Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adamawa College provost and fascist rule

IT is rather curious that the Adamawa State Government is still keeping Mallam Musa Yahaya Nuhu, Provost of the College of Legal Studies, Yola, in his position, more than two weeks after his ignoble suspension or expulsion of some students in the college recently on purely frivolous grounds. Mallam Nuhu's behaviour is typical of a religious fundamentalist or a zealot who is not deserving of such a respected position in a college of legal studies.

The Provost had suspended three students for one semester each for openly expressing their excitement by hugging one another as soon as they stepped out of the school examination hall. He also summarily expelled nine other Christian students who protested the suspension before the State House of Assembly.

Another lady was suspended for a semester on the grounds that she adored her neck with a cross pendant - a symbol of the Christian faith - while wearing a Fulani traditional dress.

According to the report, the suspended students - male and female - were excited about the outcome of a particular examination paper. The Provost who claimed to have spotted them from his office invited them and unilaterally slammed the punishment on them, without following due process, despite pleas by the students. The students' protest and petition to the state House of Assembly and various law enforcement agencies piqued Mallam Nuhu, but he was adamant.

Some key personalities in the state including the Speaker of the Assembly, James Barka, Deputy Governor James Bala Ngilari, the Chief of Staff to the governor and the Secretary to the State Government intervened in the matter, and advised the College Provost to reconsider his decision but that was the beginning of further trouble for the students: the Provost withheld their results.

The College of Legal Studies, Yola, as far as we know, is a public institution, owned by the Adamawa State government. The senior officials of the state who intervened based on the students' petition must have foreseen the great danger that Mallam Nuhu's zero tolerance for other faiths portends; his refusal to listen to the voice of reason is condemnable.

Ordinarily, the college is expected to have a disciplinary committee. It is therefore surprising that the Provost would constitute himself into the accuser, the judge and the jury against the 13 students. And how if we may ask, does the spectacle of a few students hugging each other pose a threat to an institution of learning? Mallam Nuhu as the head of a public institution should not be seen to be promoting religious bigotry. Definitely, hugging cannot be against the ethics of the institution.

On the suspension of a female student based on her use of a cross pendant, it will be logical to ask the provost if the school has any dress code known to the community, which can be violated by students who wear cross pendants. If not, then the suspended lady's action has not translated to and cannot amount to disrespect for college rules, neither has it offended any human sensibilities.

No doubt, Mallam Yahaya Nuhu has presented himself as an idle hand. A busier, more serious provost of a college would not have preoccupied himself with watching students who embrace each other in broad daylight, for a fleeting moment on campus, adults who were instinctively excited about their performance in an examination.

The nation has witnessed a lot of religious violence ignited for flimsy reasons and by the kind of intolerance demonstrated by Mallam Musa Yahaya Nuhu. The Provost himself cannot claim to be unaware of this and the attendant loss of innocent lives and property. The persecution of students on religious grounds is a potential catalyst for conflict and destruction. Heads of public institutions generally should learn to be cautious where religious matters are concerned and resist the temptation to violate the rights of persons of other faiths. The Constitution guarantees the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, and association, and protects every citizen from discrimination. It is strange that the Provost of a College of Legal Studies would seem not to be aware of this.

This particular Provost has not shown either leadership or discretion in handling the case of the 13 students in question. His arrogance, in the face of wiser counsel is deplorable. The Adamawa State Government, his employers, should consider relieving him of his duties as Provost and probably re-deploy him to a less sensitive department in the state civil service. The expelled and suspended students should be recalled forthwith by the Governing Council of the College.