By Hammed Shittu
Violence Wednesday marred the reopening of 10 schools, originally owned by Christian Missions, shut by the Kwara state government over the use of Hijab as Christians and Muslims in Ilorin engaged themselves.
The government of Addulrahman AbdulRazaq had ordered the reopening of the affected schools on Wednesday to enable the students prepare for the upcoming external examinations, without resolving the Hijab issue.
There are fears that if the unfolding development is not urgently and carefully handled it could snowball into religious violence in a state known for peace and religious harmony.
At the Baptist Secondary School, Surulere, the situation was serious as security operatives had to disperse the Muslim and Christian leaders who threw stones at each other over the development.
Already, security agencies including police, civil defence corps, soldiers had been deployed to the affected schools to prevent a total break down of law and order.
The affected schools are, C&S College, Sabo Oke; St. Anthony College, Offa Road; ECWA School, Oja Iya; Surulere Baptist Secondary School and Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam.
Others are CAC Secondary School, Asa Dam road; St. Barnabas Secondary School, Sabo Oke; St. John School, Maraba, St. Williams Secondary School, Taiwo Isale, and St. James Secondary School, Maraba.
As early as 7.30a.m, students of the affected schools that trooped out to comply with the state government to resume normal classes were turned back at their various schools.
The students who were eager to resume could not gain entrance as Christian leaders and their members were already at the main gates of the affected schools and asked the students to go back to their various homes.
The Christian leaders who were armed with various inscriptions like “O To Ge” gives us our schools back, “No to Hijab in Kwara”, “Kwara is not an Islamic state, Kwara is for all”, “Our schools is our heritage, we oppose the Hijab in our schools”, among others
Also, some Muslims groups who laid siege to the main gates of the affected schools chanted:”Laillah Illaha Lahu, Laillaha Illah lahu” .
All efforts made by these Muslims group to allow the students to enter the affected schools were rebuffed by the Christians who were also at the main gates of the affected schools.
The development however snowballed into serious crisis as they were attacking each other with stones.
It was at this point that security operatives were deployed to the affected schools so as to avoid unforeseen situation in Ilorin.
A visit of our correspondent to some of the schools like Baptist Secondary school, Surulere area, Ilorin; St. Anthony Secondary School, Ilorin; Bishop Smith Secondary School and C&S College, Sabo-Oke Ilorin showed the presence of Christians and Muslims groups exchanging hot words over the wearing of Hijab in the affected schools.
Reports from other schools revealed that, students could not enter their schools as Christians and Muslims were still attacking each other over the resumption.
At Bishop Smith Grammar School along Agba Dam road, a staff of the school Abdulraaheed Gambari in an interview with journalists urged the government to be firm in its decision and restore normalcy in the affected schools.
He said, “Some of the parents wish that their wards use hijab to school, government has already intervened in this matter, and made their own stance that the Muslim students who wishes be allowed to use Hijab in the Christian schools.
“They are not forcing it on non Muslims. The issue is that the Christians can’t still be behaving that the schools belong to them when indeed the government owns the schools which they also know.
“We just came to school, and met the gate closed, we didn’t see the principal and the security to open the gate. Solution should come from the government, to be honest with you this school is populated by mostly Muslims, any students who wish to wear hijab should be allowed.”
But Venerable David Babatunde Alao, one of the Christian leaders, insisted that they would not allow any of their students to wear hijab.
He said, “As at last week Tuesday at our meeting, our resolution was still the same, no students would be allowed to wear hijab in any of the Christian schools.
“It’s in supreme court, why is the government intervening, infact it’s a contempt of court. The government should allow the court to dispose off the matter instead of taking a stand.”
As at the time of filling this report, security operatives in the state have taken over the affected schools so as to prevent any break down of law and order in the state.