Humans call on God for different reasons. Some are purely altruistic while others are selfish. This explains why some like me tend to wonder whether our God is the same one others call on.

Some people see God, essentially, as a big, fat or old man; hence weak and in need of whom to fight for Him. Others see God, as a Being that is somewhere and nowhere at the same time. They are just to “believe”, often without question(s).

The questions about God are easy but made unnecessarily difficult by our very “religious” people.

Just recently in his contribution to the debate on the Osun school uniform controversy, Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, penned his: “To Everything, Its Place” on SaharaReporters. As simple as the thesis of the article reads, it appears some people still struggle to understand Kongi, even though he wrote that piece in everyday English!

Dr. Brimah, writing under the title: “It’s Not Too Late for Wole Soyinka to Repent”, in The Scoop in an obvious response to Soyinka’s article appeared to be in a haste to write. If he had had a balanced reading (removing his overly-religious lenses), he would have understood, even from the title: “To Everything, Its Place” that mixing religion with school system will only complicate, not simplify matters. Rather than see it that way, Brimah, in a deliberate misinterpretation of Kongi, told his readers that the Nobel laureate intends to “…separate God from the school.”

The question I still ask myself since reading Dr Brimah’s article is how Soyinka or any other person for that matter can “separate God from the school”?

Things became clearer to me as I read Dr Brimah’s article further. He probably did his best to equate God with religion. In the article, he made mention of “anti-God” several times when referring to Soyinka’s religious beliefs.

Kongi is a self-confessed Humanist (and a proud one at that), but millions of “religious” people like Brimah cannot make him “anti-God” because God Himself has no religion. Religion is only an institution created by men in other to understand or move closer to the Godhead!

For Soyinka, the question of school uniform creates a sense of equality of some sorts among the pupils. He writes: “What that has meant is that children from affluent homes can attend school in designer clothing, forming associations distinguished by an elitist consciousness, in contrast to the farmers’ and workers’ children who can just about scrape together the odd pieces of castoff dressing from charity or second class clothing markets. A simplistic reading of the rights of children to individual self-expression is responsible for this takeover of the learning environment by fashion parades, a sight that is so prevalent in countries like the United States. My objection to this rests on the recognition that the modern school is an equivalent of the age-grade culture in traditional societies. There, the rites of passage from one phase of social existence to the next, are bound by rules that eliminate exhibitionism, and that includes a strict dress (or undress) code.”

What is so difficult for anyone to understand in these simple sentences that they should confuse rational minds? Like I wrote earlier, God Himself is not difficult to understand; only religious people make God seem difficult!

Rather than Dr. Brimah responding to this, he chose to divert the attention of unsuspecting readers. He wrote about the inevitability of classes in schools. He talked about a certain Sultan who was a wealthy child (in his school days); having toys he never had as a kid; and that all those never intimidated him as a kid, because the Sultan gave him part of his possession when leaving the school. He writes: “Sultan… did not see his wealth as a tool of subjugation as wealthy adults do, but had us “poor” black brothers as his best pals, to play with all his toys.”

This does little in response to Soyinka’s argument since he accepts the inevitability of classes, but that the school system must not institutionalise it through the approved uniforms. Once there is uniformity among the students with the school uniforms, every other means of differentiating the students, either by physical sizes, intellectual abilities or skin colour must have nothing to do with the uniforms.

Let me be quick to add here that nowhere in the article did Soyinka create an “ideal” school system where pupils will suddenly become equal in all respect to their school uniforms except Dr Brimah was responding to a different Soyinka article. Kongi only created something of a “military barrack” situation where “comradeship, fraternity and esprit de corps” exist among students while on the school campuses. A situation where students are differentiated on the basis of their school uniforms in the same school only portends disorder. It paints a picture of indiscipline, lack of order and incoordination.

A situation where the young mind gets the impression that s/he is different from the other pupils by their mode of dressing; his/her own beliefs are different from those of other pupils through their school uniforms; s/he is reminded of his poor/affluent backgrounds in relation to his/her colleagues by the “quality” of material or style of his/her own uniform; s/he is told about how different his/her “values” are not taught by the school system, but by other belief systems. All of these only complicate matters for our young people. Potentially, the school systems become centres for religious conflicts, rather than intellectual “battles”. It wouldn’t take a long time to start noticing supremacy battles between Sango/Obatala disciples; Zoroastrians/Buddhists; Christians Scientists/Pentecostals or Sunni/Shiites in our public schools.

The recent drama that erupted in the State of Osun over the interpretation of a Court judgment on the question of the wearing of hijabs in the State-owned public schools comes to mind. The state’s chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in response directed Christian students to wear their church robes to school should the school implement the court judgement. Even without doing a simple research on the matter, the online media went agog with the pictures of less than 10 students of the Baptist High School, Iwo in Church apparels. It was equally alleged that some CAN leaders in the state escorted the students in compliance with their “order”. They were there to monitor the reaction of the teachers to the strange mode of dressing of their children. My God! These are “Church robes” not school uniforms. Can we see how they differ? And then, why hijabs against the approved school uniforms?

Dramas or “proxy wars” like these would be largely avoided if the school uniforms reflect their names – “school uniforms” and not “Church robes” or “Mosques hijabs” or any other names they are called. Church robes orhijabs have their “place” in religious worship centres, not in schools.

The intentions of Dr Brimah may be good, but resorting to the use of his own religious beliefs as a measure of what others believe or should believe is short in logic and long in ignorance. The fact that he resorted to existential questions in an attempt to justify his point attests to this. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism are not the only religions, there are several other beliefs, including Humanism or Atheism, which also lay claim to some Higher Power or Self Existence or some sort that we call God. If everyone attends public schools in their different attires reflecting their beliefs what we will have in schools will just be colour riots or beauty pageants or religious festivals which are not the reasons for establishing the schools in the first instance. Things will be easier if intellectuals do their best to keep their religious views private (in their hearts) rather than complicate them by trying to mix religion with strictly secular issues like Dr Brimah tried to do with his response. This is why, “To everything,” Kongi writes, has “Its place”.

 

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