ONCE upon a time Osun state was known for great things. Once upon a time, being from Osun state was something to be proud of. We proudly told people we were from Osun state. These days? We are the butt of jokes everywhere for all kinds of reasons. Need I make a list? You all know some of the reasons, I’m sure. I’m from Osun state and right now I can ‘unproudly’ say I’m not proud of it. But I’m still from Osun, because I had no choice in the matter. We do not get the luxury of picking our parents and place of birth. So, here I am, sober and humbled.
The Yoruba have a saying: agba kii wa l’oja kori omo tuntun wo. Meaning: things are not expected to go wrong where elders are. In other words, where things go wrong, where strange things are allowed to become the norm, there are no elders. Therefore I ask, are there elders in Osun state? Were they on their farms when things went wrong in the village square? Where were they when the market became the arena for strange masquerades? Where are the wise men from Osun?
Ile Ife is in Osun and that ancient town, nibi ti ojumo ti n mo wa, is where the sun rises for the universe. It is the home of the 201 gods and goddesses of the Yoruba pantheon. It is the origin of the ‘world’, the river that flows through many states of this country, from Oyo to Edo and Delta. What does all that history amount to if we are the butt of national jokes on Facebook and Whatsapp? If all the beaded crowns of many royal fathers in the land came from Ile-Ife, in Osun state, what separated wisdom from the Segi and Iyun royal beads? How did the direct descendants of Oduduwa become a laughing stock?
Was the fire-spitting, respected Alhaji Abdulazeez Ajagbemokeferi of blessed memory not from Esa-Odo? Is Sheik Ajisafe not from Osun state? What of Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye from Ifewara? Pastor W.F. Kumuyi is Ijesha, Pastor Ashimolowo too. The list is long, very long and I’m not even going to mention the custodians of Ifa and traditional religion like Professor Wande Abimbola and Baba Yemi Elebuibon. I won’t confound you with the scientists , professors and professionals here and abroad that God sprung from Osun’s fertile soil. I’ll just summarise everything by saying Osun is a great state of great men.
But does anything you have read thus far support the hijab-and-choir-robe-war going on in my state? Is there anything remotely godly about using children to prosecute religious war or war about religion? Is it in the Bible, in the Quoran? Does anybody know anybody who focuses on an itch when he has leprosy?
I may not yet be qualified to be called an elder but I am no longer a child that is carried on the shoulder to the farm. That is why I know that making children wear ‘sutana’ and choir robes to school is not the best strategy to counter the hijab-wearing thingy. There is more than one way to kill a cat and I know deep down, the real elders and leaders of Osun know that these theatrics that is embarrassing all of us will not solve anything.
From where I am sitting, the hijab drama and the counter choir robe comedy is like the case of the man with the knock knees. A man who cannot stand straight is a man whose load will also be bent and so it is futile to concentrate energy on trying to straighten the load on his head.
‘Amunkun eru e wo, oke le nwo….’
The people who really know what they should know surely know that all that is going on started with the bad knees of the man with the bent load. Faulty foundation is what ails Osun and trying to build a good structure on a warped foundation has never worked. The elders need to examine where they got it wrong, where they took the wrong turn in the road and retrace their steps because if they continue on this present path, the end thereof is destruction.
While the men and women we look up to in Osun hold meeting on how to straighten the head of the infant, let us even look at this whole hijab and school uniform issue. And I am addressing those who went to school when Nigeria still had schools, those of us who read textbooks not hand outs. Do you remember your school uniform? I can already see the beginning of a nostalgic smile on your lips. My secondary school uniform was white blouse, green pinafore and green beret. That uniform was made by only two tailors and you could always tell those students who made theirs elsewhere. The illegal uniforms. The berets were for special occasions like march past on Children’s Day or Independence Day. We wore it with so much pride. We starched and ironed it with such tender loving care. I went to a girls-only school. We made our hair twice a week until the school authority decreed low-cut for all.
What colour was your school uniform? What did it mean to you then? What comes to your mind when you remember it now? For those of you who attended mixed schools, did the girls wear special covering on their heads? What was the focus of the government in our days, religion or academic excellence? From the days of David Medayese Jemibewon to Bola Ige in old Oyo State, education was about books, good teachers and discipline. We were taught how to sit properly, keep short neat nails. My primary school uniform was white, smart white dress. Is there any school, any public school where eight-year-olds wear white every day? Those were the days. The government knew what to do. The teachers knew their duties and competed to produce the best students. The parents knew what was important. Everybody did what was decent.
Those were the days when JAMB was JAMB and those who scored less than 200 knew better than to say it loud. Now cut-off is 180 and there are parents willing to stage protests in front of university gates on behalf of their children who scored less than 200! How did we get here, please?
In Osun state, emphasis is on what students wear to school not what they do in school and how well they do. How do you expect to produce great students, graduates that will compete on national stage in a state where parents, children and government conspire to outdo one another in dance of shame at the market square? I almost wept when I saw lawyers on television bragging about their judgement at high court and the other party threatening to go on appeal. Chaaaii! I guess lawyers must chop. Nobody has sued anybody for unpaid salary, unconducted examination, inadequate school infrastructure, withdrawn course accreditation. These people who paid lawyers to stage ‘Boston Legal’ drama did not pool resources together to buy second-hand school buses for their children. They are not worried that unpaid teachers will mean poor WAEC and JAMB results. No, they are worried about hijab.
Did we wear hijab in our days? Did not wearing hijab make us less brilliant? Why do we have to take religion into classrooms? Why isn’t just going to church and mosque enough? Why are Osun parents determined to crawl while the rest of the world is running? Why are they not suing the government for tangibles that will affect the future of their children?
As for my Christian brethren and their choir-robe wearing children, is all that drama some form of evangelism that the rest of us do not know about? What does all this say about our faith, Christian and muslim? Perhaps, the ogun worshippers should start going to school with palm fronds on their heads and waists.