FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN
Right from kick-off, Kwara State Government was playing games. It knew where it was going, yet feigned neutrality. It pretended to be dispassionate. But we were not unaware of its ultimate goal.
It anchored its heavily skewed position on hugely faulty parameters. With a biased mindset, it jumped to awkward conclusions. It opted to support one religious faith against the other, thus, turning Islam to state religion. In Kwara State?
And the ugly consequence is the festering hijab crisis in Ilorin. You cannot impose your will on others unchallenged. Even Sokoto State, the “Seat of the Caliphate,” never went that far.
There are so many falsehoods being manufactured. They are being churned out in large number and alarming rate. These are crudely reflected in various narratives, arguments and counter-arguments.
The records are there for the asking. The facts and figures are on their laps. Did government bother to check and crosscheck? Great doubt! It took its pro-hijab stance blindly.
That is what is sadly playing out now. In all honesty, this is one crisis Kwara State does not need. Not now or ever in the future. We don’t need to shudder, quiver, shiver or tremble over hijab. It’s a non-issue. It’s strictly a private affair. Government has no business making it a public palaver.
The late Brig-General David Lasisi Bamigboye (retd), remember him? He was the first Military Governor of West Central State, later wrongly re-christened Kwara State.
He put a big lie to all these government moonlight tales. Bamigboye did not mince or mix words. He was clear in his mind. No ambiguity, no vagueness. The clarity in his speech of July 3, 1972, could not be mistaken.
It was an historical pronouncement. As if he knew there would be a hijab agitation 49 years later! Excerpts from his profound declaration:
“Government has not yet decided to take over secondary schools. What will now be taken over is the staff management in grants-aided post-primary institutions and NOT the institutions themselves. A total takeover of schools by government means, among other things, a change in ownership of schools.
“In this connection, I want to remind the voluntary agencies that they are still the owners of their schools and, therefore, retain the rights over as well as responsibilities for them.”
For avoidance of doubt, he made a meticulous list of the rights of proprietors under the new dispensation.
“Proprietors still retain the greatest of proprietary rights, namely, ownership of their grant-aided institutions. It should be noted that the existence of the board would in no way detract from this.
“The names of schools remain as given by proprietors.
“Religious orientations and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed.
“The right to nominate board of governors with responsibility for the day-to-day management and welfare of the institutions remain unchanged. The board will continue to function normally except in regards to staff matters, which responsibility is now taken over by the State Schools Board.
“The total tone of the institutions remains the responsibility of the board of governors as the main organ of the proprietors.” That was how Bamigboye nailed it with uncommon wisdom.
But this government goofed. It missed the point. That made it to lose the argument. They are striving hard to walk truth on its head. They chose to be clever by even less than half.
Kwara’s case is unique, exceptional. And, tragically, government didn’t realise that. It misread Bamigboye’s honest intentions. The state has a peculiar case. It is not in the mould of Oyo, Osun and Lagos states.
Mission schools were never taken over in Kwara. Not at any time in history. Instead, it was and remains grants-aided. And this had been working very well, until they sneaked hijab in.
In 1972, when Bamigboye made his speech, I was in Form One in a Christian government grants-aided school, Esie/Iludun Grammar School, Irepodun LG. Students of different faiths lived together in harmony. There was no hijab or the likes. We built friendships across faiths. That genuine companionship and acquaintance stands on a solid rock till date. Hijab dares not break it.
We are not confused. This government has a hidden agenda. Their body language more than confirmed that as much. Why stoke religious crisis at this critical point in time?
This is a state with huge infrastructural deficit. Schools, roads are in a deplorable condition. Many communities are without basic amenities like clean water, hospitals.
Serious security challenges are staring us in the face. Government and security agencies appear helpless and overwhelmed. This is a state where we have Christians and Muslims as members of the same immediate family.
Government ignored all these. It opted to focus on hijab. In this age! Saddening. What value will wearing or not wearing hijab add to our life? They strategically picked the hotbeds of the hijab war. All the 10 schools are in Ilorin, the state capital. It’s deliberately for maximum effect.
The unfortunate mission schools included Cherubim and Seraphim College, St. Anthony College, ECWA School, Baptist Secondary School, Bishop Smith Secondary School, CAC Secondary School, St. Barnabas Secondary School, St. John School, St. Williams Secondary School and St. James Secondary School.
Christians never begged government to take over their schools. They were running their schools successfully before government came on board in 1972.
Bamigboye’s testimony: “Today (July 3, 1972), we have over 550 primary schools in the state. The missions, the native authorities and the local communities have also contributed a great deal to the development of post-primary education.
“As at date, there are 78 post-primary schools in the state. Of these only three are owned and run directly by the government, the remaining 65 are voluntary agency, community and private schools.”
Past Kwara governments always sided with one faith against the other. Moses Oludele Idowu provided undisputable evidence. His piece, “Hijab in Kwara schools: How Muslims put pressure on Nigeria,” explained it all:
“Under Bukola Saraki, a major crusade by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke was cancelled citing stupid ‘security concerns’ as reasons. This was despite the fact that the government denied the Christians the use of the stadium built with public money and the programme had to be shifted to another town.
“Yet few days into the crusade the government still cancelled it abruptly – in a state that boasts of almost equal number of Christians and Muslims.
“Muslims once attempted to build a mosque in C&S College at Sabo-Oke, Ilorin, in the 1980s. It took the brave resistance of the original founders and owners of the schools to stop it.”So? It’s not today. It did not start with hijab. They are too desperate. They are bent on using the State of Harmony to destroy the religious harmony of the state.
This must not be allowed to work. It’s inimical to our existence as State of Harmony.