Sitting on the laps of history, a story is told of the late 1960’s in American and European Universities where students and some lecturers initiated unorthodox modes of dressing as a form of political protest, for example against the United States involvement in Vietnam. By the end of colonialism and apartheid, rebellious modes of dressing had become the norm. Hence, rebellion has always been associated with flagrant dress codes all over the world and on Nigerian campuses.
The long-standing ‘debate’ of implementing dress codes on Nigerian campuses, I beg to say, is no longer a debate. This is because there are already existing dress codes on Nigerian Universities; from Federal Universities to State institutions and even privately owned Universities. Some of these existing dress codes have a religious tone underlying it, while others have been decisions of relevant authorities. The question that should be in contention now is ‘Should there exist a Federal legislation regulating dress codes on Nigerian campuses?’
Dress codes on campuses have been passed in a number of Nigerian Universities a few of which are FUTMINNA, University of Lagos, University of Maiduguri, Bayero University, Kano and University of Abuja amongst others. Again, certain State Governors have seen the need to implement a regulation of dress codes within their states, namely Lagos State and recently, Osun State. Furthermore, certain professional courses of study in Universities have a regulated dress code. The law course and the health sciences profession are good examples of this. One does not also need to mention the strict dress codes employed on certain religious University campuses.
These are basic observations that indeed, a form of dress code exists on our campuses. However, I assert that there is a need for a universally and federally regulated dress code for Nigerian campuses. My reasons for advocating this position are not far-fetched.
First, and of utmost importance is the need to preserve moral standards. Choosing to be honest with ourselves, we must agree that the types of dressing that has bedevilled our campuses nowadays are outrageous and beyond the spheres of reason. History makes us aware that early humans were naked wanderers and as evolution progressed, man became wiser and began to use clothes and live in houses. It is quite unfortunate then, that there seems to be a reverse in the order of evolution where the populace wants to go almost naked in the name of fashion.
While I will give kudos to our religious institutions that have attempted to curb this menace by regulating dress codes to the extent of their ability, I will make a call on the federal government to implement necessary legislation for dress codes on campuses to preserve our moral standards. According to Lord Devlin, ‘When a particular practice has reached such a stage that the right-minded person in the society would view it with indignation, intolerance and disgust, then the time has come for society to us the weapon of law’. He also posited that ‘morality is one of the vital factors that bind society’. It is necessary to bring to mind also that the African society is founded on a moral heritage that must be preserved.
The second reason for my position is the need to ensure discipline and a sense of responsibility among university undergraduates. Discipline should be an integral and essential part of university education, and a defined dress code is one of the ways to instil such. It will also instil a sense of responsibility when undergraduates of higher institutions dress in a proper manner, indicating an obvious difference when examined alongside their counterparts who are not in the higher institution. Many profession and companies also require certain dress codes, so a defined dress code system on campuses will help prepare students for their career in real world.
Another reason on which I will hinge my discourse is that the implementation of a unified dress code on campuses will reduce the level of sexual abuse and harassment. The common saying ‘you are addressed the way you are dressed is nothing short of the truth. A lot of students, predominantly female have been molested by their lecturers simply because their indecent dressings have appealed to the latter. Indecent dressing, sadly, has also aided social vices like rape on campuses.
I must not fail to say that the implementation of dress codes, although leaning unfavourably on the female folk, also applies to the male folk, because recent developments in the country show that even male folk are starting to expose nude material.
Although, I may not be able to exhaust my reasons in this piece, it is my opinion that the advantages of a universal dress code regulation far outweigh whatever disadvantages there might be. I also do not pretend not to be aware of the challenges that may face relevant authorities in not only implementing, but also enforcing these standards; however with sheer determination and moral will, I believe it can be achieved. A need for a dress code to stem the dangerous tide of outrageous dressing, in my opinion, is pertinent.