Category: op

Education: Aregbesola as an exemplar

Last Thursday, September 1, all roads led to Osogbo, the Osun State capital. The occasion was part of the state’s celebration of the Silver Anniversary of its creation by the military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, on August 27, 1991, along with 11 other states, namely, Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe. The significance of Osun State’s celebration lied, in part, in the fact that it was the only one President Muhammadu Buhari participated in.
 
Commissioning of Osogbo Govt High Sch-1
 
The president’s participation was by way of visiting a couple of the state’s newly built primary and secondary schools before finally inaugurating the Osogbo Government High School. The school must be one of the largest, most beautiful and most well equipped secondary schools in the country.
Actually the school, as the  governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, explained in his welcoming address, is three-in-one, each with a student population of 1,000, its own principal and staff but with an overall supervising principal and sharing academic and sports facilities.
The high school may be top of the line, but it is only one of a dozen or so high schools that Governor Aregbesola has built or rebuilt as part of his comprehensive restructuring – today’s buzz word for every politician seeking relevance! – of primary and secondary school education in the state to give its students the quality education they need to transform their state from Third World status to First in one generation. (It reminds you, doesn’t it, of the famous title of the autobiography of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s late prime minister, who lifted his country from Third World to First in one generation).
When Aregbesola first became the governor in November 2010, he inherited a public school system typical of public state system all over Nigeria – dilapidated, over populated, under staffed, under equipped, and badly managed schools. As a man who apparently believed the key to human progress is education, the governor resolved to end the rot.

As the man himself told it in his welcome speech on Thursday, the first step he took in ending the rot was to convene an education summit for the state chaired by no less an icon of the virtue of knowledge than Wole Soyinka, black Africa’s first Literature Nobel laureate.
Out of the summit emerged four elements for the transformation of the state’s public schools: their feeding and health programme, reclassification of the schools into elementary, middle and high schools, infrastructural development and the provision of what Americans call edtech (the use of technology to drive education), but which the state called Opon-Imo (Yoruba for tablet of knowledge) for all students.
The building of the high school President Buhari inaugurated last Thursday fell into the third category in which so far the Aregbesola administration has constructed or reconstructed 28 elementary schools, 22 middle schools and four high schools, with another 14 virtually completed.
Aregbesola was, of course, not the first to convene an educational summit. Long before him, the Northern Governors’ Forum did so in Kaduna. Individually the governors also made the right noises about ending their region’s notorious educational backwardness. To date their actions have not matched their noises. Instead, the region has dropped even further behind than it was during the First Republic.
Educationally backward as the North was back then, its leaders, with its premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in the forefront, walked their talk about bridging the gap between the region and the rest of the country. Meaning, they invested heavily in primary and secondary schools so that the region could produce quality materials qualified for admission into any tertiary institution anywhere in the world.
With all due humility, I can boast that I am one of those materials. I and my cousin, retired Major-General Mohammed Garba, and a childhood friend, Professor Mustapha Zubairu of Federal University of Technology, Minna, attended Native Authority primary schools in Kano, first in Tudun Wada for the first four years from 1957 and finished at Kuka Primary School after another four, having had to repeat my final year because I failed to gain entrance into a secondary school in my third year in 1963.
Kuka was located between Sabon Gari where we lived and Fagge. It was a walking distance from our home on Niger Road. All around us were Igbo and Yoruba most of whose children attended private and mission schools. In the evenings of weekdays all of us attended private lessons to improve on our chances of doing well in school. I remember we used to beat the children who went to private and mission schools in the evening classes, especially in English.
I am always amused each time people talk about the magic Chief Obafemi Awolowo performed with free education in Western Region. Of course, it was a great achievement which showed Awo’s foresight. Even then I am always amused because while the great premier of the West gave free education, in the North we were paid to go to school and we did so in hundreds of thousands, if not in millions.
The problem, I think, was that the next generation of the region’s politicians chose to pay only lip service to investment in education, especially primary and secondary education, without which invariably we could only send garbage into our tertiary schools. And as they say of computers: garbage in, garbage out.
I know this for sure because of the experience I had teaching in my alma mater, Ahmadu Bello University’s Mass Communication Department for six years until I left two years ago. During the last three of those six years, I made it a habit to test the English language of all my students, both under- and post-graduates, at the beginning of each semester.
The test was a simple one of correcting 10 sentences with errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. The average failure rate for all the students was a dismal 70 per cent! The highest score was 8 and you could count those on your fingertips.
The conclusion is obvious; our universities have generally been taking in barely literate materials because our primary and secondary schools have suffered criminal neglect.
In giving primary and secondary education top priority to the extent of even borrowing to reform Osun State’s public education system, Aregbesola has demonstrated that he has his heart and mind in the right place. As a mutual friend, Chief Ikechi Emenike, who also witnessed Buhari’s inauguration of the Osogbo Government High School said, the governor’s educational intervention “reflected an abiding love for his people and a deep appreciation of history and his legacy.”
President Buhari summed it even better when he said in his speech the governor was only keeping the promise of the ruling party to provide free and qualitative basic education by implementing the Basic Education Act.
“What we are witnessing here today,” he said, “is the formal fulfilment of that promise in Osun by the state government. The cost effectiveness of this project can only be seen when we consider that this school will graduate an average 1,000 pupils in a year and in 50 years it would have produced 50,000 well trained and well equipped pupils, many of who will go to higher institutions and will form the backbone of the administration of our country.
Over six years ago, an award-winning columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, wrote an article which underscored the importance of quality basic education and which I have had cause to refer to on these pages and elsewhere. He titled it “ Pass the Books. Hold the Oil.”
It was published in the Times of March 10, 2012. Every politician concerned about the dismal state of our education at all levels should read that short – roughly 1,070 words – article. In it Friedman narrated how a study by rich-country club, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.), established a negative linkage between natural resource dependent countries and knowledge.
The club looked at the bi-annual test of 15-year olds in Mathematics, Science and reading comprehension in 65 countries and the total earnings of each of them as a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product. The test was called PISA, Programme for International Student Assessment.
The study, Friedman said, showed that the bigger a country’s revenue from natural resources as a percentage of its GDP, the poorer the knowledge and skills of its pupils. For example, participating Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Syria that were natural resource rich performed poorly compared to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, also in the Middle East, which were natural resource poor. So, Friedman concluded, “Oil and PISA don’t mix.”
As always there were exceptions to his thesis. Canada, Australia and Norway, also countries with high levels of natural resources, he pointed out, still scored well on PISA, in large part because all three countries had established deliberate policies of saving and investing these resource rents, and not just consuming them.
The three countries provide great lessons for us as a natural resource dependent country by showing that oil and PISA can indeed mix.
As a country we may have so far blown away our oil fortune, but clearly Aregbesola has shown as governor of one of the poorest states in the country that you don’t have to be rich to plan for the future of your children.

