Isese is Yoruba way of life, Kwara is Yoruba state, Don, traditionalists tell Ilorin Emir

By Mosunmola Ayobami, Ilorin

An Associate Professor from the English Department of Kwara State University, Malete, Dr Reuben Akano and some traditionalists have said that the Isese festival cannot be banned in Ilorin Emirate as it comprises some local government areas and towns rooted in the tradition of the Yoruba people.

They also contended that Kwara State is a Yoruba state, while Ilorin is a Yoruba city, warning that the current crisis must be handled with care by the state Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

The don and the traditionalists stated this as reactions continue to trail the cancellation of the Isese festival, planned to be hosted by Yeye Ajesikemi Olokun Omolara, an Osun priestess in Ilorin, Kwara State, by the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Zulu Gambari. They spoke in separate telephone conversations with WesternPost correspondent in Ilorin.

Dr Akano said it is laughable for the Emir to claim that Isese cannot be celebrated within the Ilorin Emirate, which comprises many local governments, where Yoruba tradition is very strong.

He said: “Well, I will react as an academic. I will also react as a Kwaran, a Kwaran from the so-called Ilorin Emirate. Up till tomorrow, some people will still refer to Moro, Shao as part of the Ilorin Emirate. But honestly, don’t let anybody deceive you that Isese can be cancelled in Ilorin Emirate. But it could be cancelled in Ilorin township. When they say Ilorin Emirate, they include Moro, Asa, Ilorin South, and Ilorin East, but you will agree with me that Laduba is there and the community is still practising Isese and all forms of traditional religious worships ditto for Shao. When you go to Eleshin Meta, some places like Afon, Budo-Egba, and Ilorin East/South, people practice Christianity, Islam and traditional religion.

“So the issue of some people saying they have cancelled Isese in Ilorin Emirate, as long as they say Ilorin Emirate, and when they say Ilorin Emirate, and what they have in mind is four or five local governments, that is a lie. It’s just propaganda on their part.”

The Don also noted that the fundamental of the cancellation and the counter-accusations was premised on the fact that religion; Christianity, Islam and tradition have become a way of life and an economic means.

According to Dr Akano, those saying against the Isese tradition may, on the surface be saying so to safeguard the sanctity of Islam, but, in a way, it’s an economic war that is not readily noticed on the surface.

He also maintained that the same people may feel threatened by the incursion of that tradition into Ilorin, which is a Yoruba town, adding that the Emir and his people erred by their opposition, even going by the secularism of the Nigerian state.

“The controversy over who owns Ilorin will linger for a long time. As long as we now have Osun and Isese festivals in Ilorin, it will now make it clear that Ilorin belongs to Afonja; that it is truly a Yoruba settlement, and if not why do they have this? This can be traced to the Southwest and the Fulani, who are bent on ensuring they continue to have control over Ilorin would continue to use Islam as a weapon to tame the people to surrender themselves. They (Fulani) know that the moment somebody comes, displays traditional religion and is unchecked, then they begin to lose followership. 

“When we come to the secularism of Nigeria, I think it’s improper for a monarch, or a set of people to come out to say some people cannot exercise their religious faith. It’s improper. But at the same time, we should understand that Ilorin has been Islamized for a long time,” he added.

Continuing, Akano said it was a good thing someone came to challenge the status quo in Ilorin.

He said: It is good that somebody says she wants to celebrate this (Isese) and the monarch or some people saying no, you cannot do it and people are now reacting that you don’t have this right to stop people from practising their faith. I think that’s opening a new chapter and is throwing up a new argument.

“Look at what happened in Ibadan. Eleven monarchs were installed and recognized. The then governor of Oyo State, the late Abiola Ajimobi started it but that initiative was killed. The same initiative resurfaced today and it’s given power. Same thing the then governor (of Kwara State), the late Mohammed Lawal wanted to do for Baloguns. He didn’t want to make them Obas but he wanted to give them the status of Obas so that they could be earning salaries based on such status but it was killed.

“With what is happening in Ibadan and what is happening now as far as Isese is concerned today, I think the usual change is rearing its head. We have opened a new chapter and let’s see how it unfolds.”

Akano, however, appealed to everyone not to go violent, adding that it’s an intellectual issue.

He added: “It has to do with morality; it’s to do with human rights, it’s to do with religious faith, it’s to do with everything. But we should not introduce violence into it from whatever perspective we are looking at it.” 

He gave kudos to those who peacefully accosted the woman and advised her not to stage the festival, adding that if it were to be in Kano or Sokoto or elsewhere, it could have resulted to something more dangerous and violent.

“And that’s to tell you that to a large extent that Southwestern culture of tolerance is still there and that’s to tell you where Ilorin belongs,” he added.

He emphasized that whoever is making comments or analysing or giving opinion as far as the issue is concerned, should do it for peace sake “because we need that peace.” 

Also, the Kawoleyin of ShaoIand, Pa Awoniyi Awogbemi expressed his sadness over the cancellation of the festival, saying Kwara is a Yoruba state, and the act amounted to disenfranchisement of religious practice.

“I was not happy immediately I heard about the cancellation of the Isese festival as Isese is an entity, a Yoruba entity. When I heard some group of people kicked against it, I was not happy. Kwara State is a Yoruba state. Out of 16 local governments, Yoruba people have 70 or 80% of the population. How can a certain group of people disenfranchise a person not to practice her religion? The Nigerian constitution allows the three religions. You’re free to practice your religion,” he said.

Awogbemi warned that the act could cause misunderstanding and unrest in society, adding that the problem comes from a certain group of people who want only Islam to be the religion to be practised.

“Look at what happened in 2019, during the Hijab crisis. If not because the Christians are strong, they wanted to override them. They should not turn Kwara into another thing. As far as I am concerned, I disagree with that group. Kwara State belongs to every one of us. You’re free to practice your religion,” he added.

He urged the state government to intervene on the matter for it to be settled amicably and in such a way that everyone will be allowed to practice his or her religion.

Another traditionalist, Dr SangoDