The Hassles of a Hijab


Saturday Polscope  

For nearly two weeks, I have listened to and reviewed all the arguments that followed the refusal of the Nigerian Law school to call to Bar, one Firdaus Amasa, who insisted on wearing her hijab into the hall of ceremony where lawyers were to be admitted/inducted into the Law profession.

As usual with issues that touch on our religious beliefs, the action has triggered a wide and wild range of reactions from all sides of the polity.

It all betrays how we sacrifice issues of propriety on the altar of emotion and banal religious beliefs.

Two years ago, a nearly similar crisis broke out in Osun State where secondary school students insisted on wearing their hijab to school, including even missionary schools, contrary to the prescribed school uniforms of the various schools. It got to a head when students of the Christian faith began to dorn large choir robes and all such cassocks to school, just to get even with the Muslim students.

Until the leaders of the state intervened, it was one issue that had threatened to tear the state apart.

In this case of Amasa, I find it difficult to understand the point she wanted to make by insisting on wearing a hijab to a call-to-Bar ceremony. In her statements after she triggered the needless debate, she had said she did it for the sake of oncoming Muslims.

She had argued that there was no law against wearing hijab to the ceremony, pointing out that the regular dress code was mere convention, and not a binding  order.

I do not understand how a Law student who had spent five full years in the university studying a professional course would not understand the meaning of a dress code.  Given the conservative nature of the Law profession, what makes Amasa to think that she can freely break a conventional code, and go scot-free?

Does wearing the wig and gown for the three or so hour-long ceremony without hijab make her less Muslim?

For sure, thousands of Muslims had passed through the Law school in the past without the needless controversy she has generated across the land. And more will yet pass through it.  Hijab-loving Muslims had complied with the dress code at such ceremonies without raising any fanatical dust. And since then they have been wearing their hijabs unmolested as long as they want. Has this Amassa ever heard the saying, ’Give unto Ceaser, what belongs to Ceaser?

Pray, how many times has Amasa seen a female Judge presiding over a case dorning a hijab?

Justice Fati Lami Abubakar, was not only a Judge, she was the wife of a former head of State. She never wore hijab to court.

The present President of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa is a female Muslim. But she does not wear hijab to Court.

What’s more, the first female Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN), Hon Justice Aloma  Mariam Mukhtar is also a Muslim. She never wore Hijab to court. Is she less a Muslim or is she less a lawyer?

So what example is Amasa following?

She is said to be the daughter of a lecturer at the University of Ilorin. She was said to have graduated with second class upper. So it can be taken that she was/is fully aware of what she was doing and all that she wanted to achieve: draw attention to herself and possibly set the nation on edge.

Already, there are plans by some Muslim groups to organize a protest against Law School. It is amazing how swiftly the fire of religion burns in this country. We are hardly united against tyranny and oppression. But when it comes to religion, we bond with uncommon affinity.

The Sultan of Sokoto had reacted, claiming the Nigerian constitution recognizes the wearing of Hijab and so questions the superiority of the laws of the Nigerian Law school.

In the same vein, the Nigerian senate has indicated interest in investigating the matter with a view to dousing the rising tension on the matter.

Every profession has got its codes and nuances.

Can we imagine a female pilot wearing the uniform of a Captain, and then goes ahead to get draped in a hijab and expect her passengers not to exercise some concern? Which airline will allow such a pilot into the cockpit?  Or how many female Muslim soldiers wear the army uniform and decorates themselves with the hijab?

In a country where there is no state religion, what message would a lawyer dressed in Hijab be sending to other Nigerians, especially if she is handling a case against a Christian? Would she not be accused of religious bias or hatred?

The irony of such religious bigotry is that it does not necessarily  translate to holiness. It is not so much the outward appearance that counts. And as they say, it is not the hood that makes the monk. A religious bigot can dress to the hilt in a particular outfit of a sect and yet not be a good or pleasant human being, let alone be acceptable by God. Indeed, it is not so much the Hijab that defines the Islamic content of a Muslim, rather it is the totality of his/her faithfulness to his/her maker as well as relationship with fellow humans. Anchoring a fate on mere tailor-made  is akin to the banal pursuit of form other than substance.

Surely, the Amassa religious hoopla is one religious tension that the country does not need, one bit.

Rather than drag the polity into this feud, she has the right to sue the Law School and seek redress if she feels strongly that her rights to hijab wearing, no matter the occasion and setting, has been infringed upon.

