By Dapo Thomas
Suspicion is what is causing the Tom and Jerry game between the Christians and the Muslims in Osun State and it is not likely to die down anytime soon for as long as the two groups do not trust each other and the Christians keep raising the ante over every action of the government that seems to favour the Muslims in the State.
This is why the Christian Association of Nigeria in the State is expanding the frontiers of its suspicion. The Muslim group is also trying to expand the frontiers of its operations. The Osun CAN is protesting the attempt by the Muslim group to influence the government in legislating the wearing of Hijab by all female Muslim students in public schools in Osun irrespective of the missionary status of such schools. Osun State is therefore about to be consumed or swallowed by what the revered Yoruba historian Samuel Johnson would call “Ogun kanjabu’.
I admit that the cassock and the hijab we fight over are garments of strong spiritual significance complimenting our dress code but for sure they are not a true reflection of what and who we are before God who deals more with our inner character than our outward appearance. Most of the so-called religious groups have developed and enunciated their own doctrines to create the impression that our inner piety is secondary to our outward hypocrisy. Coming up with the Hijab-wearing demand in less than a year of being granted the hijra holiday by the state government is nothing but sheer opportunism by the Muslim group who wanted to leverage on government generosity to get some other things they failed to get from previous administrations.
The Muslim group should not indulge themselves in any form of self-congratulatory ecstasy because they have one of their own in power. It is sheer abuse of goodwill. The idea of animating issues that had already been resolved by previous administrations simply because Ogbeni is now the Governor is very hypocritical, opportunistic and provocative. Because the government acceded to their request for an Hijra holiday is not a license to come up with other irreverent ideas and requests that can set the State on fire.
This Oliver twist style is quite unfortunate because each time they come with some of these requests, the Christian Group, knowing Aregbe’s passion for Islam before he became the Governor of the state, tend to suspect that it was the government that was flying a kite. Though it is not a crime for the Ogbeni to show passion for his faith, the best thing for him to do now is to moderate the tone and aggression of his love for his religion. The office he occupies does not encourage any form of extremism or excessiveness on his part irrespective of his personal desires.
He is the father of the state and all religious groups including the traditional worshippers have become his responsibility. In my own view, I think the Ogbeni has achieved this balancing since he came to office. Henceforth, he should let all requests for any policy on religion be legislated upon by the State House of Assembly. The direct intervention of the Government especially as it did on the hijra holiday would not do any credit to the Governor whose every action is now being misconstrued as part of his hidden agenda for the Islamization of Osun State. The Governor needs the support and cooperation of all the religious groups. I believe the Ogbeni is too wise not to know that it is not politically expedient for him to risk general popularity and support for sectarian glorification and Nasfatorial martyrdom.
CAN seem to believe that some of the actions and activities of the Government have given Muslims undue advantage in the state. But even at that CAN must show or prove that these actions and activities have influenced government policies to warrant any serious insinuation. However, I find it ridiculous when people are suggesting that the Governor’s mode of dressing (he wears jalamiya very often) and the beards that he keeps are offensive to the Christians. Haba, why must it be a crime for a man to wear clothes or uniforms that he finds convenient? Or why must a man sacrifice the beards he has been nurturing for a number of years for citizens atonement? Supposing this is what his wife finds attractive in him, should he now disfigure his look and risk marital squabbles in order to pacify intolerant citizens?
I will not under any circumstance advise the Governor to succumb to the pressure of his “adversaries” (whoever they may be), that he should delete his beards in order to look more cosmopolitan. It is taking public service too far to compel him to reconfigure the essentials of his person as a sacrifice for canpopic appeasement or electoral benevolence.
