By Nelson Ekujumi
Recently the public space was awash with interest on the issue of banning of the wearing of Hijab by Muslim female students in Lagos state public schools. The interventions by groups and individuals made interesting and enlightening reading. I was also delighted when the Lagos state government came out to debunk an earlier story of a ban on it but rather said that it was still consulting with stakeholders on the matter which is a good development for our society and democracy and should be encouraged.
The truth of the matter is that public schools like other schools have a dressing code which promotes discipline and unity and which every student is compulsorily expected to obey, failure which attracts sanction. Also, we have to realize that the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria asserts the secularity of the state which means that it frowns at the use of public space and resources to promote one religion at the expense of the other.
However, in as much as we recognize that the same constitution also guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of religion, it is my candid opinion that it would amount to illegality and unconstitutionality for a government which swore allegiance to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria to now undermine the same constitution by allowing a particular religion to use the public space which is for all, while professing their faith.
That the public schools are a veritable ground for inculcating positive values and breeding future leaders without allowing them to be influenced by religious sentiments cannot be emphasized and this is very critical to the peace, progress and harmony of our state. Therefore, any action that might or is likely to be a breach of public peace either now or in the nearest future occasioned by religious sentiments must be avoided by any means necessary.
It is very paramount that the peace, progress and harmony in our state must be sustained at all cost for the benefit of all.
(Ekujumi is the Executive Director,
Centre For Rights And Grassroots Initiative (CRGI).
He can be reached on: 08023172694, 07033853232)