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Aregbesola’s hidden treasure in Osun State

“I hope that my achievements in life shall be these – that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need that I will have left the earth a better place for what I’ve done and who I’ve been.” – C. Hoppe
 
Everything in life starts with a promise!To us in Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola represents a new generation of leadership who believes he is accountable to the people he’s elected by providence to govern. Mentally sharp and people-focused,he saw an opportunity not only to provide leadership that inspired trust but also the need to leave an extraordinary legacy that would no doubt outlast this generation. With his patriotic, imaginative and unselfish arrest of the socio-economic root cause of infrastructure poverty which had limited the state’s ability to create wealth, it is obvious that a revolution, which will,in the not too distant future, change the state of the state, is in the offing and, when it blossomsforth, itsglory will shine to the ends of the world.Beyond the shadow of a doubt,his modest performance has to a great degree shown that Nigeria’s politics is not dirty as people are wont to insinuate;only that we have some people in politics whose minds are dirty and that’s not unexpected!
 
june 12
 
To start with, Nigerians will agree with me that the governor has excelled in the construction of mega structures in most of the schools in the state, an indication that the future of education in Osun State is taking shape. Though, no one can change the past, one can only advise old students who have hitherto cultivated the habit of leaving without looking back at their alma matertohave a rethink before it is too late, lest they become strangers to institutions that opened their ways of thinking and knowing,courtesy of Aregbesola’s MegaSchools programme.
 
Also worth mentioning is the school feeding programme,now known as Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS),initiated by his government, which has become a template for the Federal Government’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme. Added to the list are two libraries he commissioned recently in Ila-Oragun and Ode-Omu which, again, is a demonstration of his unrivaled passion for the development of education sector in the state. Well, though the results of his inputs into the sector may not be fast in coming as expected, one can be rest assured that Osun State in the next four to eight years will be a state that everybody will be proud of. After all, success in an examination is a product of many factors!
 
Another important area of Aregbesola’s intervention worth mentioning is the appointment of Yusuff Alli as Chairman of the Governing Council of Osun State University. In my considered opinion, this thoughtfully planned and skillfully processed step is aimed at replicating what Afe Babalola and Wole Olanipekun did as Chairman of the Governing Council of University of Lagos and University of Ibadan respectively. No doubt a man of means and contacts, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is expected to use his wealth of experience and influence to add value to the citadel of learning with a view to upgrading it to a world class institution in line with the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers. Of course, this is an innovative departure from the old, somewhat-traditional-yet-unproductive ‘job for the boys’ arrangement which had oftentimes ended up in appointees needlessly drawing from the institution’s avoidably-lean purse.
 
In a similar fashion, the approval nod recently given to the state by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) forthe proposed construction of a power transmission substation to be located at Dagbolu in Osun State is yet another in the series of the administration’s many efforts at strategically repositioning the state as another commercial hub in the Southwest while the procurement of security hardwares, which has led to a sharp reduction in crime rate recorded in the state since his inauguration was an initiative which benefits should not be overlooked.As a matter of fact, I doubt if the near-completion state of the Bisi Akande Trumpet Bridge at Gbongan wouldn’t have by now shamed educated derelicts and apathetic politicians who, over time, have acquired a notorious reputation for developmental and ideological setbacks.
 
Personally, I see Aregbesola as an achieving and engaging governor who is always in touch with his people. In my candid opinion, his’I will succeed’ intervention in the Agriculture sector is not only geared towards repositioning the state as the food hub of the Southwest, it is also aimed at cushioning any bitter or biting effects of the economic recession currently unleashed on Nigeria, thanks to the global economic meltdown. In the same vein, the new lease of life given to the hitherto moribund Cocoa Products Industry in Ede can be viewed as being in line with his election promise of creating employment opportunities as well as attracting investors to the state. The Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), through which thousands of youth have been engaged, was another way of helping the people’s lives connect to a cause while the presentation of N1.8bn retirement bond certificates to 266 pensioners in the state was a demonstration of the depth of his love for the state’s civil servants.
 
Contrary to some erroneous beliefs, great nations are where they are today because their leaders were prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to confront situations that at one time or the other attempted to bribe, trick, threaten or suffocate their countries’ existence.For instance, available information reveal that United States of America’s debt is, as we speak, on the other side of $19tr. Still, America is world’s largest economy and greatest nation. InJune, $10bn of Chicago’s municipal debt was downgraded by Fitch to ‘one level above junk’about the same time China’s debt had become so “fatal” that experts feared it could destroy the country if some “timely fashion” actions were not taken to remedy the situation. Notwithstanding, China retains her enviable position as world’s second largest economy while the Windy City is, at this very moment,America’s third largest city, with the third largest gross metropolitan product and the most balanced economy in the United States.
 
Coming back to Africa, South Africans were two years ago ranked world’s biggest borrowers. Today, South Africa has beaten Nigeria into second place as Africa’s largest economy.Apparently, had Aregbesola not taken loans at the prevailing interest rates at the time in question to turn the fortunes of Osun from a blight of wrongs into a progressive and trailblazing state, I doubt if the situation wouldn’t have been worse! All things considered, even if his actions are sometimes bound to be misconstrued and misinterpreted, this is not to say that the governor might not have made mistakes in the course of discharging his duties. After all, he is human, with all the emotions, weaknesses and failings characteristic of the human nature! Seemingly, his major mistakes are default in payment of workers’ salaries and late delivery on projects.Others are neither here nor there! But these can be excused in that they have assumed a national outlook as a result of current realities. All the same, that Aregbesola has, in spite of his human frailty, remained focused and progressive in his practices, attitudes and approaches is commendable.
 
To be fair to good governance, the change we voted for in Osun State was a divine platform for the radical transformation of the state from the sleepers and the shadows of the past into the present filled with joy and happiness and a future of hope and fulfillment.
 
 
In the words of Napoleon Hill, “the starting point of all achievement is desire.” According to him, “weak desire” leads to”weak results.” The late President John Kennedy corroborated Hill’s views when he averred that economic growth without social progress is a magic formula for poverty. Aregbesola’s strides bring to memory Obafemi Awolowo’s introduction of Free Primary Educations cheme in Western Region in the 1950s. Controversial and at a considerable cost, Awolowo was initially derided for what would eventually turn out to be an indelible imprint in the annals of education as well as the focal definition of governance in Nigeria and beyond.
 
So, for us in Osun State, the journey to socio-economic recovery has just begun and how far the Aregbesola-led administration can go is a different matter entirely. Again, whether or not the governor acts Moses or Joshua on this all-important journey, it needs to be noted that he came at a time the state’s political space was engulfed in the horrible and deadly danger of indescribable grief and paralyzed potentials.
 
May powers, assigned to rubbish the legacy of our leaders, BACKFIRE!
Abiodun KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria

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Aregbesola’s hidden treasure in Osun

