By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
Kwara State is in the news again, this time for the wrong reason. The state has recently been embroiled in needless controversies arising largely from the internal wrangling between various factions of the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC). The question that I’ve been asking myself in respect of this matter is this: why should a state government be involved in religion? Is the governor not aware that Nigeria runs a secular state and no government is expected to dabble in religious matters, to support one group against the other?
In the course of last week, I watched a very disturbing video, of some persons, who assembled opposite what looked like a big cathedral, from where they were hauling stones and other dangerous objects, into the compound of the church, with the security standing and watching them, helplessly. Why should this happen? Or is the house of God no longer sacred? Is the church the problem or the management of the school, or the state government that jumped into the murky arena of religious conflict? How do we justify or even rationalise the attempt to destroy a church building, with the agitation for students to adorn a particular mode of dressing? What is the relationship? Will that be tolerated if the situation were to be reversed, for other members of the opposing faith to seek to destroy a mosque simply because a school located in the same premises has not allowed Christian pupils to adorn cassock as uniform? We dwell too much on minors.
Now in some years past, certain missionary organisations got permission from the government to establish churches and other worship centres, as facilities for the practice of their faith, where their members gather to serve God. Over the years, some of these worship centres grew in leaps and bounds and they were handed over upon independence, to the local members, to further their legitimate objectives. As part of their corporate social responsibility, some of these churches established schools, hospitals and even justice centres, where the indigent and needy can have access to social services. In the case of my own church, a maternity was established right in the compound of the church and it admits RCCG church members, Christians from other denominations, Muslims, traditionalists and even atheists, who daily patronise it, for the delivery of their babies, at little or no cost. After all, the unborn baby in the womb has no religion yet and cannot be the subject of discrimination on account of the religion of the parents. These churches exist all over Nigeria, in Kwara State in particular. I have since confirmed that Kwara State is neither a Christian nor a Muslim State, for the government of that state to seek to take up arms in favour of or against any particular religion. In any case, Section 10 of the Constitution clearly prohibits any state in Nigeria from adopting any particular religion as state religion.
The genesis of the whole matter as I read from the news is that the government of Kwara State has been involved in the determination of private choices of students and their parents, as to what type of uniform students should wear to school. This is not about the school fees to be paid, the rehabilitation of the structure of the schools, or equipping the laboratories or libraries of the schools, or even improvement of the welfare of teachers and other members of staff of these schools, which number about 10 in all, in the state capital in Ilorin. I read a statement where the Kwara State government announced the extension of the closure of 10 Mission Secondary Schools in Ilorin. In that statement released by Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, she said the schools should remain closed because of security reasons. Part of the statement state as follows: “The government earlier shut the 10 schools belonging to some Christian Missions in the state on February 19, 2021, following a crisis on the wearing of Hijab by Muslim female students who are attending the schools. The government had earlier said that it approved the wearing of Hijab in all government grant-aided public schools in the state and directed that the schools be reopened today (Monday, March 8, 2021).
“Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development wishes to inform members of the public that the 10 government schools where the use of hijab is disputed will remain shut until a later date. This decision has been taken for safety reasons.
“A statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, listed the schools to include C&S College Sabo Oke, ST. Anthony College, Offa Road, ECWA School, Oja Iya, Surulere Baptist Secondary School, Bishop Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam, CAC Secondary School Asa Dam road, St. Barnabas Secondary School Sabo Oke, St. John School Maraba, St. Williams Secondary School Taiwo Isale, and St. James Secondary School Maraba.”
Now this was greeted with protest from the management of the schools affected and a case was filed in court. Whatever the merit of the said case, it will be good for parties thereto, to await the final determination thereof, in the interest of peace and tranquility. Amongst the many problems of Kwara State, religion and dressing of students should be the least concern of the government. I take it that the government of Kwara State has only gotten itself immersed in this controversy purely for political capital, at the expense of the combatants themselves. And this is where I find all the controversies amusing, because the government is seeking to profit from the misfortune of its own citizens, purely for populism. I am not unmindful of the provisions of section 38 of the Constitution on the freedom of religion and the practice thereof, the same Constitution however in its section 43 grants persons and organisations the right to acquire and own property, such as churches, mosques and schools. If the right to acquire property is exercised for the establishment of churches, schools and hospitals, the right to freedom of religion should not antagonise or limit the discretion of the owners, in the choice of policy formulation. It should be a matter of dialogue and agreement, where non-members seek to take advantage of social infrastructure established pursuant to the lawful exercise of these rights. The government cannot and should not legislate it by fiat, as Kwara State is presently doing. It will not work.
I believe that there are Parents/Teachers Associations in these schools. They should rise to the occasion and save the children the trauma and stress of religious fanaticism. When we indoctrinate these children so early in life, we then turn around to preach unity to them, later on in life. It is hypocritical, in my view, to train up children in policy segregation, thus sowing the seed of discord among them.
Meanwhile, in their examination hall, the issue of dressing and uniform, plays no role at all, in their performance or the outcome of their grading. The capacity to absorb instructions and teachings in the classroom is not affected by the contents of the Bible or Quran that the students can recite, especially in science-related subjects. What then is the value of all these hullabaloos?
I know very serious minded Muslims who attended Christian missionary schools and came out in flying colours, ditto for Christians who were trained in Muslim schools. Indeed, the children of prominent Nigerian Muslims are being trained in established universities in Europe and America, where the adornment of hijab is not an issue at all, but rather the content of their intellect and character. In this case however, the options for the Kwara State Government are very clear and narrow. It should steer clear of religion and allow the owners of schools to administer them in line with the objectives for which the said schools were established. Government should have no business with religion other than regulation. A situation whereby policies or actions of government lead innocent children to pelt themselves with stones is totally unacceptable. More condemnable is a situation whereby the church as an entity, and by extension its members, are subject to agony, ridicule and opprobrium by reason only that a school is domiciled in the compound of the church. In the final analysis, it may be that not all members of the said church have their wards attending the school located within its premises.
But I have a word for the owners of the schools. The Kwara State government claims that these schools are partly funded by the government and this has not been denied at all. As we say it, he who pays the piper must be allowed to dictate the tune of the music. Once the resources of the state are involved in the running of any school, then the state cannot be reasonably excluded from participating in the management of the school that it is funding. As students are pelting themselves innocently with stones, on account of the incitement of their parents, Kwara United Football Club shot itself to the top of the football league table over the weekend. Those who played in the field did not display their religion on their foreheads, nor was any particular uniform selected for them in order to earn them victory. Let there be peace in all schools in Kwara State, which will put a permanent end to the prevailing anomaly, occasioned by the poor handling of the situation by the government in power.
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Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze
By Tony Afejuku
My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills? Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.
Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”
Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.
Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared.
I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy. Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.
What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.
Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.
Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.
In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.
To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.
Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Where Did All The Money Go?
By Mike Hunder
For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric. Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year.
Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.
First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration.
Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government. She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!
What happened there after? The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.
Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office, NEMA, Ministry of Defence, Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.
The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.
When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.
Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings. Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.
On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.
Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!
In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover!
*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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