Saying that the Sultan of Sokoto had visited the governor two times in two years is as good as raising the same query about Pastor E. A. Adeboye who I am sure had visited the governor of the state on equal counts or more. One‘s political office or position should not be a hindrance to free association and meeting with people of substance whose influence in the state or in the country can be of tremendous advantage to the development of the state, socially, economically and politically. Afterall, all the so-called visits are not nocturnal, they have been conducted in the full glare of the public and Television cameras. It should not be a crime for the Governor to fraternize with the Muslims anytime he so desires so far the same gesture is extended to the Christian group. And I think the governor has been very fair in this regard.
As the father of the state, the governor identifies with the Christians very actively during the Easter festivals, Christmas and New Year celebrations. Likewise he takes part in El-del Fitri, Maulud Nabiyyu, El-del kabir and now the hijra. I have seen him on many occasions attending wedding and funeral services in church holding hymn book and singing the hymns with pulsating staccato. I am sure that his attendance at these Christian gatherings is not just for political pacification but also for soul edification.
The claim by CAN that the governor wants to Islamise the state is reckless and unfounded. If indeed he had such an agenda, he is too intelligent not to know how to go about it. He would not have allowed the Christians to dominate his cabinet nor would he have conceded a higher number to the Christians in the appointment of the permanent secretaries in the state civil service. These are the elite corps of the policy-making caucus. Neither would he have allowed the Christians to also be dominant in the house of assembly. Even most of the aides that he personally appointed are Christians. The Islamization of a state cannot be done if there is no structure to support and accommodate its legislation and legitimization. And the major structure that can begin the process of such a radical change in people’s faith in a state is none other than the executive council or even the state house of assembly. As it is presently constituted, the Christians are dominant in Osun government and it is surprising that CAN still feel uncomfortable with this present advantage.
I do not want to believe that CAN is acting the opposition script not because I am stupid to the point of believing that we do not have corrupt Christians but because I think it is shameful and sinful that men of God are encouraging and conspiring with men in Agbada to discredit and disparage a progressive and hardworking government that they have in Osun. Besides, religious bodies should not limit their intervention in the polity to only religious matters or policies. They should speak out on other issues that are germane to nation-building. The kind of activism which the likes of Dr. Olubunmi Okogie , Reverend Gbonigi and Reverend Abiodun Adetiloye displayed during the inglorious era of the military seems to have gone down significantly. While it may be true that the evils of the military provoked the kind of resistance and opposition put up by these people, are we saying such evils are still not with us even under this democratic dispensation? Recently the Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi raised an alarm that Nigeria is sliding towards dictatorship yet our spiritual fathers are fighting over cassock and hijab as if it is more important that a nation under siege. Let our spiritual leaders speak out on kidnapping, armed robbery, unemployment , bad governance, bad roads, pensions crisis , decline in education, vanishing national values, corruption, poverty, election rigging, police killing of innocent souls and a lot of evils that still abound.
I may not be familiar with the Quran as I am with the bible but I am sure the ultimate objective of every religion is to win lost souls that may be heading towards hell. However, here we engage in conflict, riots and wars in a bid to win these lost souls. In the process we kill ourselves. Is it not intriguing that instead of winning souls, we are killing souls. I am now confused and disturbed that if we kill all the souls that we are supposed to win over, what do we now take to God to justify our compliance with and obedience to his soul- winning injunction?
Each time we kill ourselves or go to war with one another over issues of religion or God, we create in the minds of those we call infidels or unbelievers, a very weak God that is incapable of defending himself. It is laughable that man who is yet to unravel and resolve the mystery of his own mortality is trying to defend a God that we all acknowledge is immortal. Is it not God himself who says in the holy books that the battle is his? Show me that man who feels he can defend God or fight God’s war for him and I will show you a fool in the abattoir of the reprobates.
Both CAN and the “Hijab group” of the “Land of the Virtuous” must be guided by the creed of the land that enjoins them to distance themselves from any form of iniquities. The land that harbours the virtuous should not at the same time spew profanities, shenanigans and territorial desecration.
Thomas, former special aide to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, teaches History and International Studies at the Lagos State University.