Everything in life starts with a promise! To the people of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola represents a new generation of leadership who believes he is accountable to the people he’s elected by providence to govern.Mentally sharp and people-focused,he saw an opportunity not only to provide leadership that inspired trust but also the need to leave an extraordinary legacy that would no doubt outlast this generation.  With his patriotic, imaginative and unselfish arrest of the socio-economic root cause of infrastructure poverty which had limited the state’s ability to create wealth, it is obvious that a revolution, which will,in the not too  distant future, change the state of the state, is in the offing and, when it blossoms forth, its glory will shine to the ends of the world.Beyond the shadow of a doubt,his modest performance has to a great degree shown that Nigeria’s politics is not dirty as people are wont to insinuate;only that we have some people in politics whose minds are dirty and that’s not unexpected!
To start with, Nigerians will agree that the governor has excelled in the construction of mega structures in most of the schools in the state, an indication that the future of education in Osun State is taking shape. Though, no one can change the past, one can only advise old students who have hitherto cultivated the habit of leaving without looking back at their alma mater to have a rethink before it is too late, lest they becomes trangers to institutions that opened their ways of thinking and knowing,courtesy of Aregbesola’s mega-schools programme.
Also worth mentioning is the school feeding programme,now knownas Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS),initiated by his government, which has become a template forthe Federal Government’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme. Added to the list are two libraries he commissionedrecently in Ila-Oragun and Ode-Omu which, again, is a demonstration of his unrivalled passion for the development of education sector in the state. Well, though the results of his inputs intothe sector may not be fast in coming as expected, one can be rest assured that Osun State in the next four to eight years will be a state that everybody will be proud of. After all, success in an examination is a product of many factors!
Another important area of Aregbesola’s intervention worth mentioning is the appointment of Yusuff Ali as chairman of the Governing Council of Osun State University. In my considered opinion, this thoughtfullyplanned and skilfullyprocessed step is aimed at replicating what AfeBabalolaand Wole Olanipekun did as chairmen of the Governing Councils of University of Lagos and University of Ibadan respectively. No doubt a man of means and contacts, theSenior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is expected touse his wealth of experience and influence to add value to the citadel of learning with a view to upgrading it to a world class institution inline with the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers. Of course, this is an innovative departure from the old, somewhat-traditional-yet-unproductive ‘job for the boys’arrangementwhich had oftentimes ended up in appointees needlessly drawing from the institution’s avoidably-lean purse.
In a similar fashion, the approval nod recently given to the state by theTransmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) forthe proposed construction of a power transmission substation to be located at Dagbolu in Osun Stateis yet another in the series of the administration’s many efforts at strategically repositioning the state as another commercial hub in the South-west while the procurement of security hardware, which has led to a sharpreduction  in crime rate recorded in the state since his inaugurationwas an initiative  which benefitsshould not be overlooked.As a matter of fact, I doubt if the near-completion state of theBisiAkande Trumpet Bridgeat Gbongan wouldn’t have by now shamed cynics.

Personally, I see Aregbesola as an achieving and engaging governor who is always in touch with his people. His intervention   in the agriculture sector is not only geared towards repositioning the state as the food hub of the South-west, it is also aimed at cushioning any bitter or biting effects of the economic recession currently unleashed on Nigeria, thanks to the global economic meltdown. In the same vein, the new lease of life given to the hitherto moribund Cocoa Products Industry in Ede can be viewed as being in line with his election promise of creating employment opportunities as well as attracting investors to the state. The Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), through which thousands of youth have been engaged, was another way of helping the people’s lives connect to a cause while the presentation of N1.8bn retirement bond certificates to 266 pensioners in the state was a demonstration of the depth of his love for the state’s civil servants.
Contrary to some erroneous beliefs, great nations are where they are today because their leaders were prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to confront situations that at one time or the other attempted to break, threaten or suffocate their countries’ existence.For instance, United States of America’s debt is, as we speak, on the other side of $19tr. Still, America is world’s largest economy and greatest nation. InJune, $10bn of Chicago’s municipal debt  was downgraded by Fitch to ‘one level above junk’about the same time China’s debt had become so “fatal” that experts feared it could destroy the country  if some “timely fashion” actions were not taken to remedy the situation. Notwithstanding, China retains her enviable position as world’s second largest economy while  the Windy Cityis,  at this very moment,America’s  third largest city, with the third largest gross metropolitan product andthe most balanced economy in the United States.
Coming back to Africa, South Africans were two years ago ranked world’s biggest borrowers. Today, South Africa has beaten Nigeria into second place as Africa’s largest economy.Apparently, had Aregbesola not taken loans at the prevailing interest rates  at the time in question  to turn the fortunes of Osun from a blight of wrongs into a progressive and trailblazing state, I doubt if the situation  wouldn’t have been worse!
All things considered, even if his actions are sometimes bound to be misconstrued and misinterpreted, this is not to say that the governor might not have made mistakes in the course of discharging his duties. After all, he is human, with all the emotions, weaknesses and failingscharacteristic of the human nature! Seemingly, his major mistakes are default in payment of workers’ salaries and late delivery on projects.Others are neither here nor there!  But these can be excused in that they have assumed a national outlook as a result of current realities. All the same, that Aregbesola has, in spite of his human frailty, remained focused and progressive in his practices, attitudes and approaches is commendable.
To be fair to good governance,the change we voted for in Osun Statewas a divine platform for the radical transformation of the state from the sleepers and the shadows of the past into the present filled with joy and happiness and a future of hope and fulfilment.
In the words of Napoleon Hill, “the starting point of all achievement is desire.” According to him,“weak desire” leads to”weak results.” The late President John Kennedy corroborated Hill’s views when he averred that economic growth without social progress is a magic formula for poverty.  Aregbesola’s stridesbring to memoryObafemi Awolowo’s introduction of Free Primary Education schemein Western Region in the 1950s. Controversial and at a considerable cost, Awolowo was initially derided for what would eventually turn out to be an indelible imprint in the annals of education as well as the focal definition of governance in Nigeria and beyond.
So, for us in Osun State, the journey to socio-economic recovery has just begun and how far the Aregbesola-led administration can go is a different matter entirely. Again, whether or not the governor acts Moses or Joshua on this all-important journey, it needs to be noted that he came at a time the state’s political space was engulfed inthe horrible and deadly danger of  indescribable grief   and  paralyzed potentials.

  • Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.

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Against All Odds, Osun Is Growing Strong

I chanced upon some disappointed folks last month in Ghana who thought the Governor of State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had depressed their optimism for a rebranded Nigeria.
 
1
 
They were all in agreement that after the poor management of the country for 16 years by the previous PDP administration, Ogbeni ought to have spared the people of Osun the hardship by paying the state work force promptly. They went further to re-echo the Islamisation allegation that has long been addressed by Governor Aregbesola that no such plans ever crossed his mind. They accused the governor of taking Sukuk loan, the Islamic bond that the state obtained for the development of educational infrastructure.
 
They pointed to the Christian Association of Nigeria’s concern that it was part of the islamisation agenda of the governor for the state. The inquisition was rhetoric given the admission that banditry which took the place of governance led to the collapse of the nation’s economy and gave rise to wasted opportunities and aborted chances.
 
I had no doubt in my mind that the seemingly progressive gathering at the conference had some basic negative impression about the state of affairs in Osun but refused to make little grain of effort to juxtapose the present state of the State from what it used to be. Second, I was miffed that Comrade Peter Okechukwu from a state in South-South Nigeria did not know that his own state is among the 27 states battling wage payment problem.
 
Worst still, I was literally eviscerated that he did not address his mind to the fact that the former Minister of Finance and Supervising Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (from Delta State) told Nigerians in 2014 that the Federal Government has been borrowing money to pay Federal workers, even after claiming that Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. The Sukuk bond in question was approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the financial market. Even the former British Prime Minister declared that his government was set to obtain the Islamic loan.
 
The Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan also indicated its willingness to use the interest-free Islamic loan to finance transport projects in Nigeria. What the opposition thought they could use to rubbish the administration of Aregbesola ended up making him a pacesetter in financial management. A check at the Debt Management Office, DMO, Abuja revealed that Delta State which has been perpetually governed in the last 17 years by the PDP is the most indebted state in Nigeria, with a total of N320 billion.
 
