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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Columnist: Arinola Rahaman

Looking beyond Kwara’s hijab row

Many people have taken sides in the Kwara hijab controversy wrongly because a lot of them have been either misinformed or uninformed at all. Two major issues are at stake. The recent crisis is just a by-product, fuelled by the failure of the successive governments to maintain a neutral stand on religious matters.

The first is the unprecedented and extreme nepotism that puts Ilorin indigenes above other Kwarans, though they are no match for the latter, in skill, diligence, hard work or moral conduct.

The second can best be described as severe religious bigotry. These two issues have been strategically employed over the years to take over Kwara State for the Fulani.

These two behavioural patterns are responsible for the prevalent domination of Ilorin indigenes in all public sectors of the state.

Admission to tertiary institutions in the state, as well as job opportunities, promotions and appointments are no longer by merit.

To be precise, the Ilorin emirate and the state government see Kwara State as their personal possession. To them, Kwara State is equivalent to Ilorin.

If there are 10 appointments for Kwara State, whether at the state or federal level, Ilorin sees nothing wrong in taking it all, or nine, at the least eight. The remaining then goes to a Muslim from any other local government. What a high level discrimination!

Go to many or all of the Kwara State government ministries and parastatals, you will be shocked that an unprecedented percentage of the members of staff are Ilorin indigenes while other Kwarans are suffering from gross unemployment. Marginalisation!

Can you believe a past Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, who is an Ilorin man, single-handedly handled all the recruitments during his tenure without any regard for the Registrar of the university?

He refused to allow the then Registrar to participate even in the employment of junior staff, which is the latter’s constitutional right. And damn it, nothing less than 90 per cent of the employees were of Ilorin origin. They came in without any examination or interview. Many of them were not even qualified for the jobs. Yet, there were other more qualified and skilful Kwarans, who have been jobless for years. Their applications for employment were just thrown into the trash can.

About 70 per cent of all tertiary institutions including federal, in Kwara State, are located in Ilorin and headed by Ilorin indigenes though there are more qualified candidates among other Kwarans.

Selfish and greedy, they don’t only head, they flood the system with their people. Even the only two or so institutions outside Ilorin are not spared. It’s as bad as recruiting messengers and cooks of Ilorin indigenes to work in the Oro College of Education!

In the Kwara State capital of Ilorin, only Ilorin indigenes can head the public schools which belong to Kwarans. In fact, it is the norm to put an Ilorin indigene who is on Level 13 over another Kwaran on Level 16.

The Christian Mission schools are not spared this discriminatory treatment. In some, the Christian teachers are transferred en masse and replaced with Muslims. For example, in St. John’s Primary and Secondary School, Sabo Oke, there are 48 teachers, but only five are Christians!

There are eight Christian Mission schools in Ilorin, and many public schools, without any Christian Religious Studies teachers at all, while Islamic teachers are not wanting, as many as six are posted to a single school.

And all these, not because there are no qualified Christian teachers but because they were not employed by the government. Could this not be a calculated attempt to discourage our children from taking CRS in higher institutions so as to wipe out subject even in the primary and secondary schools?

Muslim students and staff in Christian Mission schools are provided with praying grounds but their Christian counterparts in Muslim Mission schools are denied equal privilege. They can’t even hold Christmas Carol in the school! Yet, the Muslims started a row some time ago that they must build mosques in Christian Mission schools. Haba!

A couple of years ago, a Kwara State governor also shut down private Christian Mission schools, insisting they must teach Islam or remain closed. The peace-loving Christians obliged. Yet, they do not allow Christian Religious Studies in Muslim grant-aided schools, though there are Christian students there.

The Christians, being peace-loving and preferring dialogue to protests, have been taking these issues up with successive governments which always responded: ‘We shall look into it.’ But they never did.

Ex-governor Bukola Saraki’s regime even dared to refuse the late world evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, to hold a five-day crusade in the Kwara State Sports Stadium he had prepared and paid heavily for, after months of prior information.

He and his Christian entourage were also forbidden from going through the city to a virgin land the Christians acquired and cleared as a matter of urgency. Even then, Bonnke was sent parking only after two days!

With all these on hand, what is the future of Kwara State? Where is the hope of peaceful co-existence in Kwara State?

About three or four years ago, a nephew of mine, an undergraduate in the University of Ilorin claimed sitting for a computer-based General Studies examination, only to discover that three out of the five questions posted were from Islamic Studies. Yet, many of the students were not Muslims and the course they were taking had nothing to do with religion.

If you go to many of the local government offices outside Ilorin, you would be surprised to see that a very high percentage of the staff, including junior staff, are Ilorin indigenes. A typical example is the Irepodun Local Government Area.

Talk of politics, their strategies are terrible. They use the other Kwarans to satisfy their own interests, giving fake promises. It’s not really that the non-Ilorin indigenes aren’t interested in electing political leaders.

In Ilorin, voting is made very difficult for non-Ilorin indigenes. They do this by allotting them very few registration and polling centres, and locating these centres far from them. On the contrary, both registration and voting centres are located in virtually every compound in the Ilorin emirate. Usually, a large number of intending non-Ilorin indigene-voters do not get registered before the closing date. This has seriously discouraged this vulnerable group.

Interestingly, there’s usually no movement on voting days. So, many of the non-Ilorin indigenes cannot get to vote, as one must vote where one is registered. Do you think this is mere coincidence, or part of their calculated effort to ensure we don’t get to vote so they could impose their own choice on us?

May the Almighty God, the righteous Judge come to our aid in Kwara and save our beloved state of harmony from the hand of hijackers, for a more glorious posterity!

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