By Oladipupo Jimoh, International Liaison Personnel of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (Nigerian Section of the RCIT). 1st April, 2021. https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com/
No one who looks at the question can deny its thoroughly convoluted nature. I wish to simplify it by starting from the nature of the state, in this case, the Nigerian government, that is, it disposition towards religion. The Nigerian state has never been secular, never been indifferent towards religion. This is the very reason why it could adopt the many institutions of learning founded by religious bodies (at least 150 schools in Kwara state alone!) without much friction. Even in schools that were built by the government there still exist religious practices such as prayers on assembly grounds. Nigeria was and is at best a multireligious state.
At the same time these religious influences are nowhere near balanced especially as one moves from North through South or the other way round. This can be seen in the manner of religious rituals which persist in these regions. Many southern government schools hold morning assemblies which have Christian prayers and/or sermons from Monday to Thursday leaving Friday for Muslim prayers and doctrines but in most northern schools it is the Muslim prayer all week long.
The protocols laid down by the then military governor of Kwara State, Col. David (Lasisi) Bamigboye for the 1974 take over published by the Nation Newspaper throws more light on the nature of the controversy:
“For avoidance of doubts, let me mention some of your rights as proprietors under the new dispensation:- (a) The right of ownership of institutions. Proprietors still retain the greatest of proprietory rights namely, ownership of their grants aided institutions… (b) The names of schools remain as given by proprietors. (c ) Religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed. (d) The right to nominate Board of Governors with responsibility for the day-to-day management and welfare of the institutions remain unchanged. The Board of Governors will continue to function normally except in regards to staff matters… (e) The total tone of the institutions remains the responsibility of the Board of Governors as the main organ of the Proprietors.”¹
The above is not to side with the Christians that Hijab should not be used in Christian mission schools, it shows rather the accommodating stance of the Kwara state government for the religious statutes by which the schools were run and not only so it strove to preserve it.
Even with the somewhat prevalent Christian appearance of the policy of grant aiding mission schools, an overwhelming majority of the schools were Christian owned, (Col. David Bamigboye was also christian) there was an underlying onslaught to seize these assets as part of the project that expanded influence of the northern emirate/caliphate. Just as this take over of schools, the likelihood of which were first established by the British colonisers, is an extension of the colonial project so is the expanding influence of the northern cabals—both had the same purpose to make and keep Nigeria a neo-colony.
It does not matter whether this schools were funded or assisted in any way. A government which really intended to out perform its colonial masters would not only have properly funded existing schools but would have built more and provided them with adequate facilities for quality learning but this was not the case. Many still opine that the standard of those schools dipped as the government took over. The so-called aids were at first limited and gradually increased albeit at the cost of growing Islamic influence in these schools.
The 2016 proceedings of the Appellate court shows the growing forcible overtake by more recent administrations in Kwara State:
“I am not unaware of the submissions made by the appellants in this regard…To them the introduction of certain policies to the schools under focus by government: such as the conversion of classrooms into mosques, the “flooding” of these schools with Islamic Teachers, the wearing of Hijab by female students and pupils…The appellants have by no means alleged the restriction of Christian students from(…)the practice of their religion by reason of the control exerted by them in the management of the affairs of those schools. If that were the case, their grievance would have been understood as genuine. This is not the case.” ²
Once again, the argument that the Christian religious practices were not hindered so why should the Christian associations complain of “the conversion of classrooms into mosques” shows how tolerant the present state is to religious activity even in places of learning. This kind of state cannot be referred to as secular.
The argument that the so called “aids-in-grants” transforms the schools automatically from private to public is punctured on every side and like the Titanic will find itself at the seabed sooner than later.
The US has given billions of dollars in aid to several businesses, does this transform those enterprises to government owned enterprises, the answer is no. The European Union (EU) fraudulently gave billions of pounds to big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer-Biontech to manufacture coroner virus vaccines, whether this makes them a public company, the European Union Commission will be the first to object.
The Nigerian government since the years of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in the 1980’s have indulged in funding private companies something that is now commonly known as Private Sector Partnership (PSP) yet no Nigerian government have come out to claim ownership of the companies in this “partnership”. Even now there are reports that the government is funding or plans to fund private universities will this make such universities automatically public? So why should the Christian mission schools be any different.
This cruel double standard can only be defended with force. Hence reports have it that the violent confrontations only began this year after the government of Kwara State reopened the schools without getting the verdict from the Supreme court. Therefore more analysis corroborate our view that the Hijab is only a symbol in the fight to balance or counterbalance the influence of religious forces in the government:
“What those that say they do not want Hijab wearers in their schools are fighting against is a gentrification of the spaces they have arrogated themselves on the basis of religion…The contest is no longer about the sartorial assertion of one’s faith but the test of boundaries that will affirm the right of one to dominate the other” ³
In fact the court sessions have revealed that the matter is deeper than just a mere case of Hijabs since no one could have known that some classes had been converted into mosques without the publication of the court transcript.
All the claims of preserving the names of these schools as honorarium are just hogwash. The names were preserved because the government did not really mean to make the schools secular or pluralist or to take them over in full for that matter. Only now the expansionism in the south by the northern emirati cabal becomes unconcealable due to the near total collapse of the global capitalist system. Moreso the process of this conquest must be accelerated for the same reason.
That is why citations of the predominantly Muslim population of Ilorin emerges from the belligerents on the government’s side. Some outrightly say that Ilorin is a Muslim town. Such claims naturally make one wonder if there are no schools in which Muslim coverings as the Hijab are mandated. In a country where people are set ablaze for verbally insulting the prophet Mohammed⁴ or wholestock of beer can be confiscated from bars and destroyed for purposes of Islamic mortification, how hard can enforcing the Hijab or other Muslim coverings for females be in a Muslim secondary school or some northern schools for that matter. One can give a similar argument that the school is located in a region densely populated by Muslims but this does not answer the question whether all Muslim women like to use the Hijab.
We hold that in a fight between rival religious forces to maintain or expand their influence revolutionaries and progressives must stand for a separation of state and religion. We must oppose the expansion of religious influence of any kind on the state and clamour for the relinquishing of the existing ones. For us, religion remains a private matter as long as the government is concerned.
In the case of Kwara state this means supporting the call for the return of the mission schools to the rightful proprietors–the religious establishments and the stoppage of all grants, funds and aids to these schools. The schools are private not public. No government should hide their ineptitude under the veil of religious partisanship. The Nigerian state has never been secular and it cannot be so long as avenues exist to exploit religious sentiments for the interests of the ruling class.
Since our main aim is to end the unholy wedlock between religion and state we cannot stop at the question of mission schools but must fight religious influence in all facet and stratum of Nigerian governance. Sharia should be practiced only amongst groups which voluntarily subscribe to it. No one should be affected by Sharia if they have not voluntarily dedicated themselves to it. Similarly, those communities where Sharia is practiced must also be under the jurisdiction of secular courts. While we are against religious offences or provocation of any kind we reject also the forceful practice of Sharia on unwilling individuals.
Progressive Muslim and Christian workers must support the return of all mission schools to their religious establishments in terms of both administration and finance while also campaigning for proper funding and expansion of quality education at all levels. Muslim and Christian workers must unite to reduce the relationship between the government and religion to merely official nature. Only in this form can both experience the highest form of religious freedom without state interference and interreligious conflicts!
3. See on this: Oladipupo Jimoh: Is It Just An Hijab Controversy? 22.03.2021 https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com/2021/03/22/was-it-just-an-hijab-controversy/
Hijab not about ‘religious discrimination’ https://www.google.com/amp/s/punchng.com/hijab-not-about-religious-discrimination/%3famp