The Chairman of the Ogun State Teaching Service Commission (TSC), Evangelist Joshua Olalekan Ifede, yesterday singled out female Muslim teachers who wore hijab for tongue-lashing. The Muslim women were among other teachers attending a promotion interview. He went ahead to order them to reduce their hijab to shoulder level otherwise they would not be interviewed.
Commenting on the incident, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), accused the chairman of religious profiling, provocative discrimination, power-drunkenness and abuse of office. MURIC’s comment was contained in a press statement issued by the director of the Islamic human rights organisation, Professor Ishaq Akintola on Friday, 16th April, 2021.
The statement reads:
“The chairman of the Ogun State Teaching Service Commission, Evangelist Joshua Olalekan Ifede, yesterday, Thursday 15 th April, 2021, ordered female Muslim teachers who wore hijab to the venue of the promotion exercise to reduce their hijab to shoulder level by tomorrow (Friday 16/4/21) or they would not be interviewed. The incident occurred at Lisabi Grammar School, Abeokuta, venue of the interview.
“This order is draconian, illegal, unlawful and unacceptable. It amounts to religious profiling, provocative discrimination, power-drunkenness and abuse of office. Evangelist Joshua Olalekan Ifede must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
“So it has come to this. We are still battling with how to rescue Muslim children from the shackle of school tyrants, now Christian officials are gripping female Muslim teachers by the jugular. This is going too far. Who said there is religious tolerance in Yorubaland? The female Muslim teachers addressed by Evangelist Joshua are all of Yoruba stock just like the evangelist himself, but that did not stop him from stereotyping them.
“An official message which went viral on social media immediately after the incident read, ‘Dear colleagues good afternoon. I have the directive of the TESCOM Chairman, Evg. Lekan Ifede to inform you to get back to our teachers in all the interview centers to dress corporately. Tell our Muslim Sisters to put on hijab that doesn’t go beyond their shoulder. Whosoever that is not corporately dressed will not be attended to as from tommorow. Thanks and pleasant night. CCZS’
“This message is discriminatory, repugnant and unethical. It is a smear on the image of Ogun State Government. No state government official should set aside any particular group for this kind of humiliating treatment. It is also an audacious affront on the Muslim community of Ogun State in particular and Nigerian Muslims in general. The question, however, is whether Evangelist Joshua has the mandate of the government of Ogun State for this humongous embarrassment.
“We therefore call on the state government to clarify its position in this diplomatic conundrum. Ogun State Muslims will, thereafter, know the next line of action. Nobody should think that Nigerian Muslims will abandon their women in the hands of oppressors of women and certificated Muslim-haters. We assert that all options are on the table except violence.
“Evangelist Joshua’s action has shown that he cannot be expected to be fair to Muslim candidates among the teachers. The promotion exercise is also bound to tilt towards Christian teachers at the expense of their Muslim conterparts. We therefore demand the immediate postponement of the promotion exercise and the removal of Evangelist Joshua as the chairman.
“This man has exhibited extreme hatred for Muslims. We have no confidence in any promotion exercise conducted under his supervision. Evangelist Joshua has failed to separate the calling of the church from his official duty as chairman of the Commission in whose hands is the welfare of both Muslims and Christian teachers.
“This is common among church clerics who double as government officials. Many of them are in immigration, identity cards and driving licence offices, etc. They have instructions from hate preachers to make life unbearable for Muslims. We demand that the persecutions of the past must stop. These are days of infotech when the world has become a global village and nothing can be done in secret anymore.
“We strongly suspect that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has a hand in this ugly trend. There is no single Muslim heading the teaching service commission in any state in Yorubaland presently. Is this a coincidence? Is it also an accident that while an evangelist heads TSC or TESCOM in Ogun State, Oyo State TESCOM is chaired by a pastor (Pastor Akinade Alamu)? Mrs. Elizabeth Olabisi Ariyo is the chairman of TESCOM in Lagos while Chief Babatunde Abegunde (a Christian) heads Ekiti State TESCOM. Osun State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) is chaired by Hon. Israel Ajibola Famurewa. Do we need to say more?
“Of course it is an open secret that CAN goes round insisting on certain posts for its members. The domination of the education sector is already a fait accompli by CAN and it is aimed at perpetuating the oppression of Muslim students and teachers.
“The Evangelist Joshua affair which occurred yesterday was made possible by this same arrangement and it has proved once again that religious tolerance in Yorubaland is a myth, a phantom, a mirage. It is sheer propaganda. Evangelist Joshua could not stand the sight of so many female Muslim women. Our Christian neighbours are not tolerating us. They are turning life into hell for us. Muslims are not free in Yorubaland.
“Our women are publicly insulted and stigmatised on account of their faith. Our daughters are stereotyped in school and denied access to the classroom unless they changed their identity by using Christian uniform as designed by the Christian colonial master. Our men are forced to remove their turbans and caps by immigrations officials and national identity card workers. Examination bodies send out Muslim candidates and force them to shave their beards if they don’t want to miss the entire examination. Yorubaland has declared Muslims persona non grata.
“But who will speak for Yoruba Muslims? Who will defend us? No single state assembly in the South West has addressed the issue of persecution of Muslims. In spite of the proliferation of Muslims in politics and their notable representation in the houses of assembly in Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Oyo states, no single lawmaker has deemed it fit to raise the issue on the floors of those honourable houses. Do we deserve this?
“MURIC has a duty to remind Muslim lawmakers in Yorubaland that there is an eschatological angle to politics. Allah will ask all of you yawm al-Qiyamah (the Day of Resurrection) why you abandoned your Muslim brothers and sisters who are being persecuted when you have the chance to say or do something. You are accountable to Allah and He will hold you responsible.
“MURIC did not say so. Allah said it in Qur’an 4:75, thus: ‘Why should you not rise in the cause of Allah to defend men, women and children who are oppressed due to their weakness? The weak ones cry out, “Our Lord! rescue us from this city (Nigeria?) whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect us, and send to us a helper!”.
“We draw the attention of the ideologues of Oduduwa Republic to the plight of Muslims in Yorubaland. Leaders of the groups agitating for Yoruba breakaway must admit that there is a strain in Christian/Muslim relationship in the South West and profer solutions instead of blackmailing and accusing it of formenting trouble in the region. It is the height of hypocrisy and it will not help the cause of the Yoruba nation.
“We therefore ask the Yoruba agitators, what do you have in stock for Muslim children and women? What is your plan for hijab? Is it as dictated by CAN? Is there any provision for civil shariah which Yoruba Muslims have been demanding for ages? The response of the agitators to these questions will go a long way in determining their readiness to tolerate Muslims or the plot to continue oppressing us.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).