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Courage and the path to honour

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Every now and then all of us human beings find ourselves at a crossroads. There is a struggle between what is right and what is wrong within us. Sometimes what is right is considered to be wrong. We do not yet have a clear picture. When the picture comes it is overruled. This may be owing to a number of influences to which we yield. One may have arisen from our proclivity to elect the least line resistance. They admonish their audience to choose the hard road, capping it with the saying that after rain comes shine. In the era Tai Solarin was a byword in education matters he was wont to admonish the youths in their impressionable years to learn to make hard choices. While he was principal of MayFlower School, the school of which he was proprietor, with the collaborative support of his wife, Sheila, he set aside two days in a year when he took students in the upper classes out in the bush. All each student was allowed to carry with him was a catapult. For feeding, for survival each of the students was on his own. They were to learn to take decisions, learn to fend for themselves and survive in the harshest of conditions.

Have we forgotten? In 1964, he shocked the world when his New Year prayerful wish to his compatriot was: May your path be rough this year! And he added the rider. If you are displeased, return it and say ‘Same to you.’ The lesson to which he sought to draw our attention was “Life is a struggle.” Equally instructive was the lesson that each person must learn to stand alone, even if everyone else, if the multitudes are losing their heads, once your cause is right. Tai Solarin’s life was a study in self-denial and perseverance to do what is right and stand by it. He was a study in patriotism and selflessness. I am yet to meet any of his students while he held sway at MayFlower that does not speak of him in glowing terms.

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Everywhere, the influences are there assailing us human beings—in homes, in families, in offices, in the market place, in the corporate world as well as in government and governance. Politicians come under all manner of influence. They are expected to invite and cage themselves in the whirling circles of influences, called aides, special, not so special, senior special and ordinary. There is the caucus, and there is the wider circle still. There city fathers. These influences can be positive and they can be negative. The choice is individual’s, and we make that choice every hour, every minute and every split second. We choose influences in which we nestle. However, for every choice we make there are consequences and each person is tied to the consequences of the choice he makes. By consequences are meant the fruits of his sowing. And as the seed, so the fruit—sweet or bitter, wholesome or poisonous.

There is collective decision which is a product of community making mechanisms, or of parliament where it may be after a debate in plenary, or at a caucus meeting which is sealed after a show of hands or voice vote of yea or nay, then the banging of the gavel! An individual could come to a decision after reasoning, or following a deep contemplation, from feelings or from inner stirring which comes in a flash and gives a guiding impression. This is called first impression in which one may be admonished to go this way or that way, sit by this man or not sit by him, travel or do not travel. It helps to tell what is right from what is wrong. It is generally identified as the inner voice following picture garnered from intuitive perception. The intuition is activity of the spirit and it is linked with the Spiritual Realm, everyone’s point of origin and to Home we all long to return at the end of our sojourn here on earth. And so Christians sing about Our Home Above—as some of them would add, the New Jerusalem with streets paved with gold, land of meadows, gushing water, land of bliss and splendour. It is Paradise, the land of Glory! As the intuition is linked to Paradise it can never err. It is the fountain from where conscience springs. Part of that conscience is the quiet admonition of a helper in the Beyond attached to every human being on earth. A great many do not know the helper is there how much more heeding his admonition. Because of the abundant and richer spiritual endowment of women, their intuition is sharper and can be more depended upon than that of men. The intuitive perception is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Sense. In crucial moments, we ask ourselves: What does truth oblige me to say? What action does truth oblige me to take?

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Predictably, the crisis over Kwara State Government nod that Muslim girls who may wish to wear Hijab in Christian missionary schools are free to do so has lingered and has put the state in limbo. Last week the situation deteriorated into violence. The President of Kwara Baptist Conference, Rev. Victor Dada, claimed that fundamentalists threatened to burn down a three-storey building where his people were gathered for a peaceful demonstration. Attempts were made to force the gates open last week to admit girls in Hijab into school. By 1 am yesterday the gate of Cherubim and Seraphim (C & S) College had been yanked and carted away by unidentified men. Prof. Ishaq Akintola reacting to Rev. Dada’s report about vandalisation of properties on behalf of his organization, MURIC, said “CAN is to blame for all these, for disrespecting the rule of law. CAN was the one that called on its members to occupy that school. Fortunately, the ugly scene only played out in one out of 10 schools. But it is a long shame that in 21st century, Kwara CAN is turning its members against democratic norms, against the rule of law.

“Both the Ilorin High Court and the Court of Appeal have ruled in favour of Hijab. It is therefore illegal, illegitimate, unlawful and unconstitutional for Can to insist that its members should not allow female Muslim students to use Hijab or even enter the school premises. It is the height of lawlessness.”

As if to buttress Prof. Ishaq Akintola’s position said: “…like in most parts of Nigeria, in 1974, government took control of many schools, whose original ownership cut across faiths and private individuals across the country. Since the take-over the state government has controlled, managed, wholly funded and staffed the school, which were run and are still being run as public institutions.’’

Professor Mamann Saba Jubril, secretary to Kwara State Government went on to state as follows: “Various state laws back all these especially the Kwara Education Law (CAP E1 of the Laws of Kwara State. Such rules include pluralism in recruitment of students and teachers. These schools being public-owned are to adhere to policies of government. The court has flatly rejected argument over the years that these schools still belong to either the Muslim or Christian missionaries. So, the government totally reject claims some organisations are still laying to these schools because the law does not know such claims. The fact that some of these schools retain the names is in consideration of their contribution to education. It does not translate to such missionaries bodies owning the schools. This is a matter that has been settled in the High Court of Kwara State.” And this is the crux of the matter. Will this assertion by the government stand? Here is the position of the Anglican Church made clear by the Anglican Bishop of Kwara, the Most Rev. Israel Amaoo. “We believe that the greatest need of any society is peace and harmony especially in a state christened as the State of Harmony and where this is compromised, it’s a dangerous trend. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Kwara State held several consultations with the state government and suseqiently made the position of the owners of the Christian schools known in very clear and unambiguous terms. We absolutely align with the position of CAN and restate that we do not allow the use of Hijab in our schools, as it negates our belief and doctrinal principles on which the schools were founded in the first place.

