Different Strokes For Unilag Dress Code

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Nothing in the way they stood by the bus stop of the New Hall Hostel of the University of Lagos revealed the skimpiness in their attire. Despite the fact that the threesome were shod in very tight fitting jeans, the shawls draped over their shoulders did not reveal the much vaunted semi-nudity ascribable to female students in today’s tertiary institutions. The three girls were hitch-hiking, waiting to be picked up by any of the sleek and ‘unsleek’ cars that cruised right by them. Wait. If this were to be any other place outside of the university campus, these girls would easily be mistaken for ‘traders’, soliciting frantically for customers as traders of the night in the deep labyrinths Allen Avenue are wont. And right by the side of the hostel, adjacent to the bus stop, a billboard close to the central mosque enjoins students to have the fear of God and be decent in the way they bear themselves around and about the University of Lagos. These girls and a handful of guys were soon joined by others girls, in what seem a keen campus ritual of eager attempt to get the attention of the owners of the cars that sauntered past. What is observable however is a canvass of different attires that are as varied as the variety of faces present at that bus stop that morning. Apart from those on jeans trousers with the dark shawls, some wore the long robes that reflect the allure and somber dignity of the women of the Arabian Nights. Some with these robes look like the ninjas and Nintendo who engage in assassination and espionage activities for the Japanese emperors of the early 19th Century. On the whole, and from a bird’s eye view, the scene at the bus stop on that busy morning in Unilag may just be described as normal as pouring a cup of hot coffee from a flask on any cold and rainy day.

‘’You should’ve looked closer’’, Adebowale Ayobade who teaches Sociology at that University told me. ‘’What you just saw at that bus stop perfectly demonstrates the concept, ‘appearance and reality’. When some of these girls show up for classes, there is no difference between them and the provocative come-get-me attires of the ladies of the oldest profession. Because we’ve had a hell of a time chasing them away from classes, they’ve devised all sorts of methods to fool us. The black shawls you saw on those girls is a cover for the ‘spaghetti tops’, ‘wicked straps’, ‘mono straps’, and ‘show-me-your-belly’ dresses they put on’’, she explained. Ayobade says that a lot of the female lecturers in her school who constituted themselves in a vigilante and mounted a crusade against indecent and provocative dressing are getting tired of chasing indecently dressed female students about. According to her, ‘’most of us are just trying to be in loco parentis for the irresponsible parents who hardly did their homework with these wayward girls. I hope you know that we were not employed as dress vigilantes, were we?’’ she asked. What about the male teachers? Their condition is a difficult one, says Simon Omoake, a final year student of English who claims to know why male lecturers don’t get involved with the issue of dress concerning female students. According to him, some of these girls dress to seduce either the lecturers or those he referred to as ‘aristos’. A lot of times, many a lecturer had been slapped with a sexual harassment accusation, much to their consternation and embarrassment. ‘You see most of them strutting about in these revealing clothes? Some are from polygamous, poor homes who can barely feed well daily. They go out to meet men and try to carry on like their room mates’’, he says of them. He also claims the others are virgins who wear provocative gear as a defense mechanism to scare lecturers and students alike.

But is there anything intrinsically wrong with the manner of dress of students who live in a city as Lagos that’s adjudged the closest to the Western world? If there is, does the university have a regulation concerning dressing on campus? ‘’Yes, there’s something wrong’’, says a lecturer in the Psychology Department who spoke to the magazine on conditions of anonymity. According to him, a lot of these clothes worn by university girls are mostly clothes worn in Europe and other parts of the Western world for specific occasions like acting, beach wear, and carnivals and on specific holidays like Halloween. ‘’Because of the influence of globalisation and modernisation, it has become easy for this category of students to also want to experiment with sex, smoking and drugs’’, he says. Other lecturers like Adeyemi Daramola and Hope Eghagha, both of the English department say that though they support the drive against indecent dressing, ‘’the whole thing is being blown out of proportion and is one-sided’’, insists Eghagha, an associate professor of English. ‘’What is decency or indecency in dressing is relative. Just the way everyone would frown at one who wears bathroom slippers on a suit, so should every one take exception to certain bushy kinds of beards we see others wear in the name of religion’’.

One glance at the document provided by the Dean of Students Affairs dubbed ‘DRESS CODE FOR STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS, reveals that it includes all such values like cleanliness, neatness, modesty and decency ‘’which reflect individual dignity and sobriety through which students as well as staff and faculty represent the professional status of their respective disciplines’’. Those for which it was apparently made, like Oyewusi Abimbola, masters’ student in survey and geo-informatics department insists that the code is an irrelevant document. According to her, ‘’well dressing is something embedded in our culture and in our religion even though you shouldn’t be religious to dress well. So why take the pains to force students to dress well when they should’ve been taught that in their kindergarten classes?’’, she asks. John Stevens, 30, ex-student of LASU, says the same thing. ‘’Indecent dressing is a reflection of the larger society. Some students are just copycats of what they see their mummies and daddies do outside and at their homes’’, he told the magazine. But as far as Agape Dom who is a businessman and pastor is concerned, a dress code embedded in a document to regulate the dress culture of students is a waste of everybody’s time. While waiting to register his wife for a degree programme with the Lagos State University, LASU, Anthony Campus, Dom told the magazine, ‘’there’s not one university in the south, east and western parts of this country that should have any claim to decency in the way students dress’’. According to him, only the universities in the North have students who are not provocatively and vivaciously dressed because of their rigid Sharia stipulation for ‘ado mekyo’, well dressing. ‘’Policy makers are the people making these girls dress outlandishly when they pick them up for wild orgies in town. How then can you expect them to be either incorrigible or well shod when the basis for being picked up by wealthy people is outlandish dressing?

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Sunday August 26, 2010 - 1:19 pm

Why should they dress provocatively?what d point?this is NIGERIA not america,we av our cultures they av theirs.talking about ‘it no ones business’,of course its everyones business,we dont need anyone’s culture al in d name of civilisation,WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR CULTURE.

Steve April 12, 2010 - 5:06 pm

“I attend school in America…” Strikes you off.

tersoo November 25, 2008 - 9:07 am

a woman’s mode of dressing to a very large extent tell much even to those who dont know her, about her attitude. therefore i urge young girls to always dress modest

sugabelly January 26, 2008 - 1:22 pm

I don’t think it is the university’s business how anyone dresses. No matter how provocatively a person is dressed, it is not an invitation to you to approach them sexually, unless they give you explicit indication that they are consenting to your approach, so this business about lecturers and students is ridiculous. Also, I am not surprised that it is the female lecturers that have set themselves up a vigilantes. Why are Nigerian women like this? Why do they have to bring jealousy and over sabi into everything they do? Why do they feel the need to carry things on their heads more than everyone else? Female circumcision, the same thing. It was the women perpetrating and defending it more than the men. They disgust me.

Just for everyone’s information. I attend school in America, and here girls wear tiny shorts and spaghetti tops ALL THE TIME. It’s not anyone’s business really. As long as you’re not naked, no one should talk.

REBECCA January 19, 2008 - 5:14 am

i like the article and will like to get more information on indecent dressing in tertiary institutions in nigeria.

ebony September 3, 2007 - 9:43 pm

the bible encourages a women to dress modest in a way that shows reverence to Jehovah God so for all you people who like to show flesh you should really consider the way you dress.

APS MICHAEL August 10, 2007 - 3:54 pm

You try for the first place to go deeply concern about indecent dressing in Nig.universities esp.UNILAG.But the am not please with your is that you did not lay a concrete recomendation and advice toward this elicite act. thanks.


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