Delta has been battling payment of wages unsuccessfully, having owed pensioners 15 months backlog of unpaid salaries! That Osun and Ogbeni have been singled out for hash criticism, even by persons whose states and political actors are criminally responsible for the national economic malaise, calls to question the real motives of these lazy critics. From the evidence of developmental stride dotting every corner of the State, it is obvious that Aregbesola has not defaulted on the promises made to his people to use the limited resources to enhance the plight of the mass majority.
 
The six integral action plans of the government remained the compass that guides the working and actions of the government in its core mission to battle poverty, banish hunger, unemployment, restore healthy living, promote functional education, and enhance communal peace and progress.
 
Ogbeni followed through to his promise. In the beginning of his administration, he employed 20,000 youths under the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme – OYES. This singular act of compassionate governance was the first of its kind in Nigeria; more so at a time state governors across the country were laying off their workforce.
 
The OYES scheme has since received the approvals of the World Bank which in turn sold the good idea to the Federal Government and supported the scheme financially. The Federal Government kick-started the scheme under the name YESSO.
 
Ogbeni, unlike the prophet, is being honoured and respected at home. But a section of the media sponsored by the same forces that brought the nation to its knees have been striving unsuccessfully to disparage his administration, lampooning his job creation efforts; school recreation initiative and the re-engineering of the state being celebrated nationally and globally. Aregbesola’s government in the last six years has also mobilised youths into farming via O’REAP. Many have been trained within and outside Nigeria to embrace modern farming techniques.
 
Vast hectares of virgin land is being cultivated for large scale farming; loan schemes and farming equipment as well as fertilizers are regularly being provided to boost farming in the state. Little wonder that Osun has becomes the food basket of the South West. This effort has made Osun to be voted as second best in poverty index in Nigeria. The Federal Office of Statistics has also adjudged it as the best among the states with less percentage of unemployed youths.
 
The accusation of Islamisation of the state by the Aregbesola’s administration for a long time has been targeted at discrediting his person and government in the eye of the world. His critics know that nothing is remotely close to it. A few weeks ago the Pope’s envoy on a visit to the governor in the State described Aregbesola as a “Great pillar of supporter of the church”.
 
The Catholic Church described Governor Aregbesola’s government as one without ill-feeling against any sect or religion. It has always been the belief of Governor Aregbesola that religion is an instrument of developing capacity for love, instrument for refinement and testing the human will to resist provocations.
 
Similar sentiment has been consistently expressed by powerful Christians leaders, including Bishop David Oyedepo, debunking claims of religious bias and Islamization. In 2014 at the height of the cries of religious manipulations by the administration of Aregbesola, Bishop Oyedepo was one of the voices who establishes the governor’s innocence.
 
Appraising the governor’s innumerable strides and achievements the General Overseer of the Living Faith Church a.k.a. Winners’ Chapel, on July 9th, 2014, said the infrastructural renewal, particularly the education revolution in Osun deserves global applause. Bishop Oyedepo gave his assessment in Osogbo, Southwest Nigeria, when he paid a courtesy call on the Governor of the State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
 
The cleric noted that any governance that is producing results and affecting the lives of vast majority of the people must be deeply appreciated, irrespective of religious inclination. The Bishop strongly appealed to stakeholders to always be at the vanguard of peaceful coexistence, noting that there is nothing like living in peace, working in peace and promoting peace. “There is nothing like peace in the whole world. We should always walk towards whatever will promote peace and peaceful coexistence among our people.
 
Let us work for an atmosphere that encourages peace, which engenders growth and development. This is because life is all about promoting the well-being of the people. “I deeply appreciate the infrastructural development. Besides, the educational revolution is for us a great achievement. “I can see the massive road construction going on. This is to the benefit of the people. No policy can remove the roads. I am very impressed,” Oyedepo said.
 
On that occasion Aregbesola come clean as always thus: “My upbringing in Yoruba setting has given no basis for religious antagonism and mutual distrust. “It is impossible in Yoruba milieu not to imbibe the culture of accommodation, tolerance and understanding of the faith of others. “I guide my faith as much as I fight for the protection of the faith of others. If anyone would accuse me at all, it should be that I have zero tolerance for fundamentalism. “Therefore, my liberal disposition to religion is thus farther from the erroneous impression of being an Islamic extremist,” Aregbesola said.
 
The issue of Hijab would have been rested by now, if not for want of excuse of failures on the part of PDP, which governed the State for roughly eight years before Ogbeni retrieved his stolen mandate from them. For the records, it was under Governor Olagusoye Oyinlola’s administration, a PDP Governor that the Muslim community went to court and insisted on their wards attending schools in their Islamic wears as part of their school uniform. As we speak, the matter is still being pursued in the court by the Muslim community.
 
Addressing Ogbeni in a borrowed robe to score cheap political points on the bases of religious fanaticism is clearly a crass political opportunism and promotion of falsehoods to a grand art. Observers of political development in Osun and Nigeria should know that Governor Aregbesola’s administration has no political, religious or tribal preference.
 
It is absolutely impossible for Ogbeni to be a religious fundamentalist owing to his all-faith inclusive background. One cannot but wonders why the governor has been so described by mischievous makers who erroneously tagged his administration as pro-Islamic faith.
 
Mr Erasmus Ikhide, a social activist, wrote from Lagos

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In Fairness To Governor Aregbesola!, by Abiodun Komolafe

Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s stewardship in Osun State has been generating all manner of comments in recent times. From the  indefensible,  infantile, misinformed and misguided viewpoints  to the impressive analyses of his actions and inactions, the comments reveal a lot about this man of many parts who has not only done very well for his people, but has also been fair to all sections of the state in his policy implementation. Although Aregbesola is frequently the butt of criticisms, there is no doubt that he means well for his people and does what he sees to be in their best interest at all times.
 
june 12
 
While some of the electorate’s high expectations from Aregbesola’s second term in office have, to an extent, not been met, it is glaring that Nigeria is experiencing grave socio-economic difficulties from which Osun State is not immune.
 
The situation of the state and the entire country is getting precarious and urgent steps need to be taken to address the problems. Problems of corruption, looting and mismanagement of funds and their disastrous consequences have virtually brought Nigeria to its knees. Worse still, unable to translate her childhood success into adult glory, Nigeria has become a terrain where misconceptions and logical inconsistencies are elevated as the best strategies for survival. That has always been the story of Nigeria.
 
In responding to the peculiarities of the moment, however, I have no doubt in my mind that blackmailers who once relished making  distasteful comments about Aregbesola would by now have started counting the beans of their collective selfishness, while those who, out of pure mischief and political miscalculations, presented his government as lacking in speed and vision, would have been found out as pathetic naysayers whose negative pronouncements cannot change the people’s views about this remarkable governor.
 
The governor deserves commendation for his sound economic decisions that midwifed a fresh agenda for value-based leadership in Osun State, especially, at a time that “stomach infrastructure” has become the parameter for gauging performance. He deserves appreciation, not only for making the best use of the opportunities that these hard times present, but also for using his immense experience to help a great number of his people and for making the state among those to be reckoned with in matters of good governance.  It is, indeed, gratifying that his prescriptions for the problem of unpaid salaries have now become a template for dealing with that issue in other states of the federation.
 
In fairness to Aregbesola, Osun State has in the last six years been led on the path of good governance marked by transparency, prudence, high level of probity and accountability. With this in mind, the reason the governor is being used as a scapegoat by some comic heroes and surrogate actors is difficult for me and many other stakeholders in the state to grasp.
 
