By Olalekan Ajimoti.
The authorities of Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Nigeria, has suspended the studentship of a part three Law student, Lawal Toheeb, for failure to attend the university’s imposed numerous chapel activities.
In a letter of suspension, signed by the school registrar, Mr. Oyerinde Caleb Oyejola JP, that was handed over to the affected student on 10th December, 2019, the university says, inter alia, ‘The President/Vice-Chancellor considered the report of the Students’ Disciplinary Committee that found you guilty of gross disrespect to Constituted Authority. The Vice-Chancellor subsequently approved that you should be suspended from all academic activities in the University for One Semester to commence second semester of 2019/2020 academic session in line with the sanction in the Students’ Handbook…’.
Lawal Toheeb was invited to face the disciplinary committee on 3rd Decemeber, 2019, at the Senate Building of the school, that has persons like Pastor Andrew Emuroutu, Mrs. Omije; the Chief Security Officer of the School, Mr. Kola Ojetoye; Professor Oguntoyinbo Atere, the Dean of Students’ Care; as members. The Panel was chaired by the school registrar, Mr. Oyerinde Caleb Oyejola.
According to Lawal Toheeb, all his pleas to the panel that he is a Muslim fell on their deaf ears. He said they all alluded to the fact it was a mandatory rule of the school that all students must attend the chapel services.
The school Sabbath Worship takes place 8-45am to 9-15am on Saturdays, so also in the evenings of Wednesdays and Saturdays, as contained in page 49 of the student’s handbook.
This website confirmed that the Sabbath activities on Saturdays used to end by 12 noon, while the ones in the evening of Wednesdays are till sunset.
The Handbook states, ‘careful preparation should be made for the Sabbath especially on Friday before sundown: clothes and shoes to be worn on Sabbath should be made ready between (5:00p.m. to 6:00p.m.).’
‘The following are activities that are in harmony with the spirit of the Sabbath observance: (a) Attending religious services, (b) Maintaining reverence during the worship, (c) enjoying church fellowship,’ the Handbook also states.
In our investigation, the school operates a merit/demerit system for obedience or disobedience to the various rules and regulations of the school among which is compulsory attendance of chapel services where the Seventh Day Church doctrines such as singing, dancing, preaching and host of other activities, hold sway. There are a number of chapels such as Shalom Chapel, Salvation Chapel, Grace Chapel, Praise Chapel, Peace Chapel, etc., that all the students have been grouped.
Non-attendance of chapel programme attracts a 10-point demerit, which was formerly a 5-point, according to our findings. A student who has amassed between 10 and 60 points of demerits may be asked to carry out a community service such as sweeping the floor of the surroundings, cutting the grass, cleaning the gutters, or other dirty jobs, all in the university arena. But at any point above 60 demerits, the student will be summoned to face a disciplinary panel from where he can be suspended and eventually expelled from the school if he is returned and does not comply with the law of compulsory chapel attendance.
However, according to Lawal Toheeb, in his personal report he forwarded to this website, The genesis significantly began at a screening interview held on the 3rd of November 2017 where I appealed to the board that I am not willing to compromise my religion by attending the Sabbath worships.
I said, ‘I hope there is a concession for me’. However, it was the Students Care Dean’s voice I heard first, remarking that ‘No! If you refuse to abide by the law of the land, then be ready to be expelled from this school.’ Claiming it was not negotiable.
The school exercises continued and my artless mind remained in trauma… I had to attend the chapel worships every Wednesday evening and Saturday, morning and evening. Then a week soon came that the attendance ran on for a whole week and no days were spared. When present in the service, we were obliged to throw all worries behind and ‘stand with those who stood’. ‘to sit as others did’ they would not mind if we clapped along also. They would always ask for that and persuade us to close eyes as they pray.
Each day we were found unyielding, they would seize our cards and scare us with demerit points or community services.
I was once caught in my room by the Hall officers on a Sabbath morning and dragged to the security post. ‘I’m a Muslim’ I objected but they were always gutsy and swift to reply ‘other Muslims are there.’ I found my way back in having spent about an hour loitering aimlessly around the Security Post awaiting sanction.
