Feyi Fawehinmi: Covenant University and testing all things…

by Feyi Fawehinmi

Perhaps I should be cheeky and start with a well known if not often quoted Bible verse. In rounding up his 1st letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul in the 21st verse of the 5th Chapter told his readers to ‘test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast’ [Amplified].

In what has now become a regular occurrence, the privately owned Covenant University has once again expelled some of its students for breaking one rule or the other. This time around 200 students managed to get themselves expelled mostly for failing to attend a ‘departure service’ (I’m assuming this is some kind of service that is held at the end of every semester). Parsing the various media reports, what seems to have happened here is that the University’s Chancellor, Bishop David Oyedepo, a man not without a temper, came to the service on this occasion and got upset that many students chose not to attend. Ergo, it doesn’t take a giant leap of logic to guess that had the Bishop not attended, the unfortunate students might not have been expelled. Try as you may, it is hard to disentangle the University from the larger than life influence of the Bishop.

 

Much has been made of the fact that the students knew what they were signing up for when they registered with the school and the fact that these terms are clearly spelt out in the student handbook (they are not that clear cut in my opinion) means that the students should accept their fate. This is nonsense. The question ought to be asked – did anyone sign up to be expelled for missing a single service, regardless of mitigating circumstances such as tiredness as some of the students have claimed? Since many of the rules and regulations of the University are given in the name of Christianity, surely they too ought to be ‘tested’ as the Apostle Paul said?

The ancient Roman law giver, Draco (whom the phrase ‘Draconian law’ is named after and undoubtedly a principality by Nigerian Christian standards) came up with a set of laws in his time that made the punishment for almost everything the death penalty even minor offences. Slavery was also the punishment for getting into the debt of someone of a higher class than you as another example. But Draco was sure to write down those laws (previously they were oral) before they came into effect and they were posted on wooden tablets so everyone could read them and not claim ignorance.

Anyone can write down rules and lay down laws. Where it is the case that the burden of complying with those rules falls on other people apart from the lawgiver, then they will always be open to debate or ‘tested’ and ‘examined’. Draco’s laws were eventually overturned of course. As a society we can all agree that slapping another person in the name of a quarrel can be counted as assault. But we can also agree that establishing death by firing squad as the punishment for slapping someone is rather harsh. In other words, while we might all agree that something is a breach of the rules we have agreed to live by, the punishment we choose to mete out for such breaches is almost as important as the offence itself. When the punishment is deemed to be excessive then the whole thing becomes a problem.

This is the first test of the expulsion of the 200 students – is the punishment of expulsion commensurate with the offence of missing a church service?

Covenant University of course does not operate in a bubble and its license is only valid at the pleasure of the Nigerian Universities Commission. In other words, ultimately, its rules cannot survive a head to head challenge with the rules of the land i.e. the Nigerian constitution.

And we have the second test – does this ‘offence’ of not attending a church service pass the ‘Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ test? Or to put it another way, is it a normal thing for people to be sacked from their jobs for not attending a religious service even as drunk on religion as Nigeria is?

There is of course only one way to carry out these tests – in the law courts of the land. I do not believe that Covenant University can pass these two tests (there are probably more tests) but then I’m but a lowly accountant. The parents of these children owe it to them to test these rules in a court of law. That they signed up to them with their eyes seemingly open is beside the point. By paying the fees and sending their kids to the school, they surely have some stake in shaping the rules governing the place. The laws laid down by the Bishop are for other people to comply with not he himself.

Even if the rules and regulations say the punishment for missing a service is expulsion, testing them in a court of law will help to expose how ridiculous they are to the point where they are either removed from the rulebook or, with a nod and wink, ignored. A good example of this is the fact that since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, only 2 Governors – Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano in 2006 and Adams Oshiomole of Edo in 2012 – have ratified death penalties handed down to convicts. So while the death penalty remains on our books, the courts continue to hand them down as punishment knowing fully well that the chance of the convict being executed is almost zero. The world has gotten to the stage where a lot of people now hold the view that death penalties don’t do much to deter others from the crime they serve as a punishment for.

Finally, there is a somewhat hilarious attempt by the University to wage war against the reality of the world it exists in. This is unsurprising as a Christian way of life.

The University was founded in October 2002.

