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Hijab controversy in Kwara: Agreement Bamigboye had with mission schools in 1974; By Moses Oludele Idowu


AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State

I am writing this as a response to Rafiu Ajakaiye, CPS to the governor of Kwara State, whose piece on the same subject I just read.
   What are the issues involved in this case and how can these be resolved without snowballing into a larger crisis?

First let me say this as I have said several times. I have a lot of respect for Nigerian Muslims. Some of my best friends have been Muslims, whose memory today I still cherish and treasure. However, there is something basically wrong sometimes in the way Muslims act and reason and I have had cause to raise this with my associates. It is about logic, it is about reason and sensitivity to others and even respect for other people’s sensibilities.
   And virtually most Muslims that I know or have studied seem to betray this defect. Rare is that Muslim who is free from it.
   Now I think I know the cause. It is not just  about perception but also about belief system and theology, ground rules implicit in Islam. This is the only source that I can find.

   Sometimes ago I wrote an essay in which I had cause to wonder and observe that of all religions and systems of belief that I can see and study only Islam does not accept, both in theory and practice, the Golden Rule. [ See BEYOND TIME AND SPACE: A REFLECTION ON ISLAM AND THE GOLDEN RULE]
And this non-acceptance and belief in the Golden Rule makes Muslims act sometimes the way they do and even separates them from others – other people of faith.
   While I am not blaming the Muslims solely for this present crisis in Kwara over hijab and do not praise the Christians either for their lack of accommodation I still hold Muslims mostly responsible for this mess.
  Soon you will know why.
I know Ilorin and Kwara State too well because I grew up and schooled there.
  One major characteristic of Ilorin in particular and Ilorin Muslims is intolerance. That is not a libel, it is a fact. Don’t forget that I grew up there and I have been associated with this town since the 1970’s.
   It is often common, for instance, that Christians are routinely assaulted during Palm Sundays/ Easter Processions by Muslims. That was a regular occurrence. Even till now Christian programs, crusades and revivals are not permitted in some places in Ilorin even though Christians reside there.

   Under Bukola Saraki, that waster who plunged Kwara State into humongous debts, a major crusade by an international Evangelist, Rehinard Bonnke was canceled citing stupid  “security concerns” as reasons. This is despite the fact that the government denied the Christians the use of the stadium built with public money and the program had to be shifted to another town; yet few days into the crusade the government still canceled it abruptly – in a state that boasts of almost equal number of both Christians and Muslims.
   This is why it is sometimes amusing when Muslims cite the Constitution and talk of the rights of their children and their  fundamental rights. Pray, how has Muslims respected the rights of others? Pray, what has Muslims done to enforce the rights of other people of faith and persuasion in areas where Muslims are dominant?
   Reading through the piece by Rafiu Ajakaiye, you see these expressions and Intentions.
   But the issue is more than rights and privileges; it is also about sensitivities, honour and goodwill.
  When military governor, David Bamgboye was taking over the mission schools in 1974 based on the wrong- headed Yakubu Gowon policy, which had its origin in OIC decisions of which Nigeria then had an observer status, he made it clear as part of the Agreement reached that the sensitivity of the original owners of the schools would be protected. In point of fact he stated that the “religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed” and the “proprietary rights of the owners remain”.
  Do we need a SAN to interpret this? This is why till this day no government has dared to change the names of those schools even though they are grant- aided by government.

    Thus if there seems to be resistance to Hijab in these schools it is because the original owners of the schools are trying to enforce their proprietary rights as per the religious orientation of the schools which should remain undisturbed as per the tenor of the Agreement and Promise made by government at their takeover in the 1970’s.
   Again the issue of respect for others come in. Doing to others what you expect them to do to you. At the inceptions of these schools a uniform was adopted based on the religious orientation of the missionary owners. And this was known and communicated to the students on admission. The Muslim students who chose to go to these schools are aware of these and know the rules. If they love their Hijabs so much why not choose any of the numerous other schools around and in the metropolis? Or any of the Muslim schools like Ansarul deen and Ahmaddiya? Why come in to a school and then try to change the rules as to uniforms citing your rights? The school authorities too have rights to enforce their own codes and rules on uniforms in line with their religious orientation. It is not a violation of the law because your rights are always circumscribed by other rights.
   It is provocative to go to a Baptist School and insist you want to wear your own uniform. There are other schools where you can do that. That is a violation of the religious orientation of the schools which government promised at inception would not be compromised or disturbed. This is why I also say this is a matter of honour. Unfortunately here, government is the problem not the answer and continuity is an issue with our policy makers.

