THE controversy over the propriety of wearing Hijab in public schools, in Osun took another dimension on Monday, as the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that an Islamic group, supported by the government had discreetly approached the state High Court to legalise the wearing of hijab in public schools.
At a press conference attended by the state CAN chairman, Apostle Aladeseye in Osogbo, the body criticised some of the educational policies of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, including the merger of public schools and demolition of some school buildings, describing it as a ploy to erase the names of missionaries from schools established by Christian bodies.
Recalling that the issue of hijab had stirred controversy some years back, the state secretary of CAN, Reverend Father F. Ajayi, who read the text at the press conference, said the National Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in the state had recommended to the state government that female pupils in Muslim public schools should be allowed to wear Hijab, while those in Christian public schools should wear it outside the school premises.
According to him, “it is on record that the governor despised the resolutions of NIREC, when it was presented to him and it is widely rumoured that he instigated some Islamic fundamentalists to reject it, a situation which led the group to initiate a case in the Osun State High Court, seeking the enforcement of rights of female Muslim students to wear Hijab in Christian public schools”.
“At a meeting with the Osun CAN leaders, the governor proudly said that he was instrumental to the inclusion of Hijab in OYES uniforms and it was not in the original design. If this is not religious extremism, what else can it be, considering the fact that in the 40 years of existence of NYSC, their uniforms have no hijab incorporated into it.”
While contending that all these policies and actions of Governor Aregbesola were capable of fueling religious crisis in the state, CAN called on well-meaning Osun indigenes at home and in diaspora, including the international community to intervene to avoid problems in the state.
Reacting to the development, the Director of Media, Publicity and Strategy to the governor, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, said “issues raised in the text are those that had been resolved long before now and in which all Christian leaders at the various meetings with the governor expressed clear understanding of the positions of the government. Islamisation agenda, use of hijab, and all that.”
“The Rauf Aregbesola administration has demonstrated an uncommon fairness among people of all faiths. To the ordinary people in Osun, what matters is service delivery which they have no doubt Aregbesola is delivering. Religion is a matter of choice to individuals. And that is why this government believes that people of all faiths should be given equal opportunities to practise their religions. We can only appeal to religious leaders to be wary of political warlords who have seen religion as the most explosive tool which they can use to halt the peace we are enjoying in Osun.”
“For instance, how does the visit of Sultan of Sokoto to Osun become a sin for a government? How does change from State of the Living Spring to State of the Virtuous translate to a religious agenda?” he queried.