Children of traditional worshippers should also be allowed to put on the attires of their various beliefs to schools and other public institutions, an Ifa priest, Oloye Elebuibon, demanded on Thursday.
Mr Elebuibon, an iconic writer, made the demand while weighing in on the hijab controversy in some states with the most recent occuring in Kwara State.
About 10 grant-aided secondary schools with missionary background in the state, are engulfed in a dissension which prevents Muslim female students from putting on hijab. The tussle led to the close down of the schools and when the state government ordered they be reopened, it elicited a bloody clash involving parents who were out to ensure their offsprings are allowed to put on the veil as directed by the governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
The owners of the schools who are Christians argue that the declaration of the governor is not binding because the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its verdict on the matter.
While the dust was yet to settle, a pending bill which has passed second reading at the House of Representatives cropped out and there are calls for it to be thrown out particularly from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, is seeking to compel the Armed Forces and para-military organisations to permit female officers to wear the Islamic veil, commonly known as hijab.
Article 13(2) of the bill stated that “Any person employed in the security sector, whether within the military or paramilitary or otherwise, shall not be discriminated against on the ground of the exercise of his right to the manifestation of his religion in worship, teaching, practice and observance such as wearing religious emblem, head cover, or hijab in concomitant with the common uniform code or code of conduct in relation to the choice of colour, type, or design of such religious emblem, religious headcover or hijab.”
Reacting to the bill, Elebuibon described it as a welcome development saying they are plans to approach the National Assembly demanding laws that will also protect traditional worshippers, particularly their children in schools.
Narrating how his son became a victim to Sahara Reporters, the traditionalist said most children of traditional worshippers are being punished for wearing emblems identifying their faith.
“There have been cases where some of our children wear some of our emblems to schools and they get punished for it,” the Ifa priest said. “One of my sons in school about five years ago wore one of the Ide Ifa beads to school, a teacher asked him to remove it and the boy refused because Ide Ifa is for protection not only for beauty, I had to go to the school and tell them that it is our own traditional way of dressing before the matter was resolved. When I went to my son’s school, they stopped harassing him and I encourage every other person to do the same thing.
“This is an embarrassment for Ifa adherents that these imported religions have been giving to us, they don’t need to mind all these. Let Muslims wear hijabs, let Babalawo wear their beads, let the Christians wear crucifix, I don’t see any problem with that. It’s only the traditional religious adherents that suffer because we don’t have schools or places of worship like them. We are the ones who suffer in silence.
“It is a challenge for us, we have to build our own schools, churches so that each person can go to schools patterned after their religious beliefs, so we can avoid conflicts. We will push for a law that will protect traditional worshippers specifically,” he added.