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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: AN OPEN LETTER TO GOV. AREGBESOLA, OSUN STATE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA OSUN STATE CHAPTER AND THE BAPTIST CHURCH
Before letting the cat out of the bag, perhaps a brief history of the Baptist, Muslims and Education in Iwoland is necessary to understanding the dimension of the present imbroglio.
That Iwo is a community with huge bias for Islam is indubitable. Contrary to the general belief that Dan Fodio jihad brought Islam to south-west Nigeria, the first mosque in Iwoland existed before Dan Fodio’s jihad (There is a reference to this on my timeline). The Malians brought Islam to Yoruba land through trade and that explains the Yoruba coinage for Islam; ESIN IMALE, meaning the religion of the Malians.
When Islam came to Iwoland, almost all families in Iwoland converted to the religion but still hold very dear their traditional religion as well. As time goes on, Islam became entrenched and that was way back before the arrival of the Baptist. I used the word Baptist instead of Christianity because Iwo people never knew anything was called Christianity, all we knew was another religion called Baptist has just been introduced by the white. With numerous efforts through inveigling with education, the Baptist strove to achieve their mission of establishing Christianity in IWOLAND but success for their mission was far from it.
The ludicrous and grotesque strategy employed via education was to cajole Iwo people on the necessity for western education. Unfortunately, as of that time, there was no institution with western educational system in Iwoland, all we had were Arabic schools. Youth interested in schooling would either go to OYO town or ILESHA where pupils may not have access to their parent for months and sometime years. The fact that parents willing to give their wards western education were cajoled with the establishment of a nearby school where they will not lose sight of their children for months or years made us give everything to the Baptist without questioning. It is on record that the Baptist didn’t buy a parcel of land from Iwo people with the exception of the land where Baptist Teacher College was built and later converted to Bowen University. The Baptist was given every piece of land they own now for free in exchange for providing western education for Iwo people.
In fairness to the Baptist, they put out structure that could be used for schooling then, with the help of the rich people in the community, since the idea was the development of a COMMUNITY SCHOOL. This school was run by Baptist for years; people of Iwoland enjoyed their service with cooperation, unworried by their Machiavellian ways. The idea of a community school was sold and the people of the land and then Oba contributed and provided all the necessary things used in erecting the first structure to be called IWO BAPTIST HIGH SCHOOL.
The malevolence perpetrated by the Baptist was of unquantifiable dimensions but took its peak when they register student in the school with only Christian names thereby changing the Muslim names for students to Christian names without the knowledge of the parents and community. Muslim students were forced to attend church service and the adamant ones where stylishly frustrated. A model of this is that you can’t be a prefect of the school if your attendance in church services was not regular. My father was a victim of such wickedness when in preparation for his O’Level examination, EZEKIEL was registered as his name instead of FATAI (For people that have been wondering for years why my father bears EZEKIEL, its the doing of the Baptist). He was forced to renounced his religion for Christianity and also teach in Baptist bible study class just to exchange for being a prefect of the school. The conscious Muslims raised alarm but people where more interested in having peace and the Baptist exploited this. Unfortunately for their campaign, almost all the students that proceeded out of the community with Christian names came back renouncing Christianity and embracing the Islamic faith again after their return. In fairness to the people of Iwoland, all those that came and never returned to Islam were not discriminated against, an example is the first Christian Oba of Iwoland, he was converted to Christianity during his secondary school days.
Things went on for years, people of Iwoland were never bothered but the success recorded by Baptist in other communities like OYO (where they established their seminary almost the same time) was not recorded in IWO. People of Iwoland attended the school and their sister school; AIPATE BAPTIST, renounced Islam to embraced Christianity, left to study for HSC mostly at OLIVET HEIGHT, OYO, travelled for tertiary education, only for them to return to Iwoland with Islam once again.
With all these, there was still some sort of respect accorded the Baptist by Iwo people. It is this respect that the Baptist enjoyed why they decided to situate their University in Iwoland. This respect is so entrenched that during AWOLOWO’s free education programme that government acquired the community schools, Baptist High School was rebuilt with government’s fund but posting of principals, teachers and many school activities were left at the disposal of the Baptist. The government funds the school, pays for teachers, the school is registered as a government school, the new structures were rebuilt by government fund, with all these no one still questioned the control of the school by the church. This eyesore led the church to keep believing that they own the school, since the church also influence the principals and teachers posted to the school. Previous governments was also derelict in thier duty by maintaining the influence of the Baptist over choice of manpower in the school while funding it with tax payers money. Unfortunately, the school is attended by Iwo indigenes which are 95% Muslims, but no record of violence against our brothers from the other faith has ever been documented.
Worthy of mentioning is the fact that this imbroglio is a problem of governance, because allowing the Baptist to hold sway the activities of a government agency for year was complete dereliction of duty as well as injustice to the Muslim majority of Iwoland. Be that as it may, it would be on record that Muslims of Iwoland are a tolerant set of people for overlooking this injustice for years without mentioning or agitating for violence as done by CAN. All these was done out of understanding, tolerance and respect for the Baptist. It was our hope that the Baptist would reciprocate our respect by allowing freedom of religion for our Muslim female students. It is not a privilege, it is our right. Moreso, the community school was made possible with the financial and moral support of our great great grandfathers.
In the same vein, that the present government seeks to implement a government decision which all government schools complied and the Baptist objected shows gross disrespect for the rule of law and also the fact that AREGBESOLA couldn’t muster enough power to entrench the right of the Muslims till the law court did the right thing is again a slap on the government.
Sincerely, the people of Iwoland has no problem with the Baptist but need to set the record straight to the government of AREGBESOLA, that the government has failed in previous years by allowing the Baptist to control important government institution. The governments of previous years have done grave injustice to the Muslim community of Iwoland. This bizarre situation needs to be corrected once and for all. Further posting of teachers, Principals and workers to community schools named after the Baptist should be done at random like other school and not skewed or influenced to favour the Baptist.
I hereby implore the Baptist to toll the line of reasoning and wisdom. An institution of its calibre should not be found wanting in disdain for the law of the land. If they feel their right has been tampered on, why not take the civil and matured way by finding redress at the court of law. Why trying to abort the peace they have enjoyed in Iwoland for years, why trying to espouse the path of shame, brigandage and uncivilised mortals. This is surely against the faith they preach, this is 100% unchrist-like. If Christ was alive, he would have embraced the Hijab, not with sympathy but with due and genuine felicity.
To crown it all, it is my duty to address CAN. My message to CAN is that, Muslims are not second class citizens in Osun state and I borrow from the wisdom of Rev. George Carlin when he addressed the likes of Christian Association of Nigeria, Osun state Chapter by saying “Religion is like pair of shoes…..Find one that fits you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.” Leave us alone CAN, its not a must to wear the same shoe with you.
God bless us all
By Tayo Ahmed Iwo
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