   Muslims once attempted to build a mosque in C&S College at Sabo- Oke, Ilorin in the 19980‘s. It took the brave resistance of the original founders and owners of the schools to stop it.
  Now this is what I am saying about Muslims non- respect of the Golden Rule, which is a major cause of trouble in this nation today. Why attempt to build a mosque in a mission school when you too won’t accept a church even in some parts of Ilorin not to talk of inside Ansarul-deen college or any Islamic school for that matter? Why do to others what you too wont accept?
   Ibrahim Babangidda smuggled Nigeria into OIC without even any consultations with his military colleagues causing deep uproar.  Yet most Muslims saw it as normal because sensitivity to others is one weakness most of them lack.

   Muhammadu Buhari has caused Nigeria great tension and disunity with his nepotistic and  biased policies and appointments. Again many Muslims do not see anything wrong with these. It is okay. But if these were to be done by a Christian leader they are the first to shout about their “rights” – the same rights they willfully deny others when they are in control.
   They are quick to cite the Constitution and their fundamental rights of their children but they forget the rights of other Nigerians?
   In several Northern states today they practiised full Sharia which is a contravention of the Constitution because Sharia means the adoption of religion by a state.
   The same people who gleefully cite their rights and the rights of their children in the Constitution use the same Sharia to deny others their rights to sell and drink alcohol which the same Constitution upholds. This is the intolerance that seems to characterize Islam in our days and even through most of its checkered and uneven history. You can’t cite the Constitution when it favours you and be silent on the same Constitution when it comes to the rights of others.

   What then is the way out of the present logjam which Kwara State Government now found itself?
   Go back to 1972. Let those who want hijab continue to wear it in public schools built with public money. However for the mission schools it should be clearly stated that hijabs won’t be permitted so as not violate the promise made by government at the inceptions to respect the religious orientation of these schools concerned and which government is bound to keep. The Appeal Court judgment says Muslim girls can wear hijabs but it did not say they must wear them in Christian- owned schools. Stop confusing issues. At any rate the case is still in the Supreme Court and the highest Court in the land is yet to make pronouncement on the issue which could go either way. But this is also a matter of honour: government must also honour the agreement made to the owners of these schools when they were taken.

   There seems to be resistance against the policies of government in Kwara State because for a long time there seems to be a discernible trend that Kwara is being run as an Islamic fiefdom.
  Right from Bukola Saraki’s era till the present day. Muhammed Lawal was a bit just and fair to both religions.
   However from Saraki’s period it is as if Islam is the official religion in Kwara State. Every effort is made to give Islam and Muslims the advantage beginning from political appointments, citing of projects, etc. It is just as if Kwara State is another name or an extension for Ilorin Emirate.
   A university was built in the name of the state and despite the fact that there are other places ready to accommodate this project for even development it was still cited in Malete, in Ilorin Emirate nothwithstanding the fact that a federal university already exists and both the College of Education and Kwara Polytechnic are also in the same Ilorin Emirate. This is the intolerance compounded by injustice that I speak about which people are now resisting,  even violently.
   A state university was not only cited in the same emirate but even the pioneer vice chancellor was also chosen from the same Ilorin town. And the current vice chancellor who placed third at the interview by the Selection Board was also chosen to replace the outgone vice chancellor from the same town. It is just as if other regions and part of Kwara and other religions do not matter. No, Muslims won’t take that from any government headed by a Christian. But they don’t mind doing it to others because they don’t believe in the Golden Rule.
This is the Intolerance that I am referring to and which is stoking up tension in Kwara State presently and even in the nation at large.

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