By Festus Adedayo
The needless crisis over the wearing of veils called Hijab by students and pupils of Kwara public schools, like an ill-wind, has provoked all manner of toxic dusts in the polity. Trapped in the vortex of the arguments for and against the wearing of veils are the two religions of Islam and Christianity. While Christians seek the continuation of the status-quo of a practice of nil religious identification of their students with religion in their mode of dressing, a practice that is about a century old, Muslims insist that their wards and children needed physical demarcation of their religiosity, in the form of the Hijab. As much as this sounds very petty, very insignificant and at best diversionary, the instigator, from all intent and purposes, is the government, led by Abdurazaq, the governor. The question people ask is, what is the motive in this policy from Abdulrazaq as he deliberately pollutes the peace of a people who had worn their religious identities inside their souls, rather than on their lapels, for ages?
Two interventions in this regard caught my fancy. One was from respected columnist, Dare Babarinsa and famous zealot, Ishaq Modibo Kawu. While the former, in his piece for The Guardian entitled Ilorin and the crisis of identity, did a commendable historical journey into the Ilorin Hijab crisis thus far, Kawu’s bile-ridden rejoinder was consumed by the usual fire of intolerance and religious insensitivity that has been the bane of Nigeria till today.
In a world that is fast erasing religious fault lines and is moving at a supersonic speed into a technological age, Kawu is still encumbered by a religious identity that has little or no bearing on human development. The truth is that, obsessive fascination for religion, to the level of the Kawu fanaticism and the kind being promoted by Abdulrazaq, is getting anachronistic. It was the same model thrown up by ex-Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who took his’ a notch higher into the realm of absurdity. Today, the whole religious pack of cards has fallen abysmally.
Christianity and Islam are both anvils deployed by politicians with sagging credibility. I will not be surprised if this Hijab conundrum is a ploy by Abdulrazaq to scoop up unmerited support and Kawu is one of the messengers employed to deepen the bile. Time will soon tell.
Great Solomon at 72
One of journalism’s icons from the South East of Nigeria would be celebrating his 72nd birthday tomorrow. He is ex-Akokite, (University of Lagos Mass Communication graduate, 1984) ex-Staff Writer of Enugu-based Star Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, who later rose to become its General Manager; ex-Enugu Commissioner for Information and a gentleman par excellence. I intend in this piece to use my encounter with Nnomeh to exemplify the thesis that if Nigerians manage their diversity appropriately, they will live together in peace.
In what sounded like an unexampled sacrifice to nationhood taken too far, in 2003, then governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, appointed me as his Special Assistant. I remember that on a visit to President Olusegun Obasanjo in Aso Rock two or so years later, the president was excited and verbalized it while welcoming us – Enugu State delegation – to the Villa. My mother and many other friends and family members were worried for me. How could I cross several rivers to go and live with people “who eat people,” one of them retorted. Nnomeh and other colleagues offered me a shield from whatever hostilities that might come.
Fast-forward to early 2005. One bright morning, the governor summoned me to his office at the Lion Building and told me that he had told Ossy Ugwuoti, the Chief Press Secretary, to hand over to me. What name did I want my office to bear: Special Adviser or Chief Press Secretary? I was too numb to reply him.
And I walked languidly out of his office and down to the adjoining building, the Press Unit. Gathered were my colleagues – Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, who had then just been named Commissioner in charge of Information; Dan Nwomeh; Nnomeh; Maxwel Ngene; Obiorah Ifo – all Igbo and the information had filtered to them. I was greeted with a deafening shout of celebration. They carried me shoulder high and their joy knew no bounds. Ugwuoti, their Igbo kinsman, had just been relieved of his duty and an ofe n manu – a pejorative name given to Yoruba – had been asked to take over his office and yet, these Igbo men were happy and excited! That day, I swore never to allow tribal, religious classifications stand by my estimation of humanity.
Nnomeh is widely known for his early morning words of wisdom programme on the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) years ago and was thus appropriately nicknamed Solomon. He deploys his versatility in native wisdom to intervene in discussions and even in his writings. This is wishing the Great Solomon a very happy birthday
Festus Adedayo is a Public Affairs Analyst.