“Over the years, Christian and Muslim students have been co-existing therein without acrimony or religious bias. Why are we now creating this problem to heat up the polity unnecessarily?” Other schools echoed the same sentiments. Indeed they said the matter was in Supreme Court concerning the schools. “…as law-abiding citizens, we ought to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the matter. The Cherubim and Seraphim Movement, proprietors of C & S College, vowing not to hand over its school to any government said: If the government feels that it can no longer pay the staff salaries or maintain the school, it should be returned to us. C & S College, Sabo Oke, Ilorin is our heritage we will not cede to any government or group of people. The Movement stated: “…we want to say unequivocally that we reject the use of Hijab by any Muslim students in our college because this is a Christian school.”

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What are the issues? Are the missionary schools Public schools? What makes them to be so classified? Archbishop Amaoo debunked the court pronouncement which both the government and MURIC are hinging their claims on. He said that the High Court made on Hijab which was a matter not before it and what Appeal Court said was that both parties should go and settle the issue amicably between them. The Appellate Court said both parties had spent money on the schools. And these are matters before the Supreme Court; why trying to railroad the Supreme Court?

The mission schools cannot be regarded as properties of the state government simply because it gives them subvention. The government using strong-arm tactics is in violation of the primary agreements which the schools had in 1974 before they agreed to go into partnership with it in 1974 under the Administration of Brig.-Gen David Bamgboye. The agreement was that “the proprietary rights of the owners remain.” Bamgboye said “the religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed.” These are fundamental. The Missionary schools have been pressing that the government should go back to the original document that all parties agreed to. That is what is fair and just. One cannot be in government and because of the person’s religious inclination use governmental instrument put in a governor’s hand in trust to perpetrate wrong. The trust is that such powers would be used for the good of all, for justice and fairness.

The schools say it is the church authorities which have been overseeing the affairs of their schools over the year. Archbishop Amao said in d eference and pursuant to the spirit of the original agreement, it is the various church managements that recommend three names to the government from among whom it should take one for the headship of the schools whenever the position falls vacant. I am told practically new structures that may be found in these schools were built by their old students associations.

When Ukpabi Azika, the then administrator of East-Central State took over schools after the war, it was out of pure motives and the desire to engender speedy recovery of educational and human capital development battered and a people pauperized by the devastating three years of hostilities. He received applause everywhere. The cheering and clapping orchestra was led by Dr. Tai Solarin who was in a hurry to see every part of the country develop educationally. The campaign persuaded Gowon to buy into the idea of the government doing more. It was at the time of oil boom, and Gowon said what could be a better invest than human capital development, and he said why not. Taking over of schools or grant aiding them then became a fad more so that the policy was a huge success in Awolowo’s Western Region. Awolowo saw the imperative of rapid school facilities expansion to absorb the overflowing products of his free primary education for all the children in the region. It was not meant for any sectarian chest beating and an abuse of power at the approach of an election year.

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Nigerians have the missionaries to thank for their sacrifice we now take for granted, for the educational development of Nigeria, old men and women contributing their widow’s might in the churches for the establishment of schools to pull their children out of ignorance and squalor. Out of first 31 secondary schools which I reported were surveyed between 1859 and 1937, only seven were established by the government, federal or regions; 24 were established by the missionaries. I listed schools in existence up to 1945, great schools all. Since then there have been many more. I will list them soon.

Prominent figures from Ilorin are known to have attended community or mission schools. One of them attended Offa Grammar School. Although founded by Offa Descendants Union in Lagos, it started in a church at Offa, and it had a Methodist Bishop as its first chairman Board of Trustees. Alhaji AbdulGaniyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq, fondly called AGF attended CMS School, (Christian Missionary School, Onitsha from 1938-1943, Kalahari National College, Buguma, Rivers State, 1944-1945 and African College, Onitsha, 1945-1947 before entering University of Ibadan. The Hon. Chief Justice Salihu Modibo Alfa Belgore attended Ilesha Grammar School, one of the Aonian Schools and Colleges along with Ondo Boys’High School, Abeokuta grammar School and Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, to name just three out of 12 such schools which if not founded by the Anglican were closely associated with the Mission. That was the spirit. There was no discrimination on grounds of region anywhere.The first head prefect of C & S College in Ilorin was a Muslim, Sulaiman Baba. Gbenga Olawepo Hassim, former deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP is a product of C & S College, Ilorin. No fuss, no rancor. None of the 10 schools indicted by WAEC in the last examination results was involved. The overall result for the state was woeful. Improving educational standards of the school should be what preoccupies the mind of the governor.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has put himself a captive of the fanatics are threatening storm and brimstone over Hijab in Ilorin. Here is man with a glitteringly testimonial, to use the words of Lai Mohammed, as a jewel in the crown of AGF AbdulRazaq. The way out of the self-inflicted problem is to hands off on matter of religion in the schools and let the missions manage their affairs. The government can also heed the clamour of the missions for the government to return their schools to them. The governor must recognise the secularity of Nigeria, Kwara not excluded, and right to property. He should stop grant-aiding them and let them fend for themselves. It is the path of honour which always requires courage to tread.

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