Comrade Razaq Olokoba, a human rights activist is the National President of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG). In this interview, he took a critical look at the crisis occasioned by the hijab issue in Ilorin, Kwara State and proffered solutions. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
What are your comments on the current hijab crisis breaching the peace in Ilorin, the Capital of Kwara State?
Well, to me as a bona fide son of Ilorin, I find the situation strange. Strange in the sense that there has been a long history of peace in Ilorin, the city known to be predominantly a Muslim settlement.
And from the data available, Muslims account for overwhelming percentage of the populace in Ilorin because of the peculiar nature of the settlement. And from the interactions of the people of different ethnic nationals and religious adherents there, there is not supposed to be frictions of any kind in the city.
We have been living in peace and harmony. There has been peaceful co-existence in the city. I have grown up there to witness peaceful co-existence in the city. I mean, living together as brothers and sisters in Ilorin in particular and Kwara State as a whole. So, the recent crisis of Hijab or no Hijab appears strange to me.
And I must confess the crisis portends a lot of danger if not curtailed with a dispatch. The danger I mean, is not only for Kwara but for the whole country at large because of the strategic location of the state.
It is a boundary between the north and the south and such a state ought not to be allowed to get involved in any crisis of that nature bearing in mind the country is already battling with series of security challenges.
Crisis of religious coloration in Kwara would portent a lot of danger for the country going by the insecurity occasioned by a group of sects that misunderstood the jurisprudence of Islam known as boko haram. If allowed to fetters unchecked, the Kwara crisis has the potentials to escalate the already bad situation in the country.
Can you suggest a way to a lasting resolution of the problem?
Well, no matter what it is, it is incumbent on all of us as a people to strive seriously to nip the crisis in the bud before it escalates further no matter how serious it might look. We should find a way towards an amicable resolution.
The issue of hijab is about the dressing code of the Muslims. And on the side of the Christians, the Missions should look into the agreement reached with the government with open mind with a view to arriving at an acceptable and workable decision for all the parties concerned.
My concern is that, in the interest of the future of the country, the solution should be now because the children directly at the receiving end of the matter are our future leaders. And we have to be cautious the way we treat the issue on their behalf so that wrong legacy would not be bequeathed to them. If we fail in this matter, history and posterity would not forgive us for leading the innocent children astray.
Is the governor handling the crisis well?
I sympathise with Governor Abdur-Rahaman Abdur-Razaq because he is in a precarious situation. Remember he is a Muslim and also hails from Ilorin! There is hardly any decision he takes that would not be misunderstood.
And I know that in his mind, he would want to be guided by his conscience in taking decisions that would lead to a lasting solution to the problem. On the part of the people, all the intolerant attitudes should be put aside.
All the provocative utterances should also be avoided to pave ways for peace to reign again in the state reputed as the State of Harmony. And we have to tread softly and cautiously because religious intolerance always lead to provocation and when it blows beyond proportion, nobody would be spared.
And no part of the country would pray for religious crisis. All hands must then be put on deck to support the governor and his administration to douse the needless tension the hijab crisis is causing.
It appears the court has been involved in the crisis …
Well, if truly the issue has become a court matter, then, the law should be allowed to take its course. However, if an issue that is supposed to be treated spiritually, politically and as a family matter becomes a matter of litigation, it would have the capacity to either prolong the crisis or escalate it. I would have loved a situation whereby the matter is settled sitting round the table.
If we war-war, at the end of the day, we will come back to the roundtable to jaw-jaw. We should have gone back to embrace our sprit of brotherhood we are known for in the past to resolve the crisis. If that spirit is dead, we should exhume it, revive it and embrace it.
Escalation or prolonging the crisis would do nobody any good. And the future of our children who are our future is what we are talking about! Ilorin is a Peace Centre that when crisis is coming from the north, when it gets to Ilorin, it would turn to peace. If coming from the south, on getting to Ilorin, it would metamorphose to peace.
So, I urge all to let us revive that spirit for the good of all. And to assure good governance, peace is vital and is an integral part of it. It is an undisputable fact that, no progress or growth takes place in an atmosphere of rancour.
In order words, if we all desire dividends of democracy, we must allow for peace to reign.
So, such an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence is still possible if all of us are committed to it collectively. So, we have to jettison acts of provocation and intolerance if we really desire peace.
How do you rate the governor’s performance in office?
In fact the governor is performing. He is doing his best. But because of the peculiar nature of politics in the state till the last two previous administrations of Governors Bukola Saraki and Ahmed respectively, the people find the style of the current administration under Abdur-Razaq strange.
To those who were used to the business as usual style in the past, they would think the governor is not performing. But to some of us who are keen observers, who take it upon ourselves to go round voluntarily, we can assure you that the governor is doing his best for the state.
But the governor’s undoing is that, he is too quiet. He should be talking because talking is part of politics and governance. He should come out of his shell to explain some of his actions and policies.
He owes the people the responsibility of explanation. He should carry the people along in his day to day activities. He should not leave the people in the realm of speculation so that some of his policies would neither be misconstrued nor misinterpreted.
Talking is part of the hallmarks of governors and leaders across the globe. He is not doing well by not talking. He should let the people know about his environmental development. People are entitled to clarification on some issues.
As far as I am concerned, the governor is working. I have driven round the state several times and have seen his impacts across board without talking to anybody in government.
Are you comfortable with the crisis in the governor’s political party?
Well, the governor should also strive very hard to resolve the crisis within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), because it is dangerous to have an opposition within the party.
The electorate that brought up the party in 2019 would be disappointed if the APC also toe the path of the previous administration that led to its demise. The APC would be shocked if the people start to withdraw their sympathy from it and referring to the previous administration in glowing terms. I am not a party man.
But one wonders why the APC could not manage the crisis within and thus appears as if it cannot manage success.
The leadership of the party should appreciate the consequences of going into the election year with a divided house. I am afraid if the crisis is not distracting the governor by now! He is in power.
He should prove that he has the capacity to manage crisis. He should realign the aggrieved groups and individuals to forge a common front.
Kwara people are watching with keen interest and the goodwill being enjoyed from them should not be allowed to wash away. Let them see you as the man in charge who is capable of turning any set back to a fortune.