As governor, I am not in any position to promote one religion over another.
Following an alleged security report released yesterday 15 April, 2012 that implied Governor Aregbesola had plans to turn Osun State into an Islamic state; Sahara Reporters published the governor issued an address to re-assure the people of Osun state that the claims were false.
See the text:
My good people of the State of Osun: As you may be aware, some reports in the adversarial section of the media concerning our state and my person should give enough room for concern. There is purported security report alleging that I am working towards Islamising the State of Osun and plotting to secede from Nigeria. The first is patently false while the second is laughable.
Nigeria is a secular state in which the people are adherents of diverse religious faiths, while some are not religious at all. In our state here, we have large populations of members of all religious groups, including traditional, who have lived in harmony in the past 150 years, at least. Yoruba cosmogony which accommodates polytheism has made it easy for all religious groups to cohabit, interrelate, intermarry and accommodate each other without the tension and conflict prevalent in other parts of the country on account of religion. There is no family without members of different religious persuasions in Osun.
I have never hidden the fact that I am a Moslem. This is within my constitutional right as a Nigerian. This notwithstanding, within my own family, there are Christians who practice their choice religion freely, without let or hindrance. It is therefore impracticable for any religious group to lord it over anyone, or for a particular government to Islamise the state as alleged.
As governor, I am not in any position to promote one religion over another. My cabinet, as is apparent to all, is dominated by Christians. Every member is chosen strictly on the considerations of professional competence, integrity, party membership and loyalty. At no time was their religion considered as the basis for appointment.
Rather, I have promoted personal liberty and every aspect of freedom, including freedom of religion, since we came to power. Ours is the only state where traditionalists, Christians and Moslems are given absolute latitude in all official engagements.
The issue of hijab in schools came up in the last quarter of last year and it was amicably resolved to the knowledge of all security agencies. A meeting was held at the government house attended by religious leaders and security agencies in the state where the matter was laid to rest. There has been no complain or expression of dissatisfaction on the resolution by any group since then.
It is a reflection of our openness, fairness, accommodation and impartiality that prominent Christian religious leaders, including Pastors Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mathew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Church in London, Prophet Samuel Abiara of Christ Apostolic Church, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Dominion), Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Prophet Gabriel Fakeye of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ayo ni o, among others, have visited me at the Government House and commended our administration for promoting religious harmony in the state.
Of course, I have visited the Redemption Camp and several parishes of RCCG and other churches before and since we came to government. Those familiar with church history in Nigeria will know of the Christian revival that broke out in the middle of the last century in Oke-Ooye in Ilesa under Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola which have produced many of today’s great men of God within 30-mile radius of the town. As an Ijesa, I am proud of this religious heritage.
As you are all aware, school uniform in our public schools is part of our well-thought-out policy on education reform. We are constructing state-of-the-art buildings for our schools. We are also introducing free meals in elementary schools. Computer tablets will be given free to our senior secondary schools pupils. It is therefore an infernal mischief straight from the pit of hell for this lofty scheme to be portrayed as an Islamising agenda.
The school uniform, in particular, is a scheme by which Osun-made batik will be sewn as school uniform and, through this, promote the economy of the state. This was not surreptitious. It was nationally advertised for all gifted designers to participate in the bidding process. It is noteworthy that the selection of uniform was made out of the designs shortlisted by officials of the Ministry of Education during the Executive Council meeting of Wednesday April 4, 2012. That council, as I said earlier, is dominated by Christians.
Since coming to power, we have enjoyed a good working relationship with all security agencies in the state. We have promoted peace and harmony among our people. This is in line with a key objective of our administration which is to promote communal peace and harmony. You will all recall that the eight years preceding our coming into office was characterised by brigandage, social upheaval, insecurity of life and property, indiscriminate arrests and detention on false charges, and a virtual state of siege. During this period, a teenage girl was tied to a tree and physically violated by leaders of a political party, while a celebrated industrialist, an indigene of the state, was beaten to death in a filling station by agents of that party. I do not need to mention members of our party that were hounded, wounded, physically eliminated or driven into exile. My own mother was a victim.
We have however promoted peace by the non-retaliatory and non-vindictive policy we have adopted since coming into office. Our people have embraced peace, and in an exceptional display of large-heartedness, have forgiven the hurt of the past. This has ushered in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity in the state. All fears are gone; the exiles are returning home; and the economy of the state is growing in leaps and bounds.
If there is any threat to peace, we should look in the direction of a party whose national vice chairman vowed recently to make our state ungovernable. This is not going to happen. Our people have vowed not to allow themselves to be provoked. Their collective resolve is to enjoy all aspects of freedom, including freedom from fear, and live in peace and harmony with one another.
We are Omoluabi, the very epitome of the virtuous, and we have indicated our desire to be projected as such to the world, within our constitutionally guaranteed right in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are proud of our ancestry, noble heritage and our history. We are therefore unapologetic if we cut an image for ourselves that projects who we are within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are in a federation. It is our bounden duty to reflect this in governance and everyday life.
It is appalling that there is semantic misunderstanding of the difference between ‘Osun State’ and the ‘State of Osun’ which we have adopted. This grammatical hair-splitting will be considered laughable in an elementary English language class.
Our crest is a reflection of our history and proud heritage. Indeed, all the states of Nigeria had their separate crests until 1975 when the military embarked on a more unitarist state policy. Even now, other states and regions have their emblems, crests, flags and slogans.
I want to assure you therefore that there is no cause for alarm. What you are seeing is the handwork of an overzealous and misguided leadership of a security agency that has mixed up allegiance to the constitution, the Nigerian people and their welfare with the partisan interest of a transient occupier of state office. This intelligence, we must assure you, has been in our possession and we have duly notified President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, who we believe has sensed the urgency in the matter and is working to correct this embarrassing disposition of a tiny leadership of a federal agency capable of causing chaos and destabilisation. The shenanigans will pass.
I want you to go about your normal duty without fear or intimidation. You are a strong people, virtuous, indomitable and indefatigable. You overcame the persecution of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, military dictatorship, the travails of Basorun Moshood Abiola and the recent civilian despotism in the state. Please note and report any strange movements to the police and inform us. It is our duty to ensure your protection and security and we will not fail or disappoint you.
Thank you for listening. Osun a dara o.