BY SIMON REEF MUSA

The reported de-kitting of two female corps members, Okafor Love Obianuju and Odji Oritsetsolaye, over their refusal to abide by the code dress of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Ebonyi state has sparked off a round of endless controversy. A similar incident later played out at the Lagos Orientation Camp within the week when a Muslim female corps member also turned down shorts (knickers) and trousers given to her by camp officials.

First to fire the salvo against the expulsion of the corps members was the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which condemned the expulsion as a gross denial of their fundamental human rights. Appealing to the scheme to rescind its decision and recall the expelled corps members who hinged their decision not to patronise the scheme’s shorts (knickers) and trousers on account of their faith, CAN added, “We are appealing to the leadership of the NYSC to revisit the matter. In this country, religious right is an inalienable right that must be respected.”

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), led by Professor Ishaq Akintola, carpeted the scheme for punishing corps members who are committed to the practice of their religion. What should be uppermost for the scheme, Akintola added, is building up the morality of corps members and providing them with skills to face the challenges of life after the compulsory one-year service.

Considering the circumstances that led to their expulsion from the camp, MURIC notes, “The argument that corpers need short knickers for military drills does not hold any water at all. We have been able to prove that those drills are unnecessary. Corpers are not soldiers. Neither are they members of uniformed organisations. Their stay in the camp is ephemeral, sometimes three or four weeks. 99.999% of them may never put on any uniform again in their lives. What then is the purpose of laying so much emphasis on drills, crossing the obstacle, climbing nets, jumping over heights and ascending walls? Has the Third World War started?”

National Coordinator of the National Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, denounced the scheme for expelling the corps members as such an action amounts to rights the violation.  It is apparent that in the days ahead, the matter could result into legal fireworks as it was done in the case of Miss. Firdausi Amasa whose right to use hijab was upheld by the courts when she was barred from attending the 2017 call-to-bar ceremony organised by the Nigerian Law School.

In a bid to provide explanation over the expulsion as disobedience to approved dress code, the NYSC Director, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, through a press statement signed by spokesperson of the scheme, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, insisted that corps members must adhere to approved dress code approved by the scheme.

According to the press statement, “The DG notes with great concern the negative perception of the scheme’s dress code, arising mostly from some corps members’ disobedience to the dictates of the code. For the avoidance of doubt, the scheme has maintained one dress code since May 22, 1973 when it was established, devoid of ethnic, religious or gender bias.

“The code remains a pair of khaki trousers and shirt; crested vest; white vest; a pair of white shorts; a pair of zebra-striped socks; a pair of jungle boots; a pair of canvas; belt and fez cap. This depends on camp activity at any point in any time. Any other dress code contrary to the officially-sanctioned one will not promote the course of decency.”

Not a few are convinced that the above response by the NYSC boss amounts to an obvious attempt to hide behind a finger since the establishment of the scheme in the early 1970s by General Yakubu Gowon. For many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, are unaware of any dress code that sees the non-use of shorts and trousers as promoting indecency.  As far back as 1991 when I served in Imo state, female corps members opposed to wearing of shorts and trousers were allowed to redesign the white knickers and trousers into skirts. So, for anyone, including the scheme, to now come out to justify the expulsion of corps members on account of violating the scheme’s dress code is not only ridiculous but inherently evil.

It is quite unfortunate that, while some Nigerians applauded the court’s ruling that granted Amasa the right to the hijab, some of them have remained recluse, while others have risen to oppose the defiance of these two female corps members who, in irrevocable repugnance, have refused to be packaged in knickers and trousers. For the scheme that is preaching adherence to shorts and trousers by female corps members, the question is: What is the end objective?  As MURIC asked, is Nigeria at the brink of war that we need female corps members to be engaged in military drills in preparation for an impending war?

For those who insist that the dress codes for female corps member consist of shorts and trousers, when did the use of trousers and shorts become the norm for Nigerian females in any public agency? In the 1970s and 1980s, the sight of a woman in trousers could attract stoning from children in Sokoto where I spent my youthful years. The same applies to many states in Nigeria as it was considered alien.  Ladies with ‘Jerry curls’ were seen as indecent women of easy virtues. But all these suddenly changed in the 1990s when we woke up one bad morning to discover that our sisters and aunties, among other relations, had joined the bandwagon.

Some of the youths who insisted going ahead with stoning ladies wearing trousers and turning their hairs into ‘Jerry curls’ were then reminded that the world had changed. But is it true that the world has changed? Far from it. The Nigerian society has been influenced by the influx of foreign cultures that denigrate our ways of life that promotes decency.  What the Nigerian society is now confronted with is a system that promotes immorality through promotion of sexy sights that excite sexual urge. Those opposed to the defiance of so-called dress code by these expelled female corps members are demented minds that feast on exposed female flesh in the name of dressing smart. Those who are opposed to the expulsion are not Muslims, but mostly Christians whose love for liberal disposition is geared towards the defence of demonic oppression.

In Nigeria, sex has been turned into the currency of gratification for the advancement of education and career. We know that a sexily dressed female corps member could attract attention and approval of camp officials for a juicy posting to an agency of government or private firm for primary assignment. Those shorts and trousers that are usually designed to reveal the crevices of such females who are encouraged to appear to arouse base sexual instincts of camp officials.

The two female corps members, including the Muslim corps member who stood up to their faith must be commended. They are beacons of hope in a land of darkness ruined by sexual predators and demons who feed in the nakedness of female flesh packaged in shorts and trousers. Succumbing to a dress code that is poised at turning our daughters into mobile porn stars on the streets is to surrender to evil forces that ruin our cherished cultural values built on public decency. We must condemn a dress code that appeals to the promotion of abhorrent sexual impulse in the name of dressing smart for a military drill.

The current controversy over the scheme’s dress code is not about allowing religious bigots have their way; it is about respecting the rights of all Nigerians, no matter their religious inclinations, to be granted the freedom to choose how to dress according to their conscience.

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