For instance, since agriculture was seen as a viable alternative to oil, Aregbesola’s government has succeeded in revamping farm settlements and ranches for animal production. Thousands of hectares of land were cultivated by the government to aid massive food production of crops like maize, beans and melon. In order to meet the school-feeding needs of children who consume over 150 crates of eggs per week, as well as other nutritional needs in the state, his government embarked on poultry farming and coco yam cultivation. This is in addition to the sum of N851, 669, 532.53 given to farmers as loans under the Quick Impact Intervention Programme 1 and 2 Schemes. Through QIIP, fertilizers were sold to genuine farmers at subsidized rates. Pesticides were also made available for the purpose of boosting harvests. O’Honey, O’Ram, and O’Fish schemes have also been reinvigorated with a view to meeting the needs of the people.
 
With the present paucity of funds occasioned by dwindling allocations from the Federation Account and the sharp drop in Internally Generated Revenues, the Osun State Government has built over 1,000 kilometres of roads across the state. Ongoing are about 10 different projects traversing different parts of the state. Among them are Old Garage – Ila-Odo/Kwara Boundary Road; Bis iAkande Trumpet Bridge; Gbongan – Akoda East Bypass; and Olaiya – Odi-Olowo -IsaleAro Road. While Ataoja High School is completed and waiting for commissioning, Osogbo Government High School is almost completed and will hopefully be commissioned in the coming weeks.
 
But important as these achievements are, there is still room for improvement. After all, the ruling All Progressives Party in the state won the confidence of the people on the platform of a set of promises which must be fulfilled. As I have always said, preparations for the next election started the very day the last election was won and lost. Impliedly, for Osun State, the road to 2018 actually began on August 9, 2014!
 
Therefore, even as we appreciate the trees and green pastures in Nigeria’s polity, the possibility of failure should continue to challenge the government towards tackling the immense religious, social and economic problems that have become an unfortunate blot on our democracy. The hijab brouhaha, rightly described as a pseudo-storm, is not an exception! Not only that, the people need to be reminded that this unfortunate pass is not peculiar to Osun State.
 
It is being championed by some people in high places, for pedestrian reasons and transient pleasure. In spite of this temporary setback, the state still has potentials for greatness.
May powers assigned to siphon the dividends of our hard-earned democracy BACKFIRE!
 
Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria and can be reached at: ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk.

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Osun and Hijab Politics: Rule of Law Must Be Protected, By Olumuyiwa Wahab Jimoh

I have followed the unfolding but unfortunate drama in state of Osun schools over the rulings of a Court on the right of school children to wear the hijab as prescribed by the Holy book with amusement but recently, I have begun to feel alarmed because the issue is seriously being politicised thus may become poisonous to the people and Government of the State. It is therefore important that responsible stakeholders in the affairs of the state ought to lend their voice to shed light on the pervading darkness and remove the toxins that may hold the state captive if not engaged.
 
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The issues are still very clear but like most things we do in Nigeria, we take it out of context, politicise it and complicate it in order to score some very cheap point. Most of the time, we are not mindful of the danger we may be putting our nation into as a result of such self-driven agenda. That a group of students were resisted by a school authority from wearing hijab to school and as a people who are sticklers to the supremacy of the law, they approached the courts for redress over the perceived trampling by the authorities on their natural rights.
Fortunately as it turns out the Courts in their wisdom against the position of the Government as represented by the school authority recognised the rights of these children and went ahead to rule that they have the fundamental right to wear the hijab to classes being part of their education as growing children. This was really against the wishes of the Government at this particular point in time as adequately represented by state authorities at that level of governance.
Now this was the situation. The Government of the State especially the Executive arm did not make that ruling neither did it impose the hijab on the schools. The Courts did. Whether right or wrong, I had expected the resultant to be blamed on the Courts but in this case, some mischief makers are leading an outcry against the Governor who I believe never had any hands in such matters. Perhaps, this may not have been the case had the Governor been of another faith from the beneficiaries of the Court’s ruling. This is definitely wrong and need to be understood as such.
What has happened in this case is that the Governor with his eyes on the Rule of Law and in keeping with his avowals to protect the constitution to govern without fear or favour has allowed himself to be led by the pronouncement of the courts. I do not understand whether some of the opponents of the Governor would want the Governor to disobey Judicial pronouncements or resort to dictatorship so as to satisfy their own desires and expectations? We believe that as a true democrat, the Governor has demonstrated a high sense of submission to the dictates and essence of the Rule of Law. He ought to be deeply appreciated by all and not disparaged as some self-seeking unpatriotic opportunists have tended to do in this regard.

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If suddenly, those that were not in any way desirous or had the intention of wearing any of their religious habits suddenly decided to so wear then, it will not be wrong and difficult to allude mischief to such actions.Other faiths in the state prior to the ruling of the Courts never exercised any intention of wearing their habits to school and were denied. It was only the students that wanted to wear the hijab and rightly went to seek judicial protection.
It should be noted that while the hijab is an everyday compulsory wear for the girl child, these other religious garbs such as the choir gowns, the Nunnery dresses are for special occasions especially when the students in the schools are not Nuns. Common sense and good reason requires that we allow the hijab demanding students to wear it while the other faiths who never made such demands should have kept their peace. Or, are we saying that the schools are conducting choir presentations on daily basis that would warrant the wearing of such choir gowns to school?
What we have here is that some individuals seeking to score cheap political point and create some advantage for themselves have decided to persuade otherwise good and peaceful people of other faiths to create confusion so as to give the impression of disenchantment amongst the people against the Government. It also had the intention of portraying the state government as religiously biased and insensitive in favour of one faith which is completely far from the truth.
The whole argument becomes more intriguing when we note that Iwo the town at the centre of this melee is predominantly Muslim. One wonders why such predominance will not even be demonstrated at least at the level of equal access and freedom to good and quality education. They have not asked that others should not come to school but have asked that their rights to the hijab be respected. Some parents have been known to deny their girl-children education on this singular excuse that they are not allowed to observe their religious beliefs. We must protect the girl child and champion her education and I strongly believe that this must have also weighed heavily in the mind of the Governor. All of us I am sure must be concerned about this too and refrain from this furore.

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His Excellency, Ogbeni RaufAregbesola, the Executive Governor of the State, whom I have come to admire, does not in any way hold any grudges against any religion. He is a liberal that is committed to allowing every citizen to freely express his or her religious beliefs without let or hindrance. Perhaps, that may have been his perceived sin – the avowal to ensure that all citizens are free to hold and practice their religion in the state. He does not want one religion to hold dominant position over any other and wants the expression of equality to permeate all strata of the state again, that may also be his sin.
It should also be noted that against the misinformation that the agitation for hijab use in public schools started with OGBENI, the truth is that this agitation predated his assumption of office. Muslims have been vigorously agitating for the use of hijab since the advent of western education in the region. All administrations in the west from Obafemi Awolowo to others who succeeded him have contended with this demand. As a matter of fact the 2004 guideline on education that formed the basis of the litigation was the product of a protracted agitation by Muslims in the State, in that year. Those limiting hijab struggle to OGBENI’S tenure are being economical with the truth.
It has become therefore important that those stoking the fire of confusion in Osun Schools should be told to sheath their swords. The people of Osun and in fact the state itself is important and that should guide their actions and pronouncements. There is no meaningful teaching activity that would take place under such charged atmosphere. There is therefore no meaningful learning that would occur within such chaos. I still wonder what the impact of this will be on the performance of the students especially in this year’s School certificate exams both at the Junior and Senior levels.
All the stakeholders in this worrying debacle have choices to make; either in favour of the children or against them; either in favour of a greater and better Osun tomorrow or against the future of the state; either in favour of development or against it and ultimately either in favour of the Rule of Law and good and principled governance or the enthronement of anarchy and dictatorship. These are clear choices that must be made and quickly too before the poison eats too deep into the fabrics of the state.

