LAST week,Osun state was in the news again for a wrong reason. A High Court judgment which allows female Muslim Students to wear face coveringsor hijab on their uniform pitched Christians against Muslims. The court held that it is the fundamental rights of the female muslims to wear hijab – even when that promotesdifferentiation and not uniformity the students. What would have degenerated to a face-off between the adherents of the two religions was averted by security agents.Students of Baptist High School Adeeke Iwo, who wore church garments and choir robes on their uniform were denied entry into the school premises by security men on Wednesday June 15, 2016, while those who wore hijab were allowed into school. Governor RaufAregbesola had on the previous day threatened violators of school rules and regulations with expulsion.Justice Jide Falolaof Osun state High Court delivered the controversial judgment in a case instituted by Muslim community against the State Government on the right of female Muslim students to wear hijab on their uniform. Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Osun chapter, had filed an appeal against the judgment. Claiming residual proprietary rights, Osun CAN warned that enforcing Justice Falola’s judgement in missionary schools takenover by the state in 1975, would lead to breakdown of law and order.
The secularity of Nigeria is guaranteed under the 1999 constitution. It allows adherents to protect and propagate their religions unhindered. No public policy should however be perceived to covertly or overtly accord one religion an advantage over the other under any circumstance.We agree with Governor Aregbesola that those who are dissatisfied with the court judgement should seek redress through the due process of the law. This is true because a court judgement is valid until it is set aside by a superior court.We fault the statement credited to the Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Felix Awofisayo who said that the government will enforce the court verdict in all public schools as hasty and unfortunate. It suggests the voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau. The truth is that the hijab controversy is a needless one amongst a people who have adherents of Christianity, Islam and traditional religion in a proper mix. Governor Aregbesola should concentrate on governance instead of divisive religious acrimony. He should deliver the much needed dividends of democracy to the people of Osun.There are more important issues that demand attention such as overdue appointment of commissioners, running a democraticallyelected local government, payment of workers salaries and accumulated pension arrears. Osun does not deserve this distraction, mischief and tension. Religious crisis is alien to thesouthwest.We appeal to Christian and Muslim leaders in the state to embrace peace. We recommend that an out of court settlement should be explored and Parties should abide by all agreements reached. We commend the maturity of school authorities in handling the sensitive issue. We also commend the comportment of students both inside and outside classrooms despite their differentreligious inclinations. We urge parents and guardians to desist from making utterances or engaging in acts capable of inciting their children and wards.