During one of his sociology classes in Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Femi Odekunle accosted a female student all clad in niqab-a kind of covering used by Muslim women that left unexposed all their body including the face. Typical of the Prof to speak out his uneasiness no matter whose ox is gored. He goes thus -‘Hey, I don’t know whether to call you a man or a woman, but I sincerely think you should leave your face open so that I know who I’m teaching -as it is unfair to see my face and I can’t see yours. Please, I can’t have a masquerade as my student!
The classroom went cold with eerie silence, fear pervaded the class as the lady stormed out and went straight to mobilise her Muslim Students Society members. The class ended and students hung around awaiting in apprehensions the fate of the Prof in the hands of the dreaded MSS members.
Expectedly,they arrived in bus load and headed towards the Prof’s office chanting Allahu Arkbar! Odekunle was informed he had visitors and with all the confidence in the world, the man went to them, joined them to invoke the greatness of Allah. He asked about 6 of them to follow him to his office as his office couldn’t take all the angered soldiers of God.
In his office, it was gathered that he offered them his lunch, even though they rejected he succeeded in weakening their resolve. That was when he asked them if they would allow a hooded stranger whom they have never seen his face or known before enter their houses? In unison, they echoed in the negative – then he lectured them on the in appropriateness of hosting a covered face in a class. He argued that if the lady must wear her niqab- she should as a matter of responsiveness give a clue to her identity as anyone could dress like her and even impersonate her during exams. Reasons prevailed over dogmatism as logic became their defining compromise.
By the time the MSS Representatives were coming out-it was a psychologically subdued folks who were welcomed by the other members outside. Using the trick of wisdom and discipline, the professor averted what would have been a tragedy in Zaria that day.
This scenario brings me to the crux of my intervention this morning -I still maintained that the Biafra agitators have the constitutional rights to seek for self-independence provided it is done within the limit of law and civility. I expected the governors of the South East to identify with the agitators, share their feelings and then reassure them on government’s effort to address whatever ill feelings they have. But trust our lethargic leaders -they saw that as inconsequential thus giving Nnamdi Kanu the platform to indoctrinate the Igbo youths towards the negative. A leader that cannot identify with his people has failed as a leader.
The Army recently demonstrated the Odekunle factor when they had that ugly confrontation with the Shiites movement in Zaria-even though that dialogue attempt failed at least they tried to identified with belligerent guys first.
This model would have been used in the early days of the deadly Boko Haram insurgency when instead of bathing then the water of bullets, they would have been engaged in dialogue table where compromises can be reached. There is nothing that cannot be achieved on the table of dialogue regardless of the lethal provocation. Leaders in the north lost the opportunity to nip this monster in the bud and ever since it has been rains of sorrow. Lack of emotional intelligence, sincerity of purposeful led to the creation of the Boko Haram monster and since then we haven’t had a peaceful sleep. Had the authority deployed dialogue, carrot and stick approach, give and take measurements, the Boko haram debacle would degenerate to this frightening reality. There is nothing compromise wouldn’t fetch a society in desire of development, we should have employed the odekunle model in handling the haram impasse.
The Odekunle factor can therefore be likened to the biblical injunction that prescribed giving the second side when slapped from the other side. In life, sometimes, common sense can give you consistent triumph instead of strength.