The Osun School Uniform Fiasco: CAN’s Intolerance at Work
The recent fiasco which played out in Baptist High School Iwo in Osun state has again testify to the intolerance of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alongside its paranoia wherever Islam is concerned. For about three days beginning from Monday 3rd of February 2014, Christian students of the school came in choir clothes as protest to what they termed the expression of their ‘religious rights’ in order to ‘balance’ the allowance of the hijab for Muslim female students in the school. Not unexpectedly, some other students also came in masquerade-like clothes in obvious show of their religious persuasion. The problem started with the school reclassification policy embarked upon by the state government which aimed at improving standards in many of the schools through merger among other methods. CAN previously kick against the move but could not reject the benefits which include lifting the concerned schools out of their decrepit conditions. However, when in line with what previously obtains in other schools as a policy that is not in contradiction with the laws of the land, Muslim female students hitherto denied the use of the hijab embraced the hijab model chosen by the state government, the aggrieved persons (not the students per se, for they have no issues with this) burrowed under the ground as usual to ‘tackle’ Islam and Muslims by inciting the Christian students to go on rampage with the weird dressing which cannot even be compared with the hijab – a simple clothe of less than a yard worn modestly on top of the uniform without the uniform identity being obliterated.
As the drama went on, those who orchestrated the fiasco came from behind the scene to do the explanations they knew the students may not be able to carry on with; the state chairman of CAN, Rev. Elisha Ogundiya was quoted to have said “We will not fight but we will not allow our heritage to be destroyed. The truth remains that we are not responsible for the crisis in the school. The pupils, I suspect, are just expressing their rights. If the state government allows Muslim children to wear hijab to school, I do not see any reason why Christian children cannot wear choir robes to the same school or children of traditionalists dress in their own regalia’.
There are some worrying trends in the way CAN has chosen to ‘prosecute’ this particular war on Islam and Muslims. The first of this is indoctrination, to which it has succeeded in implanting into the young minds of those Christian students that donning the hijab is anti-Christian. Two, that even if other schools, all of which are under the funding of government have female Muslims students wearing hijab, it should not happen in a ‘traditional’ Christian school, hence there cannot be co-existence of any sort with their Muslim colleagues. Three, that to see a bonafide student in hijab in a supposedly Christian school (never mind whether it was funded by the government) is a ‘destruction’ of the Christian heritage as claimed by Rev. Elisha Ogundiya (see Punch online ‘Uniforms of Confusion in Osun School’ February 7, 2014). The worst of this malicious instigation of minors is for CAN to have shielded these young minds away from the true position of the law on the legality of the hijab as affirmed by various courts of law in different parts of the country. This is how CAN has chosen to ‘contribute’ to the future of this country!
As expected, a lot of people have been reacting to this incident; the one which however caught our interest was the one calling for the outright ban of any religious ‘regalia’ in schools and the faulting of government’s patronage of religious institutions with the claim that we are in a secular state- the same claim CAN has made whenever it suits it. But our problem with these people is their half-heartedness in defending what they espouse. For instance, the hijab is not a ‘regalia’ as such but a piece of clothe draped over the main clothe in order to cover between the head region and the chest; besides this, the beret has been worn by Christian girls for a long time which is a partial fulfillment of their own religious injunction of not leaving uncovered the region between the female head and the chest! Secondly if we are to ask the proponents of a secular Nigeria to go the whole hog as the rationality of their claims may require, you will see them developing a failure of nerve! It would mean that no indigenous or ‘traditional’ festivals some of which have been popularized by this same Ogbeni Aregbesola, where yearly in Osun state, you see eminent Nigerians including the white haired world renowned Nigerian Professor of Literature in attendance! Not only that, government would not have to send any form of greetings on either Christmas or Eid u-l –Kabir day; all religious public holidays including December 25 and January 1st would be cancelled; external missions relating to religion like the Nigerian Embassy in the Vatican would be abolished; the Pope would be prevented from coming to Nigeria as well as any other Muslim personality in that category; there shall be no ‘End of the Year’ or ‘Beginning of the Year’ prayer sessions at government houses with the handsome rewards running into millions saved back into government coffers; all religious symbols including the crucifixes, images or any such ‘signs’ in our public institutions like the hospitals which depict the support of a particular religion would have to be removed; above all, no individual, not even a former head of state shall be allowed to go on air asking us to pray or fast for the nation- for the triune god of secularism (which comprises of ‘skepticism’ the father, ‘empiricism’ the son, and ‘rationalism’ the holy spirit) is not in need of such exercises best seen by it as atavistic! The list would then go on and on and on
On a final note, we have stated it wherever the opportunity presented itself that CAN’s insidious activities which owes to an obsession of ‘fighting’ Islam and Muslims where conversion becomes impossible has been at the root of communal clashes right from Zagon/Kataf in Kaduna, with Zamani Lekwot’s act of treason. CAN is satisfied now that the Northeast lay in ruin; Southwest is next on its agenda; and if what we see in the state of Osun is anything to go by, its threat that it must produce the next governor of Lagos state otherwise hell will let loose deserves a very deep thought. Until CAN and its leadership stops seeing progress emanating from Islamic/Muslim sources as threat to its existence, ‘fighting’ Islam will continue to pre occupy it and communal clashes would be the outcome if not carefully handled; we therefore plead with those whose way is of darkness not to seek to eclipse the moon for it shines and provides light to all in the nights (Eda to mo se okunkun, ko ma se d’Osupa loro)
Comrade Yekinni Shakiru