THE Vanguard newspaper editorial of Tuesday, 11 February 2014, page 18 Of Choristers, Hijab, Masquerades was an apparent attempt to put in perspective the disturbances that played up at the Baptist High School, Iwo in the State of Osun.
The newspaper directed its searchlight on the causes of the disturbances, the role of stakeholders, including the government and what the true situation is beyond the sensationalism of the whole issue in certain media quarters.
Vanguard should be commended for its role of informing the people on the activities of government. But while putting the matters in perspective, the editorial became fraught with wrong assumptions and fallacies.
This became more evident in the insinuation that religion is at the centre of every policy of the government; concluding that the reported disagreement in Iwo amounts to reaping the fruits of the perceived heavy investment of government in religion.
One should be interested in a dispassionate x-raying of the programmes of the Rauf Aregbesola administration to determine where religious bias is evident.
A look at the flagship programmes of the administration such as youth empowerment, infrastructure provisions, school reform projects, environment, urban renewal, industrialisation efforts, security, health, social security schemes do not in any way reflect anything close to that insinuation.
It would have been an issue had the recruitment of 40,000 youths under the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) been carried out on the basis of religion. It would have been an issue had schools being built now throughout the state been selected on the basis of religion.
Have the over 750 kilometres of roads already completed selected on the basis of religion? Were the 1,602 vunerale elderly persons selected for monthly social security scheme that entitles them to N10,000 monthly chosen on the basis of their faith? Were the 3,100 women trained and employed to provide nutritious meal to about 350,000 pupils of elementary schools under the O’MEAL scheme chosen on the basis of their faith?
If no one can locate religion at the centre of any of these policies that have driven the state in the last three years from its very parlous state to what is now the 7th largest economy in Nigeria, how then can anyone accuse the Aregbesola administration of promoting religion as claimed in the editorial?
The impression must be corrected that there is no tension whatsoever in the state as reported by some newspapers. The drama that is presented to the world in the most sensational form as manifest in Osun is limited to a particular school where the Baptist Mission wrongly assumed ownership of the institution and from that incorrect premise and notion, squares up to the government in some aspects of the state-wide education reform.
Two, there was no time government converted any legacy missionary schools. Federal Government took them over nationwide almost 40 years ago through a law. Hence, these schools are public schools solely controlled and run by government.
The example cited in the editorial that government turned Baptist Boys High school, Ejigbo, a boys-only school, to a mixed school, is also untrue.
More than 30 years ago, the said Baptist Boys High School had been converted to a mixed school. Anything to the contrary is untrue. That was more than three decades before the government came to power.
On the use of hijab, the disagreement between the Christians and their Muslim counterparts predates the present government. Its peak was when the matter was taken to the court which automatically makes it impossible for the government to make any categorical policy for now until the matter is dispensed with at the court.
What the High Court in the state said was that the status quo ante should be maintained pending the determination (judgment) on the matter. And as a product of the rule of law, the government of Aregbesola couldn’t do less but obey and abide by the pronouncement of this court of record.
In other words, at no time did the government direct the use of hijab in public schools and it must be stated that hijab wearing is not a thing that started with the newly introduced public schools’ uniform by the Aregbesola government.
What happened at the Baptist High School, Iwo, was not in any way a fall out of the school reform. Rather, the reform has even unearthed what has been a time bomb of indiscipline, cultism and various other disastrous undercurrents that had militated against brilliant performances of children in schools.
But while those rots were unveiled, those who want to score cheap political points have moved in, in order to discredit a reform whose result alone is enough to knock them out of contest with Aregbesola in the coming governorship election in August let alone all other people-focused policies.
We must put it on record that at no time was security threatened in the state. The incident at the Baptist, Iwo, last two weeks, where 92 students protested either the use or otherwise of hijab is not strange.
The government has demonstrated the highest form of responsiveness and responsibility by tackling the matter decisively and halting the drift.