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OAU’s Timely Response To Religious Extremism | Tribune


LAST week, gripping details of some deviant students hiding under the cloak of religion and planning to disrupt the prevailing peace on the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, were brought to light. The students, who had consistently engaged in hate preaching and purveyed terrorist doctrines, reportedly harboured female students in rooms inside mosques in the institution for purposes of prostitution. According to reports, it was members of the recognised Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) who brought the attention of the school authorities to the existence of the outlaws. Indeed, when the factional group was invited to a meeting with the Dean, Student Affairs (DSA) of the institution to hear its own side of the story and possibly resolve any misunderstanding with the executive of the mainstream MSSN, it refused several summons from August 12 till August 23,2016.

According to a statement signed by Dr. G. O. Akinola, the MSSN had been apprehensive over the “strange doctrinal principles and procedures” of the splinter group, fearing that it could bring its strange ideas to fruition. The details are as gripping as they are horrendous: on the night of August 27, 2016, the Acting Dean, DSA, received reports that the splinter MSSN group was planning to hold a religious programme at the Awolowo Hall cafeteria the following day, for which it had neither sought nor obtained permission. Again, acting upon the invitation earlier extended to the DSA by the splinter group, the Acting Dean and Vice Dean of the institution visited the Fajuyi and Awolowo halls on August 31, 2016, highlighting the many irregular and illegal activities which the group had reportedly engaged in at the ‘mosques’. The group however argued that it had not been violent but law-abiding.

On the visit to the Awolowo Hall ‘mosque’, the university team discovered a group of ladies numbering about a dozen, locked inside a room. They were either fully or partially veiled. As the team queried why the purported female students would be locked up in a male hall during lecture hours, some of the veiled ladies escaped through the backdoor of the room, but it was able to apprehend three of them, collecting their identity cards. But more surprises were on the way. At the Fajuyi Hall, the team also discovered five female students locked in a room in a ‘mosque’, claiming that they were kept there by their leaders, who happened to be the arrowheads of the splinter group. The students also claimed that they were praying in the room, although they could not explain why the prayer had to take place during lecture hours in an exclusively male hall at around 11am. Following their investigations, the university authorities have since shut down the two cafeterias being used as mosques to prevent a situation where halls of residence are converted to breeding grounds for religious extremism.

Indeed, that there is no let up in the determination by misguided fanatics to continue to push Nigeria down the alley of religious crisis even while it is battling many security challenges is not in doubt. It is certainly bewildering that a group of students could be so resistant to authority as to turn a deaf ear to summons by the university management. We commend the restraint, maturity and due diligence displayed by the OAU authorities in arresting what is potentially another big challenge to national security. The OAU management has, by this action, demonstrated that it is able to check extremism in whatever form within its confines. It will be recalled that the university had historically been fiercely resistant to cultism, leading to the series of shootings and murders by a death squad of 40 members of the Black Axe Confraternity at the university, which took place on Saturday, July 10, 1999, resulting in the deaths of five students. The victims included the then Students’ Union Secretary General, George Yemi Iwilade (Afrika); a 400 level medical student, Eviano Ekelemu; a graduating student, Yemi Ajiteru; a 100-Level Philosophy student, Babatunde Oke, and Ekpede Godfrey.

We salute members of the OAU MSSN and the national body for their vigilance and patriotism. Indeed, the national president of the MSSN, Muhammad Jameel Muhammad, visited the OAU campus and interfaced with the university authorities on the crisis. The MSSN’s whistle blowing has certainly helped to avert a looming calamity not just on the OAU campus but the nation as a whole. It will be recalled that the present Boko Haram menace first erupted in Niger State but the vigilance of the then Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu led to the eviction of the group from that state. It later surfaced in Borno State.

We commend the OAU example to others with huge population of youths, the usual targets of devilish propaganda and destructive indoctrination. What Nigeria needs now is peace to grow food and industrialise. Finally, we call on the Osun State government and the Federal Government to take an active interest in the development at the OAU, and deploy the security apparatus of the Nigerian state into unravelling the details that are yet to come to light.

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