In the first major fall-out from Governor Aregbesola’s hide-and-seek religious games in Osun state, Shariah proponents roundly beat up Mr Layi Oguntola, principal at Baptist High School (BHS), Ejigbo on Monday 25th November. A number of other Christian teachers in the school (including one Phillip Oke) were also beaten to a pulp and it was the timely intervention of the town’s monarch that prevented possible bloodshed. The principal was hospitalized for three days following the severe beatings. Allegedly, Mr Oguntola had, a few days previously, disallowed some Hijab-clad girls from coming to school. Surely, Moslem faithfuls could not let such an incident go unavenged!
As was evident later on however, though there have been vigorous Islamic protests against the clearly articulated position of the Baptist Convention that the hijab is not acceptable in any of the schools established by her, no student had actually yet come to BHS donning the hijab. And of course the Principal could therefore neither have forcibly removed any such hijab nor sent any student out of the school for wearing one. Clearly, the already hyper-excited Hijab-militia are finding it rather difficult to hold on till more politically expedient climes before pushing forward with their sworn Islamist agenda.
In April last year, leading advocate for hijabs in Osun public schools, Prof Ishaq Akintola from Lagos state, referred to the issue as a “sword of Damocles hanging over our heads” and an “imbroglio” waiting to escalate. As we pointed out in our rejoinder, although Ishaq Akintola could not really articulate why moslems have suddenly come to realize that the standard female school uniform is “only fit for night clubs”, he concocted the incredible story that Christian teachers were beating up hijab-donning moslem girls on the streets, just for wearing the hijab! While apparently conceding to Governor Aregbesola’s plea for restraints at that time, Akintola warned ominously, “the last may not have been heard of the (matter)” (Please see http://churcharise.blogspot.com/2012/05/hijab-seeks-headway-in-osun-state-sw.html)
Mr Oguntola of Baptist High School got a first-hand experiential understanding of that statement on Monday 25th November. According to Mr Oguntola, about 250 Muslims youths pounced on him on that day, pounding him to a pulp right in his office. THISDAY newspaper reported that “dangerous weapons such as axes, cutlasses and charms were liberally used by the irate Muslim youths”; while the media house InformationNigeria insisted that the mob was actually led by some moslem parents identified as having been very vocal in the advocacy for the hijab in the school.(http://www.informationng.com/2013/11/parents-beat-principal-to-a-pulp-in-osun-over-use-of-hijab.html)
The first full-fledge secondary school in Ejigbo, the Baptist High School was established by Baptist missionaries in February 1960, and it remains one of the top schools in the State. When Gov Aregbesola first introduced his educational reform policy, all public schools (including those established by religious missions - most of them Christian missions) were to lose their traditions and identity. Common sense however prevailed as it was clear that the re-classification of schools as Lower, Middle or High School for administrative effectiveness does not have to wipe out the identities and values of the Christian proprietors. Although Governor Aregbesola has strongly criticized the beating of Mr Oguntola and the other Christian teachers at BHS, all eyes are on him to see what exactly becomes of his vow to make the attackers face ”the wrath of the law”.
Initial signals are however not encouraging. It is already being reported that the state government feels the way to soothe currently frayed nerves and ease the palpable tension in the state would be to transfer the brutalized principal to another school. Although the Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly who is reportedly anchoring such moves has issued a statement to deny it, he at the same time announced a donation of a bus to the local branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria at Ejigbo, the major opponents of such a move. What astute timing! The staunch-moslem Speaker, Honourable Nojeem Salaam, is both an indigene of Ejigbo as well as an alumnus of Baptist High School.
On another note, Mr Aregbesola has proved himself to be a man who can passionately pursue diametrically opposed viewpoints without batting an eye. For instance, for all his many apparent islamizing agenda (including his turning Osun to the only state in Nigeria, perhaps in the whole world, that gives a public holiday to mark the Islamic new year), many pious moslems would insist that the governor is nothing more than a cultist, especially in his ardent fervor to revive the dying ancient idols of Yorubaland. The undeniable truth is Mr Aregbesola needs the Islamic establishment in his battle against Christianity and Christian influences which he is unable to fight using the traditional religion platform alone. If he could succeed against Christianity (and of course he can never!), it would be a picnic subduing his Moslem “brothers” later on.
Mr Aregbesola’s “double-speaks” and actions on the social level is even more blatant. For instance, while he vaunts himself as the vanguard of the Omoluwabi culture (the Yoruba-cherished concepts about virtue), many will swear that the governor’s reported actions and roles during the Ondo state governorship election were hardly omoluwabi (see http://www.nairaland.com/892011/aregbesolas-verbal-mess-vituperation-political, or even the state’s official news organ, www.osundefender.org/?p=27647 ). The story only got worse in the recently concluded governorship election in Anambra state, where the only armed thugs arrested in the otherwise peaceful event were people (over 180 of them) sent all the way from Osun State. (see http://www.elombah.com/index.php/special-reports/19079-how-rochas-imported-fake-osun-election-observers-to-anambra-state-jega). One shudders to imagine what could happen in 2014 when Mr Aregbesola himself would be standing as the governorship candidate seeking the people’s votes.
While governor Aregbesola might indeed not be particularly interested in hijabs coming to public schools at this juncture, certain highly placed Islamists whose political support the governor considers indispensable (particularly the so-called Teblics), certainly feel the time is ripe to stamp such Islamic authority on the State. And they undoubtedly hold the issue as a major negotiating card with the governor.
So can Mr Aregbesola afford to wield the big stick against his determined Islamist constituency as he moves into election year? Does he have the capacity to prevent his scheming brethren from fanning into a conflagration, the smouldering embers of Hijab militancy?
As reported by the NigerianMonitor, the governor has declared that he would not respect any status of any group found to be involved in the mauling of Mr Oguntola. According to the governor, “We will not tolerate any act of lawlessness from any group or individual, irrespective of their status. ….No individual or group is allowed by the constitution to take laws into their hands. We won’t tolerate that. We will not treat such case with kid’s gloves and anyone caught with such uncivilised act will be made to face the law.” http://www.nigerianmonitor.com/2013/11/29/hijab-governor-aregbesola-vows-to-deal-with-principals-attackers/). So we say, good talk. Now let’s see the actions!.