Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq says his government took the decision allowing the use of hijab in public schools in good faith.
“We took that decision in good faith and in the overall interest of all. I swore to an oath to protect every Kwaran,” he said in statewide broadcast Tuesday evening.
In the heat of the controversy surrounding the use of the headcover in some grant-aided schools founded by Christian missions, the state government announced an official policy allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab in all public schools.
“That announcement followed several days of consultations, meetings, brainstorming and dispassionate weighing of policy options,” the governor stated.
The decision which later snowballed into pockets of violence was opposed by Christian leaders who mobilised worshipers to protest the approval.
Despite the dissent from some religious groups, the 10 schools affected have been reopened with security operatives manning their gates.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening, Mr AbdulRazaq acknowledged the apprehension from the Christian and Muslim communities.
“Having held dozens of meetings with various thoughts leaders from both sides in the last four weeks, I am convinced that beneath the tensions and misgivings around the hijaab decision are old wounds that must be healed.
“I assure all Kwarans that we will take genuine steps to address the concerns raised by various faith communities. In doing so, a huge dose of understanding, selflessness and patriotism will be required.
“Going forward, we will need leaders from both sides to spread the message of love, accommodation, patience, peace, and mutual respect.
“Notwithstanding their varied positions, I am proud of the level of restraints and statesmanship shown by our religious leaders. I commend them and reassure them that we will always be fair, courageous in taking decisions for sustainable peace and be willing to listen to their concerns.”
He also promised to reconstitute an interfaith committee to “further build confidence as well as provide templates to steadily resolve all issues of mutual concerns.
“I commend the security agencies for their professionalism and their sticking to strategic patience jointly agreed upon. This has helped to prevent loss of lives and properties, while keeping crisis merchants in check.
“I urge parents to speak to their wards to stay away from trouble. Any attempt to take advantage of the situation to foment trouble will be met with maximum punishment prescribed by the law.”
The governor appealed to all leaders to prioritise communal peace and brotherhood.
“We need to join hands to build a generation of future leaders who acknowledge and respect one another’s differences. This is necessary to build a community of patriots and partners for a greater Kwara,” he said.
The state government shut 10 grant-aided schools on February 19 following clashes over the use of the head covering was yet abated.
The affected schools are Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) College, Sabo-Oke, St, Anthony’s Secondary School, Offa Road, ECWA School, Oja-Iya, Surulere Baptist Secondary School and Baptist Smith Secondary School, Agba Dam.
Others are CAC Secondary School, Asa Dam Road, St. Barnabas Secondary School, Sabo-Oke, John School, Maraba, St. Williams Secondary School, Taiwo-Isale and St. James Secondary School, Maraba.
The schools were earlier scheduled to resume last Monday until the government announced an indefinite [postponement, citing safety reasons owing to the opposition of the Christian leaders.
Sources within the government told PREMIUM TIMES that the government would not reverse the approval of the use of the hijab because the affected schools belong to the government and not the Christian missions.
The federal military government in the 1970s had taken over the schools from their Christian churches founders.
These schools, now grant-aided, had their names changed afterwards while some, like those in Kwara retained their names.
Christian leaders in Kwara State had twice challenged the government’s ownership of the schools in court but lost at the high court and appellate court and have now taken the case to the Supreme Court.