Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Religious Intolerance in Adamawa

Recently the provost of the College of Legal Studies, Yola, Adamawa State, Mallam Musa Nuhu, dramatically expelled a total of thirteen Christian students of the institution within a short period of time. The irony of it all is that the students were not expelled for exam malpractices or cultism that has plagued the nation’s tertiary institutions. They were expelled for hugging one another and wearing a necklace that has the symbol of Christian cross in fragrant violation of their constitutional rights.
Ostensibly carried away by excitement after an examination one day, three male and female students of the institution hugged one another in public. The provost who alleged that he saw them from his office slammed a one-semester suspension on them. Earlier a female student of the institution had been suspended by the same provost for wearing a Fulani traditional dress with a necklace that has the design of a Christian cross. The provost did not stop there. Nine students of the same institution who protested against the suspension of their colleagues were also suspended by him, thus bringing the total number of suspended students to thirteen.
The provost, who is a lawyer, but a Moslem, said that it is wrong for a man and a woman to hug. He said that he took the drastic decision to expel the students to pacify the Moslem students in the College who would have done worse things to the expelled students. All pleas by the Christian community of the institution to grant the Christian students a reprieve proved unsuccessful. Even after the provost on the intervention of the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State and other big shots in the State had agreed to rescind his decision, he still proceeded to withhold the results of the expelled students.
This is clearly unacceptable. It is a gross violation of the students’ right to private life, and right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom from discrimination, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in sections 37, 38, 40 and 42 of our Constitution. If the provost had expelled the students for committing a crime or indulging in immorality, that would have been understandable. But to expel thirteen students for hugging and wearing a necklace that has the symbol of Christian cross is to say the least, the height of religious intolerance.
Pursuant to section 10 of the Constitution, Nigeria is a secular State and a culturally pluralistic society that accommodates all shades of religious views, fashions, tastes and preferences. State religion is prohibited in Nigeria. Students of different religious callings have been living and studying together in different tertiary institutions in different parts of Nigeria. Before the provost expelled the Christian students, they were living peaceably with their Moslem counterparts in the College. It is a shame that in this age and time, a provost of a reputable public tertiary institution should fan the ember of religious bigotry and hatred among his students.
The most regrettable aspect of the whole saga is that Mallam Nuhu is showing no regret for his action even after the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State and other eminent people in the State had intervened in the matter. In view of his antecedents in expelling students and unforgiving attitude, he should be called to order promptly to save the institution, which incidentally is one for legal studies, from unnecessary religious conflagration and bickering. What an irony!
Life is live and let live. Religious intolerance poses a real threat to unity, social harmony and peaceful co-existence in the country. Our higher institutions ought to be places for seeking knowledge and acquiring character, not breeding grounds for religious intolerance and fanaticism.