Friday, 24 June 2016

Osun State: In Defence of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola


Osun State: In Defence of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

By Wale Adedayo

The few months spent as a student of The Redeemed Bible College (RCCG Area Headquarters, Ita Elewa, Ikorodu, Lagos State) in 2004 taught me a few things about checking for facts beyond what journalism teaches. It could mean all the difference in spiritual warfare matters. This is equally important, as I have since come to learn, in many areas of life as well. Due to that well-enriching programme, it was within a month of being part of the MA (Theology) class I almost completed my house in Ikorodu, Lagos State which son of man had abandoned since 2001. But that is a story for another day, soon.

A number of friends have either joined a lynch-mob trying desperately to crucify Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, or kept a measured distance as they may not want to be ‘stained’ by allegations of religious bias directed at a leader, who is expected to be neutral given his position as father to all. Aregbesola, according to the opposition politicians, who initiated the current campaign a few years back, is an Islamic extremist bent on foisting his religion on Osun State. They also claim the governor initiated the wearing of Hijab in Osun State schools.

Apart from the two allegations above, there are claims the man has not done anything worthwhile to justify his years as a sitting governor. They believe everything positive about Aregbesola is being hyped. A senior figure in Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement even wrote on a WhatsApp forum a few days ago that all the schools the governor built in Osun State have been overtaken by weeds as students are not there at all. Of course, this friend has sympathy for failed gubernatorial candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyiola Omisore. Thus, his argument, despite the untruths it contains, is understandable.

But this piece will not go into the many projects already executed by Aregbesola despite the paucity of funds in a state that is largely a civil service one. It is my intention to shine some light on the Hijab-wearing controversy that the Osun State chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is being used to push by its underwater drummers. Unfortunately, they have succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of many by carefully concealing facts that would have exposed the supposed Christian group as pawns in the hands of failed politicians desperate to get back to reckoning as another round of election approaches in Osun State.

Fact 1: The schools which CAN is claiming belong to its members are actually public schools, having been taken over by the Western State Government in 1975. The schools belong to the Osun State Government today, being one of the states constituting the old Western State. But unlike Northern Nigeria, where such schools had their names changed, probably to reflect the new ownership, Western State did not remove the original names. For instance, late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, went to St. John’s College, Kaduna. The school has since been renamed Rimi College, Kaduna, because it is now a public institution. That the names, such as Baptist High School, Iwo, are being retained does not make the schools that of the original owners. They are now government properties, a fact that Osun State CAN did not disclose.

The Administration of former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, gave further teeth to this policy with its “Directives of the state government” in 2004 concerning Education Policy in the state, published by the Ministry of Education. Article 8 of the 2004 directives states clearly that, “there are no mission schools presently in Osun State as all schools have been taken over by government in 1975.” Osun State CAN knew about this, but kept the fact from public view.

Fact 2: The insidious propaganda initiated by Osun State’s failed politicians listed Aregbesola as the initiator of Hijab in schools. This has been the campaign slogan of Osun State CAN and its supporters. But a discerning mind would have discovered either through court papers or quality media reports that this is a fallacy being propagated by perfidious persons to gain political advantage. In a detailed report by ThisDay newspaper’s Bureau Chief in Osogbo, Yinka Kolawole, on 4 June 2016, the journalist wrote, among others, that,

“The Osun State Muslim Community on February 14, 2013, dragged the state government to the court, seeking an order of the court to allow female Muslim students enjoy their fundamental rights by granting them order to use hijab in public schools. The suit which was directly instituted against the state government, was also joined as respondents, the state Commissioner for Education, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

“But, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, its chairman and others, voluntarily joined as respondents. The applicants, in a 44 paragraph affidavit in support of their motion, applied for the enforcement of their fundamental rights pursuant to Sections 38 and 42 of the constitution. The applicants through their lead-counsel, Kazeem Odedeji, told the court that female Muslim students were being harassed by the fourth and fifth respondents, insisting that such was a clear discrimination and infringement on their fundamental rights.

“Odedeji who premised his argument on a decision of a Court of Appeal, Ilorin, between the Provost, College of Education and one Basirat Saliu, noted that female Catholics wear hijab, while Mary, the mother of Jesus always appear on picture with hijab on her head. Odedeji also explained that his prayer was to allow female Muslim students wear hijab in some schools where they were being denied, noting that they had been wearing it in accordance with the 2004 Directives of the state government.”