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I urge the Governor to continue standing by the law and not allow the pressures push him into truncating the rulings of the Courts. However, the need for a multi-stakeholder meeting to be called to look into the issues and forge an accommodating path is also central and critical at this time. Osun has men and women of great repute including being the seat of the highest traditional stool in Yoruba land and one of the highest in the Country. This should be turned into advantage in this situation. It is definitely not beyond what could be resolved internally within the state.
The future of the children of Osun state should not be turned into platforms for the negotiation of political power. They should not be made pawns in the political chessboard of Nigerian politicians especially those in state of Osun. It will not only be morally abhorrent but will also amount to committing infanticide as allowing this to continue will definitely destroy the future of the state’s children.
Paradoxically, majority of those fighting this war do not have their children studying in state of Osun talk less studying in its public schools and that explains why they do not give a hoot to the consequences of their actions in the lives of Osun children. Let the lives and future of the children in the state count and let the gladiators cease today for the sake of the children. That should be the major consideration within the ambits of sticking to the ambits of the Rule of Law. The Governor cannot disobey the law and those who seek a different action from the Governor must also avail themselves of the opportunities available in the Law to upturn the judgment. It is only when there is a counter judgment and the Governor behaves otherwise that we can then accuse the Governor of wrong doing.
For now, his Excellency the Governor has stood on the side of the people and the Law. He truly deserves our commendation!
Hon. Jimoh is the Deputy Majority Leader of the Lagos State House Of Assembly Representing Apapa Constituency II.

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The true story about hijab in Osun – Niyi Akinnaso

This story is not for those with rigid views about the culpability of the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, for the so-called hijab crisis in Osun schools. The goal is not to convince, but to educate, them and others about hijab wearing by female students in Osun schools. I tell the story from three perspectives.
 
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First, I have spent about 20 years in Osun State, primarily at Ilesa and Ile-Ife, and have travelled across the entire state over the years. Ever before Aregbesola became governor, I encountered hijab-wearing female students in both Muslim and Christian schools in different parts of the territory now known as Osun State. True, there have been periodic arguments about hijab in the schools, but never have such arguments overshadowed discussions about education in the state, where there are more serious problems to be solved. It is most unfortunate that Aregbesola’s well-intentioned intervention has now been turned on its head over hijab, which is now being used as a whip to “flog” him with.

Second, I have known the Aregbesola ancestral family in Ilesa since my Higher School Certificate days in Ilesa Grammar School in the 60s. The Aregbesola lineage is made up of both Christians and Muslims. I also know Governor Aregbesola’s own nuclear family quite well. Both he and his wife are Muslims. I know that his wife does not wear hijab. Nor does his daughter. I wonder why and how he could Islamise a whole state, when he comes from a family of Christians and Muslims.
Third, I also know a lot about the educational programme being implemented in Osun by Aregbesola. I reviewed the programme at inception and have written about it on this column. Two central features of the programme are the re-classification and restructuring of the schools, primarily to separate elementary grades 1-4, the beneficiaries of the school feeding programme, from the rest of the elementary grades, which are then merged with the JSS grades 1-3 to form the Middle school in the re-classification. The SSS grades 1-3 are then constituted into High School in the re-classification.
It was this re-classification that led to the restructuring of schools, which in turn led to the merging of some schools and the building of mega schools to accommodate the merged populations. Aregbesola was, however, careful to ensure that Muslim and Christian schools were not merged. Rather, Muslim schools were merged only with Muslim schools, while Christian ones were merged only with their Christian counterparts.
Baptist High School, Iwo, is the site of one of such mergers, adding on students from four other Christian schools, namely, Baptist Secondary School, United Methodist, St. Mary’s, and St. Anthony’s. The last three of these schools had hijab-wearing female students before the merger.
True, Aregbesola never ordered the use or non-use of hijab in Osun schools, the merger of hijab- and non-hijab wearing schools made Baptist High School a site of contestation over hijab, the Christian affiliations of the five schools notwithstanding.
Whether blown up or not by the press, the hijab issue is a lesson for all politicians. In plural societies, cleavages between groups could be exploited for political gain. In societies, like Osun with shared history, culture, and language, religious differences assume greater importance than usual. In Osun today, hijab has been elevated to the highest level as a symbol of religious differences.
There have been two major occasions for this elevation. The first occurred in 2013/14 as the contest for the governorship election took off. At that time, political opponents took as much mileage as they could over a concocted hijab crisis. The second occasion followed a recent court judgment which validated the wearing of hijab. On both occasions, some Christians brainwashed or pressurised a few students to wear Christian robes to school, and even monitored the teachers’ reactions. It all happened in the same Baptist High School, Iwo.
On this second occasion, however, a second school was involved. At the Christ African Middle School, Osogbo, some female Muslim students were prevented from participating in school activities because they wore hijab in the attempt to enforce the court judgment. Muslim leaders quickly intervened and brought the situation under control.
How and why commentators quickly extrapolated from incidents in one or two schools to the entire state says a lot about the state of journalism in this country. True, there are genuine questions to be raised about the dividends of Aregbesola’s investment in education in the state. It is, however, unfortunate that the press would wait for a uniform crisis to raise those concerns.
It is even more worrisome that protests by a few students in one or two schools, at the instigation of their parents or politicians, could be used to anticipate violence of the scale of Boko Haram insurgency and pipeline vandalism by the Niger Delta militants.
It is equally shameful that some parents or guardians would push or pressurise their children or wards to protest hijab and not substantive educational problems. It is particularly worrisome that Christian leaders would take the law into their own hands instead of taking  a leaf from their Muslim counterparts’ book, by appealing the court judgment, which they considered favourable to Muslims.
I have always been sceptical of a press that stokes the fire of disunity, instead of seeking ways of educating the public properly and making opposing sides of a sensitive issue, such as religion, see reason.
This is not to say that there have not been useful suggestions in the commentaries. For example, Aregbesola has been advised to turn over the Christian schools to their missionary owners. However, such an armchair suggestion is not based on what obtains on the ground in Osun today. The strides taken so far with the reclassification and restructuring of Osun schools have gone so deep that reversing the trend will be a huge waste of state resources. Besides, from my knowledge of similar steps in the United States, it often takes years for the dividends of such investment to begin to show.
Finally, Osun parents will contribute more to their children’s education when they work hand in hand with the government and the school teachers to resolve conflicts in the schools. If such attempts fail, there is always the court of law.
 
Source : Punch Newspaper

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CAN HIJAB BE A PART OF UNIFORM? – Adekunle Al Miftau Adeite

As the conversation on the actions of the Osun State Chapter of CAN continues, various perspectives and remarks are coming into play. Interestingly, Interestingly, ‘westerns-style’ education’ and ‘uniforms’ seems to be common parallels being used to justify positions. Therefore, the below is a review of the Hijab practices in those ‘Western Countries’.
 
