INDEPENDENT OPINION – Re: The Christians Against Aregbesola

Ms. Abimbola Adelakun, a well-respected, reputable columnist in The Punch of Thursday 17th October, 2013 once again regaled readers with her must-read article as captioned above. However, and with respect, it appears that she allowed personal sentiments and lack of proper appreciation of facts and law to interfere with her regular no-nonsense style.

It would appear that the central thesis of her write-up is that Aregbesola should take a stand in favour of a particular religion. According to her, Aregbesola tries too hard to pander to every existing religious belief in Osun State this kind of politics is confusing as it is unimpressivehe does all these without any coherence or stating where he stands in the whole affair. Ms Adelakun appears to be confusing the position of a private person and that of an elected governor who has sworn to uphold the Nigerian Constitution. Whereas a private person can take a standpoint in favour and patronage of a particular religion, doing so by Mr. Aregbesola, a governor that ought to uphold the Nigerian Constitution, will be unconstitutional.

Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) entitles every citizen to his/her right of thought, conscience and religion. A governor is also oath-bound to do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour or ill-will. What appears to be confusing to the writer is simply the fact that Mr. Aregbesola, though a Muslim by faith, has decided to respect and give accommodation to all religions and beliefs as stipulated the Constitution. Being committed to upholding the Constitution, he has decided to be more open-hearted to other religious views while ensuring that all faiths are treated equally.

Ms Adelakun decided to subtly attack Mr. Aregbesola in the comparison between Aregbesola and Governor Fashola on the account of mode of appearance of the former. The Constitution of Nigeria does not denude a man of his religious faith just because he has attained certain public office, yet the Constitution is grossly antagonistic of any attempt to prefer one faith to the other using public machinery. Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu was the governor of Benue state between January 1991 and November 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). While in office, the catholic priest wore his cassock throughout without any hue or cry.

Another grave lie being bandied about is that the Osun government has introduced Ifa studies into the curriculum. There appears to be some confusion on this allegation coming from the same writer who eloquently debunked the jaundiced view on traditional religion and advocated the teaching of comparative religious studies. How would the writers expectation of the teaching of comparative religious studies be accomplished if there should be no reference to Ifa.  In any event, it should be expected that a writer of such repute should make simple research before putting pen on paper. Page 399 of the West African Examinations Council Regulations and Syllabuses 2009-2012 lists Wande Abimbolas Awon Oju Odu Mereerindinlogun (UPL Ibadan 1978) as one of the recommended texts to study for poetry to be examined in Yoruba. One will hope the writer will get a copy of this book recommended by the West African Regional Examination body to discover that this book, among many others in the WAEC syllabus, purely contains the teaching of Ifa. How can Aregbesola now be guilty of introducing something which has been part and parcel of the West African Region examiners syllabus for decades?

The writer went further to say he (Aregbesola) is busy throwing his religion in your face with billboards that announce his private devotions. This allegation must be put in proper perspective. The truth of the matter is that, in 2011, Governor Aregbesola travelled for lesser hajj to Mecca. Some political desperadoes went to town saying he was receiving treatment for cancer. Some political enthusiasts who felt that the wicked lies should be debunked, quickly got pictures of him at the pilgrimage and displayed it on billboards to counter the falsehood. On arrival, the Governor ordered the immediate removal of all such boards .  Apart from that isolated 2011 incident, one is compelled to ask the writer to disclose the locations of those billboards that she eloquently alleged to be in existence in 2013.

It is highly unfortunate that a respected columnist with unfettered access to information from a government office would derisively tag a revolutionary and well thought-out educational policy as madcap! It is also unfortunate that a clearly thought-out educational policy and programs of the government will be so dismissed in a derisive and laconic manner. We should be told, what is madcap about providing school uniforms for 750,000 students and pupils?; What is madcap about feeding about 300,000 pupils daily with nutritious home-grown foods?; What is madcap about distributing 150,000 e-learning device to students where all the recommended books and past questions are stored for use? Please let us be told what is madcap about employment of over 3750 teachers in one fell swoop and massive teacher training?; What is madcap about building and equipping of 170 new schools in a state hitherto famous for acute shortage of educational infrastructure? What is madcap about an educational intervention that has seen the state moving from number 32 out of the 36 States to number 8 in the rating of performance in external examination?

After all is said and done, we think Ms. Adelakuns column should be mindful of use of words for the sake of younger readers, at least. How do you justify the statement- this madness without methodology is confusing (among many others) in making reference to a fellow elderly person, not to talk of head of a government. We find it distasteful for a writer, who having abdicated her role of investigation and balanced analysis, resorted to sitting in the comfort of one cool house in a foreign land to cast so many aspersions on the personality of a head of government without factual or legal basis.

Perhaps, there may be the impression by a perceptive reader of Ms. Adelakuns column that she is a die-hard secularist who sees no good in any religion. While she is entitled to her opinion, it is however unjust to seek to railroad a governor to proscribe a practice that the Constitution freely allows a person to observe. While the pristine lectern of a newspaper back page is a secured refuge from which the author can magisterially shut down peoples rights just because she feels so, the position of a Governor is not so easy. A serious government must respect all shades of opinion while striving to leave its foot-prints on the sands of time.

It is to be hoped that the erudite author would bear in mind that the pursuit of truth- the creed of journalism, is aided by a detached attitude of laying all the cards on the table for a serene and sober reflection on the matter in controversy. The pen profession is antithetical to the desperate but hopeless leeway of killing-your-demon-at-all-cost in a no-holds barred situation where sensationalism justifies the means.

We, in the Ministry of Regional integration and Special Duties, have been saddled with the duty of ensuring fair treatment for all faiths, among other duties. We are confident that by treating all faiths equally we would have fulfilled a cardinal pillar in the electoral promise of Mr. Aregbesola, which is to ensure communal peace and harmony.

Perhaps, what is looking strange to Ms. Adelakun is the fact that apart from Aregbesolas compliance with the provisions of the constitution to be even hand among all beliefs he has also decided to remain fidel to the injunction of his faith as enshrined in the Quran 16:90 to wit-  Verily Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression.