Police In Hijab In A Country Prone To Religious Mutual Suspicion

Abdulkadir Salaudeen

Abdulkadir Salaudeen

Nigerian police women are now allowed (optionally) to don their hijabs while on duty in uniform. The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, who introduced the new dress code has been lambasted and eulogized by haters and lovers of hijab respectively. There is nothing shocking about the mixed reactions. It is the norm and much expected in a country of exaggerated religious mutual suspicions.

It seems to be a settled case in Nigeria that once a president is a Muslim, the vice must be a Christian and vice versa. Not only that, president or vice president, the Muslim ought to come from the North while the Christian from the South. Funny although, this convention—which we conscientiously adhere to—is not provided for in the Nigerian Constitution but more sacrosanct than the Constitution itself and all its provisions.

Let’s overlook the regimes before 1999 for convenience of analysis. Since 1999, we have had both Christians and Muslims as presidents and vice presidents; their poor performances weighed heavier on the scale. That is if we assumed that anything good can be attributed to their performances.

To counter Obasanjo’s imagined or real Christianization agenda, the North came up with the Shari’ah. The sincerity or otherwise of the Shari’ah’s implementation can be best analysed from what Zamfara is today—the pioneer. For the Shari’ah that I know can only bring about good governance, political stability, economic progress, and enabling environment where justice prevails. In a nutshell, Obasanjo’s regime ended and adjudged by many as a bad government.

Late President Yar’adua’s regime was not much tagged with religion agenda perhaps because it was short-lived. The honourable gentleman, in my assessment, is a great lost to Nigeria (may God have mercy on him). He would have brought the expected change to Nigeria. The change which had already begun with him. In acknowledgement of the flawed electoral system through which he rode to power, he embarked on electoral reform rigorously and earnestly. But now we have a regime with a hyped change mantra which never begins with it.

The former President, Jonathan, inherited a residue of Yar’adua’s and added a four-year tenure to it. His regime also suffered a serious allegation of Christianization agenda. Some important policy announcements were even said to be made to the Nigerian public in churches. There was a serious gang up against his regime which cost him his re-election bid. He made a history for being the first ousted incumbent President in Nigeria. As if bad governance is on a degenerating continuum in Nigeria, Jonathan’s was adjudged by many as retrogressing from bad to worse—from frying pan to fire.

Then President Buhari came on board. He was and is still widely believed to be a ‘Shari’ah man’ by the Nigerian non-Muslims. This, in some account, has cost him three consecutive election bids. Even though I have never seen any element of Shari’ah in the man, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions. But because Jonathan’s regime was seen as an evil that must be discarded, there was a wide embrace of the so-called Shari’ah man. His religiosity was ignored just to give Jonathan or its regime the blow of its life. His Shariatization was paired, and at the same time countered, by a Pentecostal pastor. Pastor Osinbajo was to be his vice and, more importantly, his watchdog.

Buhari’s regime has suffered more allegations of religionization than the combination of Obasanjo’s and Jonathan’s. In Buhari’s case, added to Islamization, is also Fulanization. The by-product of these combinations is blended as Fulasmization. May be these allegations are true or false, the combination of ‘Shari’ah’ compliant president and his, no doubt, Pentecostal vice has unleashed an unprecedentedly untold hardship on the Nigerian masses.

Like a continuum, it was worse under Jonathan, now worst. Then it was from frying pan to fire, but now from fire to Hell. I just hope we have reached the extreme edge of the vicious continuum for I don’t where again after Hell. The point is: neither Christian or Muslim leader is the problem; rather it is bad leadership and dirty politics.

Back to the issue of police hijab, I cannot fathom how it is aimed at Islamization or how it will lead to it. Its belated introduction as optional police uniform tells how flawed our democracy had been. Do we really have true democrats in Nigeria? If we do, I see no reason why donning hijab by any female police officer should cause headache to any democrat or any Nigerian who understands what democracy stands for and the freedom of religion enshrined in it.

Plus, it is optional not compulsory. If it looks good to you and makes you beautiful, use it; irrespective of your religion. If you hate it or makes you look ugly, don’t use it. Simple. Though a practising female Muslim police officer will rather use it obligatorily because it is an obligation in her religion.

The hijab cannot, of course, serve as bullet proof. No one has said that. It will not sanitize the police as an institution. This is true. It will also not make the police more effective in its operation. This is also correct. But that the use of hijab will Islamize Nigeria is a BIG FAT LIE. Only a dull bigot expresses or nurses this kind of fear. An intelligent non-Muslim bigot, though may also hate the hijab, will be ashamed to express such thought. It is non sequitur in logic and an intelligent bigot probably knows it.

Aside some Muslim dominated countries, female police officers use the hijab in Australia, Canada, Sweden, UK, USA etc. yet no noise of Islamization. To use the hijab, constitutionally speaking, is even a right; not a privilege. Muslim women who could not join the Nigerian Police, due to the hijab, are now free to join. May I ask my wife to pick the next Police Form?

I hope we get it right one day. May God bless Nigeria.

Abdulkadir Salaudeen



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