By taking to the volatile social media to whip up religious sentiments is to be both mischievous and incendiary in intent.

It is remarkable that she has missed the call to bar this season. She may have to wait till another year before she can properly practise her law. And that sets her on the eye of the storm as well. Will she drop her hijab next year so she can be called to Bar or will the Nigerian Law School compromise its ethics and call her and her hijab to the Bar?

Nigeria can be better off, if we are fanatical about positive things that can grow the Nigeria economy and expand its socio-economic frontiers. Hijab or no Hijab cannot provide a pin.


It’s Christmas Again…..

Despite the controversy it generates among some religious adherents, the Christmas festival that symbolically marks the birth of Jesus Christ, is undoubtedly the most popular global festival, observed by all and sundry. Nothing else compares.

And so, next Monday, the world will literally shut down for the yuletide season. It means different things to different people. But  what is not in doubt is that it generates joy and love among mankind, irrespective of creed or colour.

Here in Nigeria, it is an exhilarating time, full of fun and glitz for the young and the old. That is why I herein wish all our readers the best of the season, not forgetting the reason for the season. Never mind the small-small hassles we have as part of our national challenges, one of which is the persisting fuel scarcity, with its attendant suffering, which surfaced again after two full years of “sufficiently fuelled” Christmas season; even when some other countries are far gone in planning to completely do away with petrol-powered cars and engines. But as Bob Marley would sing,  Forget your sorrows and dance…

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Why Would a Degraded Boko Haram Yet Pull $1b off Our Treasury?

Did you hear the most shocking news of the year?

Shocking news? What has happened? Evans has escaped from prison? Or have they finally caught Abubakar Shekau? What is it?

It is the $1 Billion story

$1Billion? Is it the money meant for the battle against Boko Haram?

Correct! I hear that the federal Government is withdrawing the huge sum of $1billion to assit in defeating Boko Haram.

I read the news and I think it is high time Nigeria crushed the insurgents. They have troubled us enough.

You mean you support the withdrawal of that huge sum from the treasury of a bleeding country? You know what $1 Billion translates to in Nigeria? Do you know what that amount can do on our infrastructure or to our languishing public service workers?

My friend, don’t over dramatize this matter. Security architecture is never cheap anywhere in the world. Of what use is a perfect infrastructural outlay in the country when people are not safe or cannot even use the so-called perfect infrastructure? Security is everything. There is nothing too much to give for the sake of security. What is $1 Billion compared to the peace of a country? Can you quantify the value of the thousands of lives that have been lost to the Boko Haram insurgents? Money is made for man, not man for money. Haba! Did we borrow the money? Is it not ours? Nigerian money used to solve Nigerian problem, so what is wrong with that?

I am surprised at your argument. Have you forgotten that for almost two years now the Federal Government in an attempt to hastily claim credit for its combative efforts has been claiming that it has “degraded Boko Haram”, that it has “technically defeated Boko Haram”? If this same Boko Haram had been degraded, disorganized, and defeated, why pull out $1 billion to tackle a degraded entity? Look, the only way I can endorse the action is for them to publicly admit that they have been running mere propaganda all along, especially that our modern day Goebbels in that other ministry.

It has never been a propaganda. It has become an asymmetric warfare. Don’t forget the varying dynamics of the insurgency and the wide land space of the war which is bigger than many European countries.  The advert campaigns are meant to also boost the morale of our soldiers who  are at the firing range of the war.

I know you have been defending this obnoxious request of the federal government. Ok, let me ask you: does the National Economic Council have the right to direct the federal government to draw down from our external reserves without recourse to the National Assembly, which is body allowed by law to appropriate public funds? Or are the governors now the approving authority for financial dealings?

In matters of security, you don’t have to be too critical or explicit or legalistic. Security is an emergency. It cannot travel the chequered route of procedural approvals.

Let me add also that the money will also be used to procure military hardware, surveillance equipment, armoured helicopters, “procure intelligence” and other technical equipage etc. We cannot afford to have either a porous or an under-equipped arsenal.

Is it with the $1 Billion that the remaining Chibok girls and the kidnapped Unimaid lecturers will be rescued? I ask because there is a loud radio silence on the efforts being made to rescue those people. We do not… 

Don’t make jest of the issue. If the money leads to the real and confirmable defeat and degradation of the insurgents, would Nigeria not be better for it?

So give the federal government the access to the funds as it will ultimately make Nigeria safer and better positioned to attract foreign direct investments. Nigeria belongs to us all.