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1. In America, Hijab wearing is protected under the constitutional right to freedom of religion. Any school that violates this right can come under federal lawsuit. Organizations like the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) make sure that religious rights in schools are respected as well as make sure that schools do not endorse any religions. It can be a fine line. In addition to protecting the rights of girls to wear hijab it also allows for other religious articles such as the Jewish yarmulke or jewelry with the Star of David. It also protects the rights of Christians to wear the cross. It also guarantees that reasonable accommodations be made for students religions. So Muslims wanting to make their 5 daily prayers must be allowed to pray in school. However, schools can make certain requirements about a student’s hijab. For example, schools that require uniforms can require that a hijab be a specific color. Nursing and Medical schools can require that a hijab be a specific color (usually white) and that it be tight fitting and must be tucked into a shirt so that there are no ends hanging which could transfer diseases from one patient to another.
2. In Quebec, Canada, Emilie Ouimet, a 13-year-old high school student, was sent home from school for wearing the Hijab. The primary reason given by the principal was that the school had a strict code that forbade the use of caps or attire that would distinguish students from their peers – part of a dress code for disciplinary reasons. Soon after, a debate raged for months through Quebec society.
The parents of Dania Bali, a straight-A student who was asked to remove her Hijab filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. The Commission made a landmark ruling that turned the tide: Quebec schools did not have the right to prohibit any student from wearing religious attire (be it a Sikh turban, a Jewish yarmulke, a Christian cross, or Islamic Hijab).
More importantly, Quebec society was asked to consider the issues of religious pluralism in the emerging “global village”. The Quebec Charter of Rights guaranteed religious freedom, and no school administrator or employer could take that right away.
3. The Metropolitan Police in London has accepted Hijab as a uniform option for Muslim women serving in the force. The announcement was made at a conference on the theme of “Protect and Respect: Everybody’s Benefit”. The move is seen as a further sign of official acceptance of Britain as a religiously diverse society where faith-related accommodations should be made for all individuals.
4. In Scotland, the Police introduced a hijab to its uniform in an effort to attract more Muslim women to a force which is failing to reflect the diversity in the country’s population.
5. In Minnesota, Kadra Mohamed, (in the attached photo) became Minnesota’s first hijab wearing police woman and the first Somali female officer. Kadra Mohamed is only 21 years old and already making history.
We can go on and on with examples from Western Countries you want to tell us our education is styled after. You have also seen that Hijab can also be a part of a uniform too.
Aregbesola may have other faults, are we going to fault him on the ruling of a competent court of law?
I asked a question which no one endeavored to answer: what does a person’s hijab stops you from doing? How does a piece of scarf constitute a distraction when half-naked dresses do not?
Maybe we should do away with uniforms to please all, after all students in Anne Arundel County schools in the state of Maryland, USA do not wear uniforms.

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Much ado about hijab in the State of Osun – Kikiowo Ileowo

Much has been said in recent times about the wearing of Hijab and Church robes to school by pupils in public schools in the state of Osun, however, what has apparently been missing in the discussion is the availability of facts and logic for discussants to analyze the true situation of things before passing their opinions.
Before going to the crux of matter, let me lay a background of the true situation of things as regards the recent hullaballoo amongst groups that purport to represent the interest of diverse religious groups in the state of Osun. We have Christians represented by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); Muslims, represented by the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN); the government, led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and other interested parties in the case.
 
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The religious conflict got to a crescendo last week when an Osun State High Court judge, Justice Jide Falola, delivered a judgment in favour of a case instituted by the MSSN against the state government on the right of female Muslim students in state public schools to wear Hijab to their various classes. The judge declared the wearing of Hijab in public schools by female Muslim pupils as legal and appropriate.
The Muslims had dragged the state government headed by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to court over the refusal of some ‘Christians’ public schools to allow their female students wear the Hijab. After the judgment, CAN Osun State Chapter instructed Christian pupils to wear church robes to school if the state government dare implement the judgment.
To cut the long story short, some five students, following the instruction of the CAN leaders, wore church robes to school this week. In fact, the CAN leaders followed the pupils to schools to make sure they weren’t turned back for wearing their church robes (never mind they haven’t carried out such an action over the failure of some Christian pupils after their examinations).
Interestingly, a similar suit by the Muslim group in Lagos had failed to see the light of the day as the judge, Justice Modupe Onyeabor, rule that the prohibition of the wearing of Hijab over school uniforms within and outside the premises of public schools was not discriminatory. According to her, the ban does not violate Sections 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as claimed by the plaintiffs. The Judge also said Section 10 of the Constitution made Nigeria a secular state and that government must maintain neutrality at all times. Justice Onyeabor held that the government had a duty to preserve the secular nature of the institutions concerned as argued by the then Lagos State Solicitor-General, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN).
The Muslims in Lagos has since proceeded to the Court of Appeal where it is yet to be determined. Why should the case of Osun CAN be different? Aren’t they supposed to be the salt and light of the earth? Aren’t they supposed to be leading by example? Rather than take the legal route, CAN in the state of Osun resorted to self-help, asking students to disobey school rules by wearing unapproved uniforms. The Christians based their argument on one point; the Muslims cannot be allowed to wear hijab in ‘Christian schools’.
By Edict No. 14 of 1975, the then military government took over private/missionary schools because, according to available records, “the owners charged exorbitant fees and did not give quality education to students. School buildings were of substandard structures, unqualified teachers were employed, teaching and learning materials were inadequate while classrooms were over-crowded.”
This was the summary of the situation of privately owned schools that prompted the takeover of all such schools in 1975. It should be mentioned here however that the findings of the Western State Government in 1975, was not at variance with, but a replica of one common feature of the reports of the various Educational Review Committees set up at different times in the old three main regions of Nigeria. These include the Oldman’s Report in the old North, Dike’s Report of the old East, and Banjo’s Report of the Western Region. The reports of the various committees intensely reflected the acute immobility that had characterized the inherited colonial system that involved prejudice, high handedness, religious discrimination in pupils’ enrolment, staff recruitment and the general administration of schools. Read more here.
In fact, the “Takeover of schools Validation Decree” of 1977, which still remains in force, states that, “the hold of government on those schools has afforded the government to be able to provide sustained education to the mass majority of the Nigerian public at an affordable cost, without RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION AND BIAS”.
What this means is that there are no Christian or Muslim schools in Osun. There are only PUBLIC schools. The government back in 1976 resolved to keep the names given by the missionaries. That is why you have public schools bearing names such as Ede Muslim Grammar School, Baptist High School, Adeeke, Iwo, etc. The schools may bear religious names, but they belong to the government/public. It is being financed with public funds. Most of the schools now wear new look,with modern learning equipment paid for by ALL citizens of Osun, which include Christians, Muslims, Traditional Worshippers, Agnostic and Atheists alike.
Therefore, the schools the Christians are laying claim to are government schools. They were acquired from diverse sources; religious, individuals, communities, groups, etc in 1975. That is, 41 years ago. But for the five students of Baptist High School, Adeeke, Iwo, many Christian pupils in Osun ignored the CAN leadership, toeing the path of decorum and civility. In truth, the school where the orchestrated drama took place housed three schools with combined population of about 3000 students and we saw no other student wear unapproved garments to school.
Even though Ogbeni had reiterated his stand on the matter, when he said at an event earlier this week that, “It is not the business of any government, through the schools, to lead a child in a particular religious direction. That will be for parents and religious institutions, in private capacity, until the child is grown enough to make a decision on religion.
He said, “The government cannot support or be seen to be supporting a particular religion. The government is a democracy, not a theocracy. I believe also that parents and society should complement the government in shaping the minds of the pupils to be receptive to knowledge and godly character formation; to be sensitive to the need of others, the plurality of our society and the imperative of mutual toleration. They should also be brought up to be team players, even when in a competitive environment. It amounts to subversion of the educational needs of a child for them to be drawn into and used for political purposes.”
Despite this reassurance from the state governor, CAN went ahead to carry out its provocative threat. Going forward, the motives of the CAN leaders in Osun must be questioned. In whose interest are they acting? For most part, CAN played and is still playing the role of government opposition rather than a pious body meant to instill morals and discipline on many of its followers who look up to it for leadership. A body like CAN ought to at ALL times, promote peace and harmony, rather than seek through the back door, what it could have easily achieved in a court of law.
Thank God other citizens did not take laws into their hands. Imagine if the traditional worshippers – many of whom are in abundance in Osun – decide to start wearing traditional robes such as Bante, Ifunpa, Ofi, etc. Or imagine for a minute, adherents of Osun religion begin demanding wearing of white uniforms only, with white beads to school? Or, children of Sango worshippers, in another instance, insist on wearing red caps to school, with earrings in the ears of their boys?
Muslims have been wearing Hijab to schools since God knows when. As a Christian, it doesn’t hinder my faith or ability to learn. If the CAN leadership has a problem with it, they should approach the law courts, rather than embark on actions that could cause disaffection amongst the peace loving people of Osun.

