It would have become an issue if it were the govt that was â€˜authorisingâ€™ (that is compelling) pupils to wear hijabs. Parents/ guardians here in the UK decide which religious subjects they want their kids to be exposed to. Most are quite happy for their ward to be taught everything. It makes a rounded didacticism of an average pupil. Now the religious teaching classes in schools in Nigeria have become breeding ground conversion mission. It is that bad.
Nigerians have become perpetual slaves to hypocrisy and selfishness. How many people are talking about removal of government subsidy from the pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem? A whimper! How many are campaigning for the rights of Hijabite Sisters or Christian Sisters who use scarves to work in the banks? Not a drop of protest.
We all need to come together and tolerate one another. I appreciate the fact that Aregbesola has tried to change the equilibrium of things in Osun State, but what I donâ€™t dig is why he is trying to be the â€˜Ali that saw the angelâ€™. Being firm and just in governance is all good, being obstinate is not! We the people need to be able to resort to the common good and speak with one loud voice, rather than pursuing our own parochial self-debilitating interests!
On the hijabâ€¦. A muslim girl/lady is expected to wear hijab at all times outside her home. We do not operate Sharia, so the govt cannot and will not enforce the ruling on the usage of hijab. It is down to what the parents wish for their kids. If the dictates of other religions make any apparel compulsory, so be it. In the UK, the Sikh worshippers are permitted to keep their turbans to drive and to be police officersâ€¦ Iâ€™ve seen straight people here campaigning for gay people. You donâ€™t have to be Muslims before you support them to get their fundamental human rights.