By Tony Iwuoma,
Nothing divides us so easily in this country as the missile of misguided religion. If Christians are not fighting Muslims they are fighting among themselves
Nigeria is a story, a weird, twisted story of absurdities; smudged by tears and sorrow, where the scent of blood titillates. The more we strive for unity, the far apart we pull.
Interestingly, the president vowed that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable at a time some people were stoking the embers of division in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Students and teachers of the University of Ibadan International School, ISI, were rudely shaken when the Muslim Parents Forum insisted on enforcing a new dress code on the school; they wanted the 55-year-old institution to allow female Muslim students to wear hijab.
Of course, the Board of Governors of the school has resolved to maintain its dress code, even as the Muslim community in Oyo State rejected the resolution and called on the Federal and Oyo State governments to intervene before the crisis escalates.
The Secretary-General of the Muslim community asserted that wearing of hijab by female Muslim students was a God-given right, which is enshrined in the constitution and threatened that Muslims would not allow anyone to tamper with their right unchallenged.
“They are calling for anarchy, we want those in government to intervene before our God- given right is tampered upon(sic). They should desist from calling us names, they are calling us terrorists…,” he said.
The question is, who called him a terrorist or better still, if he were not one, why would anybody call him a terrorist? He also talked about anarchy, which is exactly what his organisation is proposing by invading ISI with their indefensible imposition.
I don’t know if he is aware that the school has governing laws, shorn of religious coloration of any sort. I don’t also know where he has been in the last 55 years of the school’s existence that he suddenly woke up now to remember that wearing hijab is an inalienable right of the female Muslim students.
Of course, nobody is arguing about their right to wear hijab but it seems odd, however, that he is viewing right from a selfish, myopic prism. Rights are not enjoyed in isolation. While his wards are free to enjoy their rights, they should know that the school and other students have rights too, which is corresponding duty for their touted rights.
It is highly regrettable and sad that innocent children are being thrown up to hate one another. Students that have been together all these years without any problem are now being made conscious that they are Muslims or whatever, as if they had not known who they were all along. As this is playing out, other students become resentful thus fouling the serene academic environment. These once chummy students will now begin to view one another through the eyes of religious mischief and Nigeria’s unity will be the ultimate loser.
ISI is a secular institution where students from different backgrounds converge, Christians, Muslims, animists and herbalists, et al. If Muslim females must wear hijab, there are many Islamic schools to enrol them in. Taking them to ISI where the school rules and regulations are always handed out from the inception means that the parents consented to the prescriptions of the school. For the Muslim community to now come in the middle of nowhere, after 55 years, to force the school to bow to their dictates is indeed ‘terrorist’.
Nigeria is not new to the hijab controversy. It even spread to as far as the Law School when one of its female graduates wore a hijab to her call-to-bar ceremony and was denied. Even in cosmopolitan Lagos, the state government recently bent backwards and bowed to the wahala by approving ‘smart hijab’ even when the matter is pending at the Supreme Court.
In all this, the Muslim community has always come out smoking and threatening fire and brimstone, intimidating even the courts that judges may even be afraid to discharge their legal duties.
As a matter of fact, a controversial ruling by the Osun State High Court granted students in the state the right to wear the hijab to school, saying it was part of their fundamental human rights. The oddity and ugly side of this ruling manifested in students of other faiths coming to school adorned in diverse religious vestments, thus making the country a laughing stock in the eyes of civility.
There must be something wrong somewhere. The fear Islamic agenda may not be misplaced after all. Surely, this may yet fester, as it is equally the fundamental right of traditional religions to come to school, adorning their own regalia, thus reducing the school system to a shameful Fuji House of Commotion. It is dishonourable when we use innocent children as fodder for impending conflagration.
To underscore the fear of many that there is more to the hijab brouhaha, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) hailed the Lagos state government and ordered Muslim parents to mobilise to visit schools for the purpose of ensuring compliance and report “defaulting principals and recalcitrant teachers to the nearest office of Islamic organisations.”
Equally talking tough on the hijab crisis were the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) which threatened to embark on a nationwide strike; Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), etc.
Nothing divides us so easily in this country as the missile of misguided religion. If Christians are not fighting Muslims they are fighting among themselves, Pentecostals against non Pentecostals… If Muslims are not fighting against Christians, they are fighting among themselves, Shiites versus Sunni. And then both coalesce in their fear of the Babalawo whom they accuse of casting spells and must be exorcised.
It is quite worrisome when the elite for invidious interests lead in this trouble, as was done in Osun when no less personalities than government officials instigated the hijab controversy that later turned schools into theatres of absurd.
Uniforms are a universal dress code that promotes uniformity of appearance of all who wear it. One is at a loss where our school system is headed in the light of this confusion.
President Buhari needs to change his narratives about the non negotiability of Nigeria’s unity and promote instead causes that would make the lust to pull out of the system unattractive. He just has to caution these hijab proponents before they turn it to jihad. It is good to wear unity bands but much better if we wear it in our hearts where plunderers cannot access.
Certainly, those fomenting trouble in this land and would not let peace reign will never live to enjoy the desired gains of their evil merchandise.