Ileowo Kikiowo is the Chief Strategist at Revamp Media.

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Osun: CAN overheating polity over hijab – Sheikh Ahmed

The Chief Missioner of Ansar-Ud- Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Ab­dul-Rahman Ahmed, has cautioned against heating the polity over the Christians Association of Nigeria’s (CAN) reaction to the court judg­ment that permitted female Muslim students to wear hijab to school.
 
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In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Sheikh Ahmed said if CAN is not comfortable with the court pronouncement, it should go to the appellate court, instead of doing things that undermine the religious harmony that existed in the state. Excerpts…
CAN is accusing Osun State government of wanting to cause religious crisis in the state, what is your opinion on this?
To wear the hijab or not is a very simple matter. It is being over politicised. The partisanship of reli­gions in Osun State is rubbing off very heavily and negatively on the religious harmony that had existed between Muslims and Christians in the state.
One thing we must steer clear off is playing politics with religion either as individuals, or at the level of the family, the state and country. Nigeria is blessed because it’s a very diverse country. Our philosophy has been live and let live. The way I dress should not affect you and the way you dress should also not affect me. Barring that, the rule of decency and good conscience is observed.
If I wear Agbada and you put on turban it shouldn’t detract from my humanity; it doesn’t infringe on any­one at all.
At the Nigeria Inter Religious Council, this is what we strive to promote, not to involve our cultural identity into one, but with respect and regard for the diversity that we represent.
I’m yet to see how a student dressed in Hijab is infringing on the rights of others. In real life, we do not dress the same way. What we are practicing is secularity not secu­larism. Distinction must be made; secularity is a deliberate state policy to create a level playing field for ev­eryone, and making no one suffer any disadvantage as a result of his religious conviction.
In the US military, there was a Sikh person by religion and you identify Sikhs by their turban.Just recently, the US Army allowed him to wear his turban over his uniform. Even in countries that pride them­selves as secular like the UK and US, you find military men, policemen and women with their religious iden­tity. We just need to be tolerant of one another and be honest with our­selves. We should stop unnecessary heating up of the polity because we will not go anyway with that. If you exercise the right that is peculiar to you, should I find an equivalent? For instance, if you carry an ivory stick because you are an Igbo chief, must I now insist that I must also carry the cow horn? It doesn’t make sense be­cause it is not rooted in my culture but carrying an ivory staff is rooted in the Igbo culture. If I put feather on my cap, people would ask me, what mode of dressing is this because it is not my culture. We can only progress if we avoid all these narrowness and bigotry.
Everyone knows that Hijab is part and parcel of the dressing of female Muslim, guided by her faith. I don’t see an issue here. In real life we dress differently.
What does this portend?
It will lead to further intolerance. In Osun, it is the same people who have lived and are very happy to live together. Even in Iwo where women cover their faces and have lived like that forever and there has not been any issue. So, what is bringing this? It is nothing but politics, which must be excused in its totality.
Will it not amount to a mockery of the judiciary that made the pronouncement?
It has implications for us as a peo­ple and for law and order. I think the proper thing as law-abiding citizens to do is that if there is any court rul­ing that didn’t go down well with you, you should go to the appeal court.
I don’t think, unless there is any evidence to the contrary that it has anything to do with the state govern­ment.
Individuals took the state govern­ment to court and there was a judg­ment delivered. So, it is an invitation to anarchy if people disobey court order when there is a normal channel to go on appeal. It is an affront to the judiciary.
What is the solution to this problem?
It is simple. Let us all be law-abid­ing. If there is a problem, the courts are there. You cannot disagree with the court and do what is contrary to the ruling of that court. If you are dissatisfied, go and appeal the judg­ment.
For instance in Rivers State, after the court judgment that Wike was duly elected and Peterside disagreed and relocated the headquarters of Rivers to wherever, it was going to breed anarchy. Respecting court judgment is the only way we can have peace.
Those who are calling for distor­tions are those who would not take recourse to the judiciary to address their grievances. They are not ulti­mately religious people. They do not behave like religious people, they are thugs. But I believe they are not thugs. They are supposed to be religious people and are supposed to respect constituted authority. In case they are not satisfied, the courts are there, and I don’t know what exam­ples they want to set for others.
This is a state where workers have not received salaries for months, and they have been pitched against one another, doesn’t it justify your position that the political elites are marginalising the people?
Sometimes it is intriguing how we behave and react to issues. Our na­tion is going through crises now and most of the crises are self-inflicted. We must be honest, and we don’t have business being where we are today. I saw the footage about the Osun school, the students are not fighting, they are not enemies to one another. The students are being used. They are pawns in the chessboard of the politicians. They are not at each other’s throat. The issue has nothing to do with them.
It is a serious issue in Osun State and in Nigeria, making a serious is­sue out of how a student should dress leaves much to be desired. There is more to it than meet the eyes.
This hijab issue started during the Aregbesola ad­ministration, and CAN has accused him of trying to Is­lamise the state?
There was a time in Osun when the governor was a Christian, the deputy was a Christian as well as the Speaker of the House, and nobody said that Oyinlola was Christianising the state. Nobody ever said that. This Islamising and Christianising which are the new words in our lexicon, do not matter to the poor people. The most important thing is for them to live a comfortable life. These po­litical impostors are friends. What is important to them is to divide the people, but there is nothing divid­ing them, all of them are one and the same. They should stop deceiving the people. If there are scores to set­tle, they should do so among them­selves and stop hiding under religion to perpetrate all the atrocities. It has nothing to do with religion. The peo­ple are not involved. it is the infec­tion of the elites who are disgruntled and looking for relevant.

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