I didn’t fully encompass the whole shit of idea. And I struggle to progress with my academic activities.
Then, I stopped going to chapel having gained resolve. ‘It must stop however’ I thought. Then the demerit points started to accumulate as Early as 200 level first semester. They were compiled at the end of the semester and a pastor, Emorotu Andrew asked me to see him in the office. Mary, my Chaplain was not willing to follow me to his office as he requested. So I went alone but was shunned… ‘ Get out of my office. Do you think you can eat your cake and have it?!… What time did I ask you to come.’ …to ‘get out and lock my door please’ ‘But… I just finished Exams and was only trying to reach M—–ar—y…’ he didn’t want to hear that. I stayed at the front of his office for about 30 minutes. In the end he opened the door to meet me and just walked away.
I was summoned by a Student Affair Panel with a letter signed by Elton Lugard on the 10th of December 2018, 2nd Semester 100 level. I was present and I waited conspicuously. The panel session was ongoing and Mr. Lugard would come out to call in some names. I directly told him that I was having exam in the next quarter of an hour. But I didn’t get a response from him till he walked back inside. As if to say he has not acknowledged my presence as a summonee . I left for exam.
At SDF on the 4th of September 2018… SDF is the agent responsible for the management of the scholarship through which I got admitted into Adeleke University. The chairman Mr. Banji got set on fire at the sight of my cap on that present day and chided me. I was only to collect some clearance indicating the settlement of the next academic session. ‘What the hell do you have on your head?’ I understood clearly and smiled. so I said just a cap.
Then he started unleashing insults and calling me names. I was said to be rascally… Unruly, fanatic…having potentials for terrorism. He observed my jumping trousers and expressed rage. ‘Are you one of those that claim to have 7 virgins in Alujanna, he mocked and others laughed. They asked me to remove it but I displayed reluctance to do that. I was driven out and then called back. ‘What the hell gives you the gut to be rude’ I wondered how I was rude, and gave some explanation that it is a mere cap that anyone could have. Or, ‘What conduct runs contrary to this?’ I asked gently.
Then he was mad at the question and assaulted me. ‘Even now that you have not graduated as a lawyer… You are quoting law against us. Your father Akinleye himself dare not be insolent. He would appear before us with utmost respect and humility.’
He asked where I did worship in church and I answered SHALOM chapel. He didn’t trust. He connected with Mr. Adeleke Sikiru on phone and reported the situation. ‘Lawal Toheeb is here with us… We don’t trust him for anything. We are redirecting him to you now…put a searchlight on his head and scold him… Don’t trust him for anything I repeat (as if to say I might be on drugs). ‘Omo buruku ni (he is a bad child).’
I got to Mr. Sikiru and he only asked for an explanation and was impressed when I told him my course, level and result. He asked me to go and say, ‘Ma binu (I tender my apology).’ ‘O kii se omo buruku (you are not a bad child), he added.’
Many a times we would be prevented from praying together on campus on Fridays there when no busses to convey us as they promised. There is a voice note of an incident on a fateful Friday and what transpired between us and the security officers.
We met the VC for an amicable negotiation.
But were asked to maintain the status quo at the end. Implying no jumat prayer in the absence of buses. There was always no Jumat for many on many occasions because the buses will never contain us all.
Earlier this semester, I faced the Disciplinary Committee on charges of the non attendance of Sabbath worships and not appearing before the panel back then. I explained again, ‘I am a Muslim and I hold a different belief and that I once appeared back then too but left for exams,’ but they were indifferent.
Then the officers came for me yesterday about 4:pm and was led to the CSO who asked, if you would be indifferent why did you remain here? And I frankly replied ‘I never knew it is Zero Tolerance if I don’t compromise’. He couldn’t say anything to it. He asked me to be taken to the Senate for the letter.
And just yesterday sir, I was served a suspension letter by Mrs. Ajayi on those charges for a full semester commencing January (I have attached the suspension letter) also.