Sola Fasure, a public Affairs analyst, is of the opinion that the opposition from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to the restructuring of schools by the Osun State Government is misguided… 

On Wednesday October 9, I was at the Heathrow Airport in London enroute Columbia, South Carolina in the United States to attend a three-day Christian conference, 2013 Word Explosion. While whiling away time, waiting for my flight, I decided to quickly catch up with home news. But lo and behold, it was major news on an online medium that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had attacked Governor Rauf Aregbesola and accused him of working to Islamise the State of Osun, through the reclassification of schools going on in the state. The National General Secretary of CAN, Rev Musa Asake, was reported to have ordered Governor Aregbesola to reverse the policy or he would face legal action from CAN. By the time I powered my phone to receive updates on Osun from Google alert, all the news media already had the story as major news item.

By Thursday, it has been localised. The state chairman of CAN issued a seven day ultimatum to the governor to reverse the policy of ‘changing of single sex schools to co-educational schools in order to preserve the religion of each school or face the appropriate actions of the religious body.’ CAN had since declared war on the state government. Now, I have always had issues with CAN. I think it was in 1987 or thereabout. I was living in Ibadan then and we were directed, through our various churches, to report at Saint James Cathedral in Ibadan on a Saturday morning. I joined other faithful in an interdenominational service of songs, a short prayer and some incoherent information on a looming clash with Moslems in the city and the need to be vigilant and stand for our faith.

I left the venue, a bit puzzled, not quite knowing the purpose of the assembly. I later went to the University of Ibadan to read political science where I got it. CAN had held a political rally and had used the congregation as the bargaining chip. It would not have mattered if the military had stormed the venue and mowed us down. It rather would have strengthened CAN leaders’ position of playing the victim card.

Many years later, as a columnist, I have had to decry CAN’s position on the ethno-religious violence in the North in which the body in a thinly veiled threat of reprisal asked Christians to defend themselves with arms. This is nothing but incitement to go to war. I was scandalised. How could Christians be asked to carry guns and be shooting other people in self defence? I became convinced then that the body had lost it. I just shuddered at the consideration of a Christian standing before the throne of judgement and being asked by God to defend the spilling of blood. A Christian should minister life and not death. That is why Christ died and our primary purpose as his disciples.

But no one should be deceived by CAN; it is a political body. It is largely a body of self seeking, egoistic, attention seeking clerics who are out of tune with the bible and God’s instruction on how to relate in the secular world. They come across as Simon Peter wielding the sword and cutting off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, in the failed bid to decapitate him. For them, response to any challenge must be carnal. But this is a clear repudiation of biblical injunction that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The tendency to ‘fight’ for our faith and defend our God is a pitiable manifestation of weakness and lack of faith. God said he will defend us and fight our battles. I still don’t get the idea of Christian leaders thinking they can fight with secular weapon and win. Any God that needs humans to fight for him is weak and is not a God in the true sense. Have you not heard that Jehovah is a Man of War? He can and will fight His battles.

CAN is spiritually weak and that is why it has to resort to political means. Jesus in contrast refused to be drawn into politics. The closest political statement he made was “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. In his dying moments, he had to pray for his traducers. He was never politically confrontational.

God will fight for you, but that is if you are fighting the right battle. God is a just God. In 1975 the then military government took over mission schools and duly compensated the owners. This though did not strike me to be the best judgement. If government wanted schools, it should build its own. However, this is no longer the issue. That the schools now belong to government is a moot point. We are talking of 38 years down the line. Are these people just waking up 38 years after to realise that the schools no longer belong to them?

The consequence of the takeover 38 years ago is that the schools are now ‘public schools’ and not ‘Christian schools’. Their funding, admission, management and staffing have been done by the government since then. Children from Moslem and atheist homes have as much chance and right to be admitted to the schools as much as Christians.

I went to Otapete Methodist Primary School in Ilesa between 1972 and 1978. My desk mates then in primary four and five were the late Simiat Olajuwon and Bilikisu Yesufu, respectively, both Moslems. Simia and I went to Methodist High School while Bili went to St Lawrence’s Grammar School. Of course there were other Muslim colleagues like Nurudeen Siyanbola and Muraina Audu. These are lovely people I still remember with nostalgia. I can remember vividly that it was at Otapete that I was taught about the founding of Islam, the prophet and his wife Khadijat and the Hegira flight from Mecca to Medina. There was no dispute over admitting Muslims or teaching pupils on Islam. One thing is clear: we had good education and I thank God for this.

However, public education has nosedived. Parents have lost confidence in public schools and private schools have emerged to take over the vacuum left. When Governor Rauf Aregbesola came in 2010, it was public knowledge that only five per cent of pupils in SSS3 made the requisite pass in WAEC and NECO examinations of that year to enable them matriculate into higher institutions. It is most appalling therefore that some Christians, notably the Baptists and the leadership of CAN would rather have the schools run down as it is and be content with a false notion of ownership. Governor Aregbesola should be commended for his bold initiative in schools restructuring with new schools, modern infrastructure, school uniforms,Opon Imo, teachers motivation and so on.

What I am looking towards now is a turnaround in the results of pupils in public schools and not bickering over control and other inanities. CAN and the Baptists are fighting an unjust war and it is certain God is not on their side in this. The schools are now public schools and run and maintained with taxpayers’ money. They are no longer Christian schools and not theirs anymore. They should stop living in denial.