The most popular proverbs used by Nigeria’s older folks are: “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are”; and “Dress the way you want to be addressed”. Regardless of class, tribe, religion, and academic credentials, these proverbs are readily available in the literary armoury of all of our parents, and they never hesitate to use them in their often asymmetric interactions with us. The other one is “never forget the child of whom you are”. Your mother must have said either of these three popular proverbs while holding her left ear as you departed for school after the last ASUU-imposed holiday. One would wonder if holding the ear while saying these proverbs adds any flavour to them. Well, this piece is not about proverbs, it’s about dressing, addressing, book, cover, Gen-Zs and what-have-you. Let’s get straight into it.
Tola is an engineering student in the University of Ibadan. It recently dawned on him that, he has spent four years of three academic sessions in the Premier University, and the only places he knew were his faculty, and his hostel. So one Friday afternoon he decided to follow his friend and former roommate, Roland to the faculty of Arts, where the latter studies Philosophy. Tola’s mother had warned him against being friends with Roland because he has a tattoo and keeps dreads, but Roland is the most amazing person he has ever known. He had told his mother that Roland has a good heart, is altruistic, and is intelligent, but the woman would not see beyond the tattoo and dreads. “You can’t be friends with that kind of person,” she declared in the conclusive manner typical of most Nigerian parents. Thankfully, this is a University, a place where young people are expected to enjoy some level of freedom, interact with the world, and explore the inherent diversities of the human race. So he continues his friendship with Roland, without remorse for disobeying his mother.
His only class on Friday was cancelled so he decided to take a stroll to go see Roland and the Faculty of Arts for the first time. If he had been taken there blindfolded, he would have sworn that he was in another school, and not the University of Ibadan. “Hey, Roland! Are these ones UI students?” “Of course! Some of them are my coursemates. What’s up?” Tola was amazed. He saw a girl jog towards him, she was clad in a tight crop top which showed that she was not wearing a bra. The lady hugged Roland briefly and announced that she was late for a class. “We don’t dress like this to class in my faculty,” Tola announced still dazed by the freeness and carefreeness of folks in a faculty that has some of the university’s brightest minds. If his mother was here, the religious woman would have condemned all of them to hell, and told her son never to visit such sinful faculty again.
Rules on Indecent Dressing
Last week, a report steamed out of the Ransome Kuti Hall, saying that indecent hairstyles would no longer be allowed in the hall. The memo, which was signed by the Hall Management, stated that there was a “rising trend of indecent, offensive, and grossly improper hairstyles among students of Ransome Kuti Hall. This act is unaccepted in the hall.” The memo directed all students to maintain proper and modest hairstyles.
Residents of Kuti hall became a subject of banter among students. They wondered why the “great men” were always pampered like some High School students.
Also, a few days ago, our neighbours at the Polytechnic Ibadan were handed a set of rules on dressing and public conduct on their campus. The Polytechnic Management prescribed one-semester suspension for such dressings as tattered jeans, multi-coloured braids for females, dreadlocks, crop tops, bum shorts, nose rings, among others, and conducts like hugging and sitting on the lap of someone of the opposite sex.
Many have described the action by the Polytechnic Management as ridiculous, and some UI students fear that the latest rule by the Kuti Hall Management could be a precursor to similar rules by the university management or managements of others halls and faculties. What hall or faculty is next?
Should Gen-Z’s Be Stopped?
Truly, our generation is one that has taken the freedom of choice to a point unimagined by our old folks. When the older generation tries to infuse a trifle of morality in our conducts or lifestyles, we rebuff them with phrases like: “Body positivity”, ‘free will’, ‘archaic social values’, and so on. Perhaps our lecturers, in loco parentis, are perturbed by our free exhibition of what our society considers ‘indecent’ and want to save us from harming the society’s moral fabrics.
Maybe this generation is indeed going astray and they fear that we might set the world on fire with obscene dressing and conducts. A dress or hairstyle is considered ‘indecent’ when it does not conform with societal norms, but our generation seems to be redefining ‘societal norms’, and no one knows the extent we would go in our embrace of ‘indecency’. So, should the University of Ibadan join the crusade to stop ‘indecent dressing’ among Gen-Z’s? Or should the management come to terms with the social changes championed by Gen-Zs?
Well, it is absolutely wrong to judge a book by its cover, and our old folks need to stop addressing people based on how they are dressed, however, we cannot deny that young folks do not seem to give two cents about decency, and have normalised display of nudity. Since the university awards certificates based on character and learning, it has the right to ensure decent dressing, good moral conduct, and socially approved lifestyles on campuses. It is within the responsibilities of an academic institution to mould decent individuals for society.
Although, this is not a call for dress codes and hairstyles, as this may not go down well with students. Rather, in order to achieve decency and modesty, we suggest that student leaders be carried along so that the student community can make its input in the quest for decency.