The Secretary of the National Inter-religious Council, Ishaq Oloyede, has described as a betrayal of trust, allegations that the controversial curriculum for primary and secondary schools was aimed at Islamising Nigeria.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview, Mr. Oloyede, who is the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, said Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria had spoken in one voice against the controversial curriculum, ahead of its introduction.
“What I find difficult in Nigeria is that falsehood can become popular and we tend to forget the trend of things. It’s a betrayal of confidence on the part of Muslims and Christians. Because we were fighting this thing together, how they now turned it round is what I am not sure of.
“The National Council on Education that passed this thing in 2014. How come they are now saying that the man who came in as minister in 2016 is the cause of this thing? It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Mr. Oloyede, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and former vice-chancellor of the University of Ilorin, condemned the claims by the National Christian Elders Forum that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, was the proponent of the curriculum.
He said the outburst against Mr. Adamu and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari should have been directed at the immediate past Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, and the previous federal government.
“In 2012, we made submissions to the president, Goodluck Jonathan. We went there; I was the one who read the speech which was signed by three of us: the Sultan and Onaiyekan, that’s the National Inter-religious Council.
“When these people went ahead to do what they did and they called it Religion and National Values, it was the Sultan who first cried out. This was on December 21, 2015.”
Showing a publication of the national dailies, Mr. Oloyede read a headline to buttress his point.
“Look at this: ‘Sultan—Don’t Replace Islam and Muslim Studies with Religion and National Values’. Leadership newspapers in that month also carried it,” Mr. Oloyede said.
Reading through a section of another publication of the Daily Trust newspapers published on July 14, 2015, Mr. Oloyede said the position of CAN regarding the curriculum was rather indifferent at the time.
“Listen to this: ‘Also speaking with our correspondent; the secretary of CAN in the 19 northern states said religious leaders will have to engage the policy makers in education to authenticate the true situation of things’. Even at that time they were still sceptical about the situation, that is why they said they will go and ascertain the true situation of things,” Mr. Oloyede said.
Looking through the documents containing the said publication provided by Mr. Oloyede, PREMIUM TIMES found that the CAN official quoted above, Cornelius Fawenu, had added in the following paragraph that: “Whoever tries to promulgate an attempt to remove religious studies from the curriculum of education was not acting in the interest of the country, nor of Nigerian youths”.
Also reacting to claims that CAN had been indifferent on the matter, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Ayokunle, said the association paid several visits to former President Jonathan regarding the matter.
“You know that right from the time of Jonathan, we have been protesting against this thing. We went to Aso Rock, I followed them; the then president of CAN led the protest. And when this new administration came up, we still stood against the protest, the vice president received us. I was surprised that there was a curriculum like that,” Mr. Ayokunle said.
However, efforts by this newspaper to get copies of the communication by CAN to the previous government failed. The CAN president asked that we speak with his secretary general for the papers.
When PREMIUM TIMES approached the secretary general, Musa Asake, he asked our correspondent to call back later but failed to pick or return subsequent calls regarding the matter.
Similarly, Mr. Oloyede had invited this newspaper to reply to comments made by Mr. Ayokunle that Muslim scholars were also against the curriculum.
“Both Christians and Muslims are against this new curriculum. I am in touch with Professor Ishaq Oloyode; the Registrar of JAMB and a prominent officer of the Supreme Council for Islam in Nigeria. He has also been campaigning against this new curriculum,” Mr. Ayokunle told PREMIUM TIMES.
“You know that gradually, there is the fourth religion that is establishing itself. You know that the Christian religion, the Muslim religion and the Traditional African religion, those are the religions recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria. The fourth religion is imagined, the fourth religion is Secularism. People don’t believe in God. The people with this Secularism are the people removing everything and anything about God from our national, lives,” Mr. Ayokunle added.
Mr. Oloyede said the CAN President’s remarks about the sponsors of the school curriculum was the absolute truth, adding that while both religious leaders were working to stop the curriculum from being implemented, its sponsors blamed them (religious leaders, mostly Muslims) for what they called “a false alarm over the new curriculum”.
“What he had told you is absolutely correct. The proponents of this curriculum are neither Christians nor Muslims. Suddenly on May 9 2016, the Daily Trust newspapers lambasted us that we were raising false alarm”.
Quotes from the said publication are cited thus: “Various Nigerian religious organisations and individuals recently rose against what they called the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (BEC).
“Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) alleged that the revised curriculum merged Islamic Studies with Christian Religious Studies (CRS). Anthony Cardinal Okogie on the other hand, accused the Federal Ministry of Education of adopting a curriculum that merged five subjects including IRS and CRS into one subject called Religion and National Values.
“While we urge the Federal Ministry of Education and NERDC to embark on massive public enlightenment, we also call on organisations and individuals to distinguish between rumours and facts before commenting on this matter.”
Mr. Oloyede, who said he was speaking not in his capacity as the Registrar of JAMB but as a member of the Inter-religious Council, said he went to speak with the Daily Trust and got them to apologise.
“I went as a one-man protest to Daily Trust; I told them that everything there is not true. They apologised to me; saying that they did not know how they could have published it. That is all I want to tell you, I don’t want to say more,” Mr. Oloyede said.
He, however, added that the writer of the said article, a Muslim, was compelled to prepare the write-up by the National Education Research and Development Council, in exchange for him (the scholar) to go on sabbatical with NERDC under the leadership of the then chairman of the council, Godwin Obioma.
“He is a Muslim who wanted to go for his sabbatical with NERDC. They told him that unless he writes this he will not serve his sabbatical there. It is the condition they gave him. Obioma, Wike were all there when this thing was being done, now they said that it is Adamu Adamu who is doing it,” Mr. Oloyede said.
The NERDC had said that it introduced the curriculum after due consultation with representatives of both religious leaders.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria denied the claim saying that the named representatives of CAN who participated in the introduction of the curriculum; Ray Chukwura, a member of ECWA Good News Church, and Dominick Oleagbe, from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, are not known to the association.
“I don’t know them. I have never set my eyes on them. They have never held any meeting with us in CAN. And you know that before I became president of CAN, I was vice president, so if they represented us who did they report to and when was the report given to the house?”.
CAN had accused the council of introducing what it described as the ‘Jesus son of God curriculum question’ in the controversial guideline, saying it would further divide Nigerians along religious lines.
“And if they teach such provocative clauses to children, how do they expect such children to live in peace with each other? Such controversial clauses of any religious groups should be dropped forthwith and should never appear in our national curriculum, because it’s an ill wind that will blow no one any good,” Mr. Ayokunle said.
But the Executive Secretary of the council, Kate Nwufo, denied the claims
Created in 2014, the curriculum on religion and national values was created by NERDC for the sole aim of ‘reducing subject overload to meet the national economic and empowerment development strategies (NEEDS), as well as the Millennium Development Goals’.
Following its introduction, the list of subjects for primary and secondary schools were merged into 10 namely; English, Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology, Religion and National Values, Cultural and Creative Arts, Basic Studies, Nigerian Languages, Pre-vocational Studies, French and Arabic.
Christian Religious Studies as well as Islamic Religious Studies were merged, as sub-themes with three other subjects – Social Studies, Civic Education and Security Education – to form an edition of subjects under the theme: Religion and National Values.
Responding to the controversy surrounding the said curriculum in July, Nigeria’s government ordered the restoration of CRS and IRS as separate subjects to stand on their own.