Tinuke: Salvaging the Womenfolk from Bigotry – Shifau Bello

Reactions have continuously trailed the sudden ‘disappearance’ of Tinuke Oloruntoyin-Folami, the only Hijabi newscaster on Lagos Television (LTV).

What is indeed surprising, is the hitherto non-response by the concerned ‘’constituted authority’,’ to the torrents of questions that have been raised over what some have described as administrative scandal. With a wave of hand, the management simply dismissed as a non-issue the strange and unprecedented withdrawal of a newscaster whose admirers cut across regional and religious divides.

It is rather shocking that up until now, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Fola Adeyemi, General Manager of LTV, Deji Balogun and Director of News, Siju Alabi (an erstwhile staff of Channels Television), who have all been copied/mentioned in comments/articles pertaining to this alleged case of victimisation on different social media platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook  are yet to make comments or issue official statements on the controversy that has set the social media ablaze!

With the Gender and Equality Bill recently trashed by the Nigerian Senate and the unending persecution of the Hijabis, (further) fueled by the global Islamophobic and hijabophobic men and women in high places; it becomes even more pertinent to decry the impending fate that awaits an average Muslim female in the industry and the nation at large.

What is even more intriguing is the near total absence of the so-called frontline rights activists – the feminists’ organisations and women rights, advocates.  Strangely, they refused to jump on this particular situation which timing, an average activist would have considered perfect and apt.

Put rather mildly, they refused to ‘‘be proactive’’ about it.

The questions on the lips of many therefore is: ‘’would the same quietness (have been)/be maintained if this similar persecution (were) melted at a Catholic Sister (or an average Christian?) Now, the social critics have conveniently turned deaf ears and brought their blinders on, as they could see no reason to intervene in a matter that “does not concern them’’.

Concerns raised by hijab imbroglio becomes more intensely disturbing because, it affects the media – the masses’ advocate; the last repository of the weak and the vulnerable.

Today, the hydra-headed evils of social discrimination, sexuality segregation and religious bigotry permeate not only the Nigerian media industry, they also pervade other facets of our professional life, including education, where double standards is rife. Sadly, though, the Muslim females always end up bearing the brunt of these victimisation and unjust treatments.

It is also the harsh reality that many females have had to suffer in silence in what has become a cultural expression in this part of the world,

Back to Tinuke’s issue, popular sources, particularly from her work place confirmed that Oloruntoyin-Folami was doing commendably well as a newscaster at the LTV – a state-owned broadcasting station – before she was allegedly yanked off her role to ‘‘a more convenient’’ position on the basis of her use of hijab in a complicity of hijabophobes and Islamaphobes.

But how does facial appearance or religious orientation affects professionalism, capabilities or skills to deliver as a newscaster or a broadcaster? The media industry has unfortunately been turned to a microcosm of the macro secular world, where non-Muslims ‘thrive’ because of (their) readiness to compromise standards, to a so-called standard/image of the organisation.

Unfortunately, some apologists have tried to dismiss the victimisation allegation, hinging their position on hasty judgement’ and demanding‘appropriate investigation’ to ascertain the true cause of the lady’s redeployment to another section.

I once secured an employment at an online news agency as a news correspondent and editor. Surprisingly, in a telephone conversation, the head of Human Resource department inquired about my mode of dressing. He enunciated with no equivocation, the company’s preference of the length of hijab. All these he did after he had been satisfied with my response to the interview questions.

As in financial companies and many organisations, there was no deference to how a woman, much more, a Hijabi, is treated in the company. We were given ridiculous news targets on daily basis, even if it meant staying till the ‘‘cows come home’’! The rule of course, is no respecter of married women!

As if that was not enough, we were also to double as advert seekers – generating revenues by sourcing adverts at any cost – irrespective of the methods. As long as the company wants are fulfilled, everyone could be home and dry!

Hence, as ‘‘the constituted authority’’ in the case of Tinuke Oloruntoyin-Folami’s alleged victimisation is awaited to make necessary amendments that would see her reinstatement to a well- deserved newscasting role, all of us, Muslims and Non-Muslims alike, must stand up to this discrimination and victimisation against women in various professional organisations in Nigeria through constructive sensitization to their fundamental rights, as enshrined in the constitution.

No female, irrespective of her faith, deserves to or should continue to suffer in silence. On no account should a woman be made to bend over backwards, to compromise her rights and privileges, simply because she expresses her Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion.

Shifau Bello is a young writer based in Lagos.



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