Osun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Sunday Akere, in an interview with journalists, addressed issues on the Christian-Muslim rift in the state. Yinka Kolawole was there. Excerpts:
Leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria has accused the present government of plans to Islamize the state. Is there any such thing?
There is no crisis between the government of the State of Osun led by Governor Rauf Aregbesola and the Christian Association of Nigeria, Osun State branch. We have been having meetings with the leadership of CAN, on the issue of hijab, and the crisis being fomented by some Muslims in some public schools in the state. The position of the Christians is that they will not allow hijab. The argument has been on between the government and the CAN all along.
In December 2012, government distributed 750,000 school uniforms to students in all public schools in the state, we never distributed hijab to anybody, and so if when we were distributing the uniforms, we distributed hijab, somebody can now say the government is forcing hijab on them.
All schools in the state became public schools since 1975, during the regime of Jemibewon, when the government took them over, whether it is Muslim, Christian or community-oriented; they are all public schools, hence they become government schools, and the issues have been cleared. There are guidelines formulated by the Ministry of Education and passed to all the schools. In it, they have specified the conduct of students on what they should do and what they should not do and till date, we have never haltered any part of these guidelines.
Muslims and Christians met November last year under a body NIREC; were they able to resolve the issue?
I know part of their resolution was that nobody should force anybody to use anything or not to use it. They recognised which schools belong to the Christians and those that belong to the Muslims and the need for each of them to respect individual’s faith. I know that as they are in court now, they will tender the resolution which all of them signed as part of evidences in court.
The CAN leadership in Osun is riddled with crisis and it is alleged that some of the leaders have been pocketed by government. Is government meddling in CAN affairs?
Government has no business with religion. The only way we can interfere is when we see that something has to be done for the sake of peace. We were never part of the people that elected Aladeseye and we can never pocket anybody.
Recently, the PDP accused the administration of non-performance and that it has begun to map out strategy to ease out the Governor in next election. Are you worried as a government?
There is a Yoruba saying that translates as ‘one’s enemy can never kill a fat grasshopper’, but for 90 months, the PDP were here and they could not show the people of Osun what they did. In 28 months of Aregbesola’s administration, we have virtually turned the whole state to a construction site. We know that the PDP cannot say that we are not working. A blind man knows that Osun is working.
A PDP governorship aspirant recently challenged your government to point to a completed mega-school project, isn’t that serious?
When we came on board in November 2010, we started with a total overhaul of the education system. We started it with the reduction of fees paid by students in our tertiary institutions, we also introduced some incentives for teachers, and we also embarked on the construction of mega schools.
Even if you did not see all, I am sure you saw the one at Alekuwodo, Osogbo which is the middle school, we’ve completed that, and the movement of pupils to the place was put on hold because of the recapitulation of schools which we had sometime ago. By September, hopefully, we know students will move there.
This year alone we want to construct 170 of the mega schools. When you get to Isale Osun, you will see that we are constructing one. Another one is at Oke Baale, it is all over the state, name it, Ejigbo, Ila-Orangun, Ife, Ikirun, Ilesa, everywhere, we are building 170 of such this year, 100 junior schools, 50 middle schools, and 20 high schools. And we know that by the time we finish, they will see the marked difference. If the PDP or whoever, is saying that there are no real development in Osun, the problem with them is that they don’t live here; they spend all their time in Abuja.