The popular Gmail was launched in April 2004

Facebook as we now know it was launched in September 2006

The website where you are reading this post is hosted by WordPress which itself was launched in May 2003.

The ubiquitous Blackberry Messenger was launched sometime in 2006

Twitter was also created in March 2006

The first iPhone was released in June 2007.

I don’t know if the University’s rules are regularly updated but it is clear from the examples above that a lot has happened since the University was launched with whatever vision it was. The world has shrunk in size by several factors since 2002. Indeed, we might not even have heard about this matter if we were still in 2002.

The times they are a-changing and those who continue to act oblivious to the realities of the world in which we live will almost certainly end up looking like cranks and extremists (which Christianity does not have a monopoly on).

I hope the parents of these children will do right by them and challenge this expulsion in a proper court of law. The prospects are rather delicious but sadly, I have no horse in the race.

*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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  • On my part,I would be raising two issues for determination;One,whether the expulsion of the students satisfys the requirement of fair hearing.Two,whether the expulsion is not too harsh a punishment for the offence committed.On the 1st issue,I would refer to the book of Genesis 13;11-12;”And God said unto him,who told thee that thou wast naked?Has thou eaten of the fruit that I told thee that thou shouldest not eat?And the man replied’the woman whom u gave me did give me and I did eat”.The foundation for fair hearing was thus laid by God in the garden of Eden.Was it that God did not know that Adam had eaten of the fruit?Ofcourse he did.But he gave him a chance to defend himself.So why did CU expel those students without hearing from them?This clearly violates their right to fair hearing enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended).It should be noted that any trial which violates a person’s right to fair hearing is a nulity ab initio.There are pletoria of cases on this principle of law-Garba V University of Maiduguri,Olaniyan V Unilag,Esiaga V Unical,Laoye V FSCC,Adekunle V Uniport,LPDC V Fawehinmi.On the 2nd issue,it is my submission that the expulsion of the students is too harsh for the offence they committed,it is like killing a fly with a hammer.Conclusively,it should be noted that the statute of CU cannot override the Nigerian Constitution.See Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended).See also AG Bendel State V AG Federation,AG Abia State V AG Federation,Obi V INEC,Amaechi V INEC,Ararume V INEC,Inakoju V Adeleke.I rest my case.

    voda December 30, 2012 1:56 pm
  • Perhaps this is not the first service the Bishop was absent that students stayed back and no punishment was given. Also this is not the first service that the Bishop attended that’s students stayed back and no punishment was given. Now tell me, how do you explain a school that you the “so-called” students already know the rules fully well and you decide to break them. The thing that happened that nite was a big shame on the part of the students. The service was going on and while the VC was addressing the students, some were busy making noise, some were hanging on the corridor, some were buying at the butteries etc. Now the Bishop was not suppose to attend but he was around the vicinity and he saw all this. Out of curiousity he walked towards the chapel and immediately students stated running up and down. The bishop got angry and he said all those that were not in the service should be expelled. My points

    1. Expulsion as the case maybe was just a punishment not d verdict. Apparently some students have appealed and they have been considered.

    2. It was the sight that made him angry and he pronounced the students expelled…..would you also say it is wrong for him to get angry cos he is a man of God? Emotions overboard decision attimes!

    3.The students that led to him to d anger were not caught except for few ones, one of which was found smoking “igbo” in the chapel. Apparently some were sitted in the chapel listening while the ones that felt they were too big for the VC’s speech were either outside playing or in the hostel. So since he couldn’t catch the ones that ran, he summoned the other ones that were in the hostel that were to big to attend the service to be expelled.

    4. We have seen similar cases in the past, even grevious offences and at the end of the day they get called back after appeal. They just want the students to be punished and the punishment involves writing appeal letters, going for organized chapel programs etc but at the end of the day they get called back.

    5. If you do your findings very well, you will know that most students that were expelled from CU and didn’t come back was as a result of personal choices.

    6. The Bishop has always made it known to the students that chapel service is Compulsory and if you stab it, this is the punishment. Like I said earlier this is not the first mass expulsion and it won’t be the last. I feel the “Expulsion” is just a word to let the students know that they are not above the law because if they truly expell the students, there won’t be room for appeal.

    I think this is all I have to say for now, incase you want to discuss further about this, reach me via my email or my mobile no 08187441272.

