By Ibrahim Dantiye
To start with, my bonafide. I attended St. Thomas’ Secondary School, Kano. From the name you can guess the owners, administrators, sponsors and managers of the school. But perhaps, just like me, you aren’t good at guessing. Fine! St. Thomas’ Secondary School is a Catholic missionary high school that has been in existence in Kano State since October 1959.
Till date, apart from Mrs. Hannalore Olufemi (of blessed memory), a German who was married to a Yoruba, all former and current principals are Reverend Fathers. Do you know who Reverend Fathers are and what they do? Google. 85 percent of St. Thomas’ students are Christians with majority of that 85 percent as mission boys and seminarians groomed to be Reverend Fathers and Priests respectively.
Every Friday, school assembly was held and at the beginning, Christians and Muslims were given the chance to open with prayers. Sometimes, when there is any religious event, the Christians converge at the church while we (Muslims) assemble in the school hall where Islamic lectures and qur’anic recitations were done.
I know you may be wondering why a Kano indigene would attend such school despite having numerous options. Here is why. Just after my primary school, my father went to Kano Ministry of Education to make inquiries on the best secondary school in Kano and they referred him to St. Thomas. They were right as St. Thomas was and remains the best school to beat in Kano State in terms of discipline academically and morally plus zero tolerance of examination malpractice of whatever form.
The school gate closes at 7:20am and classes start at exactly 7:30am. To the best of knowledge, I was never late, all thanks to Baba. That is how disciplined St. Thomas was and still is. Despite being dominated by Christians, none of us (Muslims) was ever cajoled directly or indirectly to denounce our faith and neither was any of us stopped from praying during zuhr prayers held at 1:45pm at the school mosque located at the entrance of the school.
So, please, if as young and naive as we were in the age of limited information coupled with insufficient knowledge of Islam and faith then no one attempted to Christianize us despite the oratorical skills of the reverend fathers, how can anyone in good conscience dare suggest or allege today that Professor Yemi Osinbajo will Christianize Nigerians who are of same ages and diverse faiths including “atheism”?
As a student, I wasn’t the best academically as I suffered some setbacks especially in JSS2. After school resumed, our then Principal, Rev. Fr. Joseph Salihu, asked me to see him in a camera (I had to ask for the meaning). I met him in his office. I was extremely frightened but his approach calmed my nerves.
“Are you Dantiye?”, he asked and I nodded in the affirmative.
He proceeded: “I’ve seen your results and you must understand that we want the best for you or don’t you want the best for yourself?”, he interrogated.
I giggled and replied: “I do, Fr. ”
“Great, you can go back to your class. Good luck!,”he said.
I replied: “Thank you so much”, and I left.
That moment, Fr. Salihu could have taken advantage of my vulnerability and preached whatever he wanted just so to make me reconsider my faith. Or, thereafter augment my marks in order to induce me emotionally. He didn’t. Instead, he spoke directly to my soul, thereby inspiring my best to come forth. His words were so full of wisdom, encouraging and motivating.
Today, I hold MBA in Finance which I completed at the age of twenty-four and I am fortunate to be the Chief Responsibility Officer of an upcoming Legal-Tech Company in Lagos. A privilege even the most brilliant cannot brag of at the moment. All thanks for the teaching and character-moulding I received from St Thomas. God is wonderful.
Another unpleasant yet useful lesson I learnt in St. Thomas’ was when I scaled the fence (St. Louis primary school fence) which demarcated it and St. Thomas and that was on a Thursday afternoon. The next morning, I was welcomed with the news “Dantiye jiya Father Habila yazo neman ka” (Dantiye, Father Habila came looking for you yesterday). Do I need to tell you how I felt in my heart, stomach including my kidneys?
Father Habila was then then Principal. His full name was Rev. Fr. Habila Musa whom I had a personal relationship with as he had “invited” me to his office on different occasions just to give me some pep-talks. His words were always, “Your Father is a good man. He is so passionate about your education. Please, be the person he wants you to become. I know you can do it.”
During such talks, nothing about Christianity, not even as a slip of tongue, much less trying to sell the idea to me. Therefore, is it Osinbajo that you think can “brainwash” Muslims/northerners into RCCG?
Now, back to the “fence-scaling” story. Few hours later I sighted him heading towards our class. No where to hide, no lie to tell, nothing to do. I decided to face my fears. He came straight to my seat.
“Dantiye, where did you go to on Thursday?,” he asked in his husky voice.
Imagine my face and eyes.
I replied: “Home.”
He asked how and why? I implausibly explained. He gave me that hard look and added: “Go and wait for me in my office.”
While at his office he asked for my father’s number to report me. I tried apologising but he insisted. I obliged. In my mind, I was wondering why he was asking me for a phone number that I believed he had hitherto as he was in contact with Baba from time to time. I dont know what made him changed his mind but I was neither punished nor reported. Perhaps because I told him the truth. Maybe because he was trying to give me benefit of the doubt or probably the “Suratul Yaseen” I recited all through that trying moment.
I learnt one major lesson: honesty. Whatever the situation, try and tell the truth. It shall always set you free. It did set me free. I know I am not as honest as I am supposed to be, but certainly I am not a habitual liar. I am only human. Laughter.
If you are still pondering how these experiences are related to Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s presidency, and how he is being falsely projected as seeking to Christianize Nigeria, think of how St. Thomas Secondary School never recorded a case of Christianizing any of its students. Mind you, today, St. Thomas is 63 years and still being run by the Catholics.
Let me conclude with an excerpt from the Lord’s Prayer: “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgave Those Who Trespass Against Us, And Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil……”
With this, I welcome Professor Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, GCON, SAN, as one of the the presidential aspirants and my own preferred candidate. God Go with us, Prof!
PYO 2023 !!!
*Mr. Ibrahim is the son of Mr. Baba Dantiye, a media icon, two-term President of Nigerian Guild of Editors and former Information Commissioner of Kano State.