"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,"---Martin Luther King jnr.
In my family, the first born of my mother, Tunde Butika, my elder brother is a good Christian of Four Square church, a Deacon for that matter. My immediate elder brother Lasun, is a Christian of Celestial extraction but his wife is Alhaja and I am Muslim raised by my maternal grand parents who were liberal Muslim but practised traditional religion, for grandpa consulted ifa oracle, and in some occasions, we had killed dogs for Ogun deity.
I chose to paint the picture of my family and its disposition to religions in order to set record for my experience as touching religion of an average Yoruba man's value and his disposition to religious belief. And I think the best way to test the potency of a drug is self experience.
It saddens my mind that among all challenges confronting our nation, adornment of religious robe is the take of our religionists in the State of Osun. Wearing of hijab has suddenly become a hot issue, when states could not meet obligations as simple as salaries of workers up to date; when poverty is becoming sprawling among the populace; when families are going hungry; when tenants could no longer pay their rents; when hospitals have become mere consulting clinics; when schools are no longer producing employable graduates; when masters degree holders are surviving on okadas and P.hD holders are begging to apply for Dangote truck driving; politicians are dancing on the graves of the poor masses, and masses are raining curses on the leaders.
As a stakeholder in Osun, I do not intend to pass blame as some commentators have fallen into the fallacies espoused by Martin Luther, but to think aloud on how we reached this low in the state. Therefore, it is imperative to reflect on the past by placing the fact, so as not to commit inductive leap like Segun Adeniyi of ThisDay newspaper who flaunted his sincere ignorance in his column, where he heaps the blame on Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
In the first premise, all missionaries schools were taken over in 1975, and according to a man who witnessed the process, one Dr. Adegbulu, the then government compensated the missions both from Muslim and Christianity, and government has been funding and managing the schools since then. I learnt that the reason for the take over is to deactivate religious divides among the children. Yes, the names were retained as honorarium, nevertheless they are all government schools, because the government pays the teachers and constructing and reconstructing the structures.
If the fact stated above is not contestable, I think the issue of reclassification of schools by Aregbesola government exhumed the raging noise now. I know for a fact that in the course of building model schools that could contain more students; students from different schools were mixed together, and it is also a fact that the committee that implemented the reclassification was headed by the Deputy Governor Grace Titilaoye Tomori, a very good Christian leader.
Perhaps, in the course of merging schools, some Catholic schools that were liberal with head scarf (hijab) wearing pupils were merged with Baptist schools could not tolerate hijab, but green berets. But the timing of the merger was the gasoline that revved up the fire, for the opposition feared the popularity of the governor would dim their chance of snatching power from the governor; hence the politicking as the political gun of "Islamization" of the state was fired.
Knowing full well that religion is a very sensitive weapon designed to cage reason, the governorship candidate of the opposition party, a Christian used the islamization to wipe religious sentiment against Aregbesola, and obviously, some section of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) led by Ayo Oritsejafor amplified it to arm-twist Christian electorate for the former President Goodluck Jonathan who had a personal score to settle with Aregbesola, arising from his failure to capture the state in the 2011 presidential election. So, it is a statement of truth that media was heavily mobilized against the governor, to an extent of being related to boko haram in the North East.
Ironically, Aregbesola is being demonized by some section of Muslim, who picked a bone with him for declaring holiday for "ISESE FESTIVAL" for traditionalists to have a sense of belonging. As at last week, one controversial personality called "onikun kewu" went ahead to attacked the governor live on television, claiming that Allah was angry with the state, because Aregbesola allowed the traditionalists to celebrate their belief. He was only short of declaring fatwa on him.
I learnt that the government delegation met with concerned religious leaders in the state on the issue of dress code, and it was resolved to an extent, but some Muslim groups were unhappy about the resolution. So, they approached court of competent jurisdiction headed by a Christian Chief Judge for redress, and the case was decided in favor of them, tolerating hijab wearing in public schools, but this time CAN was unhappy with the judgment, and threatened to adorn church robes on Christian students, should the governor abide by the law. The government was quiet and refused to be drawn into religious fray, Muslim students reportedly wore their hijab and about five Christian students wore church garments like choir robe, vestment and sultana to school in Baptist High school, Iwo. One school out of over three thousand schools in the state.
In line with the media conspiracy on ground, the news was amplified into crisis situation, when the people of Iwo did not even know that some actors were playing any script, all photographs I have seen have not shown more than five non-conformist in the School. The surprising aspect was that religious leaders were reported to have gone for monitoring of what would be the fate of their bait in School.
From my own take, the issue of adornment is too trivial to be celebrating when we have fundamental issues to address. No wonder, Karl Marx describes religion as an opium of the masses. What can hijab or choir robe do for a student with low morale? Can the religious affiliation make any student reach the top flight of his career? How come the Muslim and Christian groups are not condemning the ladies in nude which attracts rape? Can the fight over the religious adornment increase the financial capacity of the state to enhance workers' pay? How come the religious leaders are fighting themselves over the religious dress of elementary schools that would be of no issue when they proceed to high institutions of learning? How cone our religious leaders are criminally quiet about the mind boggling looting of the nation? To me, everything about this matter is bad politics, and the sooner the actors in it abandon the script, the better for them.
As for me, God creates all things, and we should endeavor to uphold the dictate of humanity by not fighting over the knowledge of unknown which is religion, but learn to tolerate one another for peace to reign.
The same Luther says- "we have learnt how to fly in the sky like bird, we have learnt how to swim in the sea like fishes, but we have not learnt the simple act of living together. It was religionists who killed Plato, the ancient Philosopher of Greek state when he asked people to reason instead of lying on God, but centuries later, he was declared the wisest man who ever lived.
Butika is an intercontinental journalist.