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Garment of honor

By Bisi Lawrence

*defection blues
*John Ojidoh, my good old friend

The President (Female) of the Muslim Student Union of Nigeria, Lagos Area Unit, Hajia Hafsa Badru almost stunned me as she addressed a crowd of supporters at the Gania Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota, recently. The occasion was the World Hijab Day, said to be observed all over the world ostensibly to proclaim the precept of chastity and propriety among Muslim . women as symbolised by the wearing of the Hijab. This is the fascinating headgear won by women in the Middle East, from where it spread to various Muslim communities across the world.

In fact, fa eons, it has been identified as part of the female apparel without any particular reference to the faith of the wearer. Its special connection to the Muslim faith these days arises purely from the fact that it is worn as part of the female attire of Arabs who are mostly Muslims. Some Christians in the Middle East wear it as a matter of course. The injunction in the Holy Koran which is usually cited in support of its connection with the Muslim faith does refer in general terms to the proper covering of the female person as a deterrent measure against immorality:

“0 Prophet, enjoin your wives, children and the believing women that they should draw their outer garments over their bodies. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized and not bothered Allah is forgiving, merciful” (Surah 33, verse 59.)It is indeed no more pointed, nor in any way divergent, from St. Paul’s own ruling on the same subject:“

1 would therefore that …. women in like manner adorn themselves in “modest apparel,with shamefacedness and sobriety … (1 Timothy 2:9).     “

It was a part of the religious or even social precept of the early Palestinians. It was not focused to the head but on the entire female person generally. As shown in the religious artistic depictions widely circulated for centuries, even Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ,’;was clothed in that manner. .

However, the purity of the instruction has been grievously eroded down the years even among the Muslims who, albeit, have continued to champion its value and thus promoted it into an article of faith. It cannot be said to have contributed immensely to the general improvement of morals among its adherents, though that is an arguable point and does no injury to the sincere efforts to make it an instrument for that purpose.

Additional efforts may be in fact needed to impress the intent of its usage on its users, to actually elevate it into the “apparel of honour, garment of modesty” that its devotees claim it to be. In fact, it possesses an alluring quality of its own that could cause its wearers to “be bothered”. In plain terms, it sometimes, somehow, turns out, in fact, to be somewhat sexy.     ..The frightening aspect,  however, is that the hijab seems to have become an object of religious confrontation.

Governor Rauf Aregbesola, has undoubtedly scored high marks in Oshun State’s educational development with innovations like the Opon Imo, his highly acclaimed “Tray of Knowledge” . But, in some other directions, it would have appeared that he had allowed his enthusiasm to run away with him, particularly in his fervour for the promotion of his religious preferences as a devoted Muslim.

That is how many people se his imposition of the hijab on the official school attire of some Christian schools in the State. There”appears to have been some misunderstanding on the issue, not helped by the earlier perception that people have of the governor’s inclination towards favouring his religion openly in situations where it would be politic to be totally neutral. His attitude of a religious zealot confers little credibility on the sense of fairness expected from the governor of a political entity comprising elements of diverse faiths and suasions. He has beneficial lessons to learn from his peers around him, like Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State, to whom religion has become a means of uniting various units among the people, and establishing a profound trust in his sincerity.

That was why I was almost bowled over when MSSN Amirah Hajia Hafsa Badru,

addressing the crowd in Lagos declared, “Our appeal goes to Governor Raji Fashola to conside our demand on the issue of the hijab …. “ What demand?

We shall bring politics into it again, or bring it into politics, as usual. The government has little to do with what you wear as long as it conforms to the norms of decency and does not contravene the demands of convention and propriety. That has always been the position of the Lagos State government. For instance, any dress that is not in keeping with the standard uniform of an institution may not be forced into acceptance as a concession to the “demand” of another institution, whether social or religious.

However, any mode of dressing could be integrated within a formal uniform, and could be acceptable in compliance with the general aspect of the prescribed wear with regard to colour or character of its manner of employment. For instance, the turban was incorporated into the Boy Scout uniform in Pakistan, and a United Arab Emirate was not even stopped from competing with the hijab. One has to agree that the adoption of any item of apparel that would promote good behaviour in our women deserves every encouragement, and that it should find wholesome achievement without engendering an unnecessary conflict.

One has expected a season of distractions this year as a necessary prelude to the major event of next year. A few have reared their heads already, especially in the law courts, One case, particularly, earned its sponsoring attorney a bit of tongue-lashing and a recommendation for further disciplinary attention. The ensuing situations may require more of that judiciary sternness::

An unnecessary contretemps has however developed in the Senate. A number :of the distinguished members – eleven, to be precise – properly desired their intention of leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Council (APC), – as ha~u become the fashion these days – to be publicly announced on the floor of the house. But the Senate President who should have performed that act by reading the letter from the senators refused to do so. That incurred the ire of the senators led by Bukola Saraki, but David Mark held his grounds.

The issue, he insisted, was affected by a matter before the courts, which, according to the rules, precluded its being mentioned in the senate. Saraki demurred. Some of the senators affected, meanwhile, announced their defection by themselves but were subsequently ruled out of order by an obviously ruffled Senate President. It continued for days. Unconscionable distraction

It makes no odds at all whether you are accounted as belonging to a party to which you do not belong. It does not in any way inhibit your ability to perform your main function as a senator, which is to join others in making laws as presented in the form of bills through your vote – which you may cast as you wish, regardless of your party identity. The Right Honourable David Mark, in our estimate, regrettably fell short of his high standards of conducting the affairs of the senate in this regard. He willingly cuddled a controversy that was preventable and of no moment.

Back at the branch, if you’ll grant the liberty of putting it that way, the traffic of defection had changed direction. No less than four members of the APC waltzed across the carpet to the PDP in the House of Representatives. The Constitution may frown t that actually, buecause the move did not satisfy all of the conditions it allows for such an exercise. In the cases’ of the PDP members who had swarmed into the APC, they at least had the grounds of the fractionalization of their former party. But the defecting PDP members may themselves be absolved by the fact that they were not originally voted into the house on the platform of the APC, in the first place.

In any case, they don’t split such hairs in the House of Reps. No sir. Magnificent Tambalawa is in charge! Now the Leader of the Minority in the house knows himself.

My good friend, Pa John Ojidoh, passed away last week. He was eighty-seven years old. I had known him very well for more than fifty of those eventful years. But, in retrospect, it all seemed like yesterday.

It seemed like only moments ago that we indulged in our common admiration of Pele’s gift with the ball and his immeasurably contributions to “the beautiful game”; when we discussed the highlights of a particular football game with consuming passion; when we took a foreign match official’s conduct to shreds, especially if it affected a Nigerian team adversely; and, yes, when we painted the town red, whether it was in Benin or Warri, after a zestful afternoon of good football – for John loved the good life too, and so did I, in our youthful days.

He was a football buff, through and through. He knew the rules inside out and followed the developments of the game. That was what made him an outstanding referee at a time loud with superlative officiating. He employed the whistle masterfully, authoritatively, in a manner that left no doubt as to who was in control. But he ruled correctly all the time with the confidence and expertise of an experienced practitioner. I always felt comfortable with him as the twenty-third man on the field of play.

When he later began to write for this newspaper, I was one of his most faithful readers. I enjoyed his views which were mostly on all fours with mine. But that was not really why I was one of his fans. I stayed with his page because it was full of gems concerning the ordering of the game, for he was also an astute organizer and football administrator He appreciated my feelings when I stopped writing sports, though he kept pounding his beat for a while longer, and I kept encouraging him for it must have been a therapeutic pastime for a once active man now in the autumn of his years. But my encouragement was excited mainly by the worthwhile contributions his articles were making to the organization of football, as many of the younger sportswriters discovered to their delight. He made many of them appreciate that they had a heritage to cherish and preserve for posterity.    ;

At the end of our last conversation, which was a few days before he passed on, he began to pray for me – quite a lengthy prayer – to my surprise. He had never done that before, I now realize it must have been his way of saying goodbye to an old friend. And this my own way of saying goodbye to someone I loved like a brother. God rest you, good old John .. You blew a clean whistle. You lived a good life. Sleep well. It would be trite to add that I will miss you ..

Time out.

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