    Cheers!

    Governor anonymous December 30, 2012 2:54 pm
    • U seem to be a very annoying person, and ur comments show u are a great ‘supporter’ of the bishop….whatever mehn, but I really do hope a lawsuit comes out of this…

      Tomi December 30, 2012 5:23 pm
    • I am sure you can at least see the problem in running an institution based on how angry or not the Bishop (who is technically a ceremonial Chancellor) gets on a particular day?

      If 4 years work can simply be binned based on a fit of temper, then it is dangerous problem indeed.

      But thanks for your comment. Appreciated

      Feyi Fawehinmi December 31, 2012 12:58 am
  • First let me say I am not a “supporter” of the bishop. To be frank, I am one of his biggest critics. In this expulsion case however, I will sit pretty on his side. Why? Harsh punishment or not, the students had been warned severally about the punishment for missing chapel. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, I blame the parents who send their kids there in the first place. Yes our education system is in the toilet but its not enough to subject young adults to modern day Draconian laws. We can all cry wolf now but then these laws should have never seen the light oof day. I agree with the writer when he says that the parents pay high school fees and should be part of the rule making process. In conclusion, this negative press won’t reduce the number of next year’s new applicants to the university by even by one student. In the end, like the writer, I have no horse in the race. I can only talk; cheap talk.

    Michael Freesoul December 30, 2012 6:46 pm
  • As a graduate of CU. Every one student and parents know that Chapel service is more important than your degree in CU. Please they are only facing the law they broke. They signed for it. Why the noise. These kind of service is held before semester begins and also ends the semester.

    Kehinde December 30, 2012 7:31 pm
    • If that is more important than ur degree then you certificate is not worth more than WOFBI, LCC or LDC certificate. We have to be reasonable here. Is an offence enough to justify that? Wait and see the outcome of NUC decision and how many pple would be sacked.

      waynerooney December 30, 2012 8:33 pm
  • Vice counselor has the right to expel not the chancelor. Vice councelor reports to NUC not the chancelor thereforec we need to know who gave the verdict.if the bishop did, then it wont stand cos he has no business in running the university. Chancelors of UNILAG. UI.
    UNIBEN has no role in school mgt unless on ceremonial capacity.

    waynerooney December 30, 2012 8:11 pm
  • Vice counselor has the right to expel not the chancelor. Vice councelor reports to NUC not the chancelor thereforec we need to know who gave the verdict.if the bishop did, then it wont stand cos he has no business in running the university. Chancelors of UNILAG. UI.
    UNIBEN has no role in school mgt unless on ceremonial capacity. So knowing where the order came from and who signed the letter is imperative.

    waynerooney December 30, 2012 8:26 pm
    • Let’s try and clarify some things here and move our thoughts from the word Expulsion. In federal Universities Expelled students can’t appeal. You all are just screaming Expulsion, take your mind from just defining the word and let’s look at the Action. In the Actual sense the students were pronounced expelled that night however the next morning they were at the chapel with the appeal letters. Well you won’t get it. I’m not a fan of the school, I just believe that before you criticise people you should know the actual story. Whether you write or not they will consider their appeals. Its not the first time.

      Governor anonymous December 30, 2012 8:57 pm
      • It’s not true that students cant appeal in a Federal University.
        Having been expelled myself for a very stupid reason, I didnt even appeal, I threatened a lawsuit and I was promptly reinstated.

        I wrote about it here
        http://aguntasolo.com/2009/09/07/my-very-own-gani-fawehinmi/

        No matter how egregious an offence is people must always be given a fair hearing

        Feyi Fawehinmi December 31, 2012 1:02 am
  • As another graduate of CU, while every student knew what they signed up for, we are only but human and yes, I know how it feels when you go to church at least 4 times a week and then they still wake you up for one “general assembly” by 1am only for you to discover that you were just invited to listen to absolute nonsense from someone that just came in from the UK, just because he just came in from the UK! I digress…

    I have got TONS of issues with the way CU in particular and Winners Chapel in general is run which explains why, after worshiping at Winners Chapel for about 10 years, I left the church immediately after graduating from CU, I had seen too many things at Canaanland that left me with too many unanswered questions.