Stemming from this newspaper report, which was based on court records, the facts established include proof that Aregbesola did not initiate the wearing of Hijab in any form. It was the Osun State Muslim Community, relying on Oyinlola’s 2004 policy, that initiated a suit as far back as 2013 to ensure that its female children are allowed to wear Hijab in public schools, not mission schools. This record also displayed proof that Aregbesola’s administration initially sought to restrain this, thus the harassment mentioned by the petitioners. These facts were hidden from the public by Osun State CAN, which should have displayed exemplary conduct through its leaders by stating clearly for all to know that the schools in question are not Christian/Mission ones, but actually belong to the Osun State Government.

For me, two options are open to Osun State CAN, if partisan politics will allow its leadership to faithfully serve the groups it claims to represent. The first, arising from the victory of Osun State Muslim Community at the court, is to approach a superior court in order to overturn an undesirable judgment. This is a far better approach than the use of children in resorting to self-help against the judgment of a court. The second option, which, to me, is even better than an appeal is to work on lobbying the Osun State Government into releasing the contentious schools back to their original owners. Some states have done this already. But it was not at the instance of Government. Powerful lobbyists went to work on behalf of cerebral Christian groups, who knew their onions. Osun State CAN surely have educated and well-experienced members among its ranks. Instead of the current Jankara approach, which will certainly not yield any fruitful result, why not borrow a leaf from the success stories of others to get what they want?

But, there is a very sad aspect to the whole drama. Religion of any kind forbids lying and lending yourself to be used to aid liars. An image of public schools being turned over to Muslims have been painted in the minds of many by Osun State CAN. From the facts above, that is a lie from the pit of hell! There are no mission schools among the ones in contention in Osun State today. They are all public schools, and have been so since 1975. Osun State CAN lied, lent itself to be used by politicians for lies and deceived a lot of people in the process. The conscience of these so-called men of God should worry them that they are doing everything possible to ridicule the name of God, who admonished them through the Holy Bible not to lie or lend themselves to be used by liars.

A few words to the mischief makers desperately doing everything possible to paint the Osun State Governor as a covet extremist. These are mainly from my posts to Facebook. Aregbesola is passionate about his religion, Islam. But he is one moderate Muslim that many erroneously see as a fundamentalist. His Christian friends feel very much at ease with him. But his best friends are Yoruba self-determination activists along with quality comrades from other climes. Initially, the cousins of Boko Haram in Osun State claimed Aregbesola is not a genuine Muslim. Their grouse? A quality hand of fellowship was extended by the governor to practitioners of African Traditional Religion. This, they kicked against.

Enter the Christian bigots, who claimed Ogbeni wants to foist Islam on the whole state. Not many of them know he has quality ‘SU’s as blood brothers and sisters. Some are even Pastors today, having left Islam for Christianity. The change has never brought about any strain in their relationship. Instead, Ogbeni believes each person is entitled to finding God in his/her ways. So, each time the fundamentalist tag is used to describe him, I always laugh because those who do so may have never interacted with Aregbesola. They form opinion based on what his political opponents push out and a sense of hidden disdain for Muslims, who are not shy to wear the religion on their sleeves. He is such a Muslim. His dressing, mien, carriage and words carry Islam in almost every way. But he does not force it on anybody. Has never done so.

Immediately you see his picture or video, the first thing that strikes the person is like, “Oh! This one is a Muslim?” And for a seating Governor in a Southern Nigeria, where it is assumed only Christians are everywhere with a small mix of Muslims, it is natural that a misgiving that cannot be immediately explained is shown. Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s endorsement of Aregbesola towards his re-election, when the Osun State PDP sought to malign him as an extremist using the same set of Christian leaders campaigning against him today, readily comes to mind. Osinbajo gave what I will describe as the best description of Aregbesola so far. And the vice president is an RCCG Pastor.

Aregbesola has no blame in the matter at hand. A hidden disdain for practising Muslims, who are very proud of their religion is the root of the propaganda by underwater drummers of the governor’s critics, who believe he cannot be tackled on performance in office, that provided ammunition against this quality Yoruba Leader. He is loved by his people. Progressive minded elements love him more. He should just be encouraged to develop the state or be left alone.

Just my two cents!

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