    Back to the issue, My main grouse is this “…it is hard to disentangle the University from the larger than life influence of the Bishop…”. CU is synonymous with Bishop Oyedepo, and this shouldn’t be the case. Every legendary “controversial” decision made in that school is somehow traceable to the Bishop’s temper, name it; banning jeans, banning phones, “no pairing”(don’t get me started on that), banning traditional wears on sundays, just name it. I think it is wrong for a higher institution to revolve around the whims and caprices of one person. There ought to be a structure on ground that will be effective whether he is there or not, I mean the man will die, eventually, so what happens when he dies, the school will rot away because he’s not around to put fire on everybody’s buttocks?

    While I must say that the man is a great visioneer, he has been instrumental in ensuring that CU is where it is today and I have got enormous respect for him, I still think that until Covenant University exists independent of Bishop Oyedepo, we cannot advance. There is a need to develop a structure that will stand through the years in school, not just coin up rules and laws everyday that simply can’t all be enforced.

    One more thing, the parents won’t sue, the people that could sue are major critics of “Papa” and would NEVER put their children in CU, those whose children are in CU are “fans” & “disciples” and would rather sit at home and “pray” if their begging doesn’t work, rather than go to court, he is after all “The Servant of God” and the Bible says “…touch not my anointed…” ;)

    N.B>
    Sorry, couldn’t help it: It’s “Vice Chancellor”, not “counselor” and definitely not “councelor” @waynerooney, and obviously darling, you know nothing about CU, the Chancellor is the boss there luv

    Jo! December 30, 2012 9:11 pm
    • Chancelor could be the boss in cu but not the contact point in NUC. Watch out and see where the case will end. It will surely spell out the dichotomy btw the school and the church. I do attend winners even attended services today but i think in practical reasonable terms. We shall see the end of the matter and dont be surprised the extent it will degenate to.

      waynerooney December 30, 2012 10:12 pm
  • I am glad that someone made the discovery and wrote on it. Most private universities Nigeria are full of unnecessary laws. Some of these universities are owned by religious fanatics and fanatics are usually not rational thinkers. NUC should look into the matter.

    Georgeline December 31, 2012 6:59 am
  • Reading through comments here has been both fun and interesting.
    I hope to see an end to this whole mess called religious backed university’s autocracy. the instances listed by @.Jolon are so alarming it nullifies the fundamental human rights of association,expression etc..for Gods sake,what if one just wants to attend CU because of its renown in a discipline and just because the person is a muslin couldn’t do that due to the compulsory chapel routines. The instance given above nullifies the original purpose of a university irrespective of its religious leanings. One of my mum’s closest friends in Baptist Women’s college is a muslin till date, plus I haven’t heard of a situation of expulsion in Harvard just because of smoking marijuana. Our university cum education system cannot develop in circumstances like this and we keep drawing aback unless regulatory bodies such as NCC put a stop to this madness. .
    The write up is one of the stitches in time.

    Adedoyin @i_fix_you December 31, 2012 8:40 am
  • I think the Bishop has a right to determine what happens in the school. Yes it is a private university subject to the oversight of NUC, but I don’t think NUC has the right to dictate what lawsare made in the university, as long as they dont breach NUC ‘rules’. This is a Christian University and you don’t expect it to be run the way UNILAG is run. In Christian hbiversities Christian things are done. If you don’t like it, you stay away. Yes he even had a right to say all undergraduates must wear uniforms. Not my business but his.

    Maq January 2, 2013 11:50 am
  • “…came to the service on this occasion and got upset that many students CHOSE not to attend”. Based on what you wrote here,I’d like ask the writer the ffg Qs.

    1. Do these students have the right to Choose not to attend a service having aware of what the consequences MIGHT be?

    2. What msg would he (Bishop) pass across if he didnt handle the matter the way he did?

    3. What on earth could be a good enough punishment for students in a Christian School who would not respect(listen to)their VC when he is making a speech despite all d difference they are supposed to make when it comes to morals?

    4. What do you think is responsible for and the solution to Cultism, Gangsterism, Prostitution…that is prevalent in our higher institutions today? How much of it can the ‘freedom to choose’ solve?

    Let us be objective and forward thinking. We want a more productive society,it wont come without discipline. I appeal to the Authorities of CU to consider the students especially the one who could have a genuine reason for not attending the service.

    Tunji January 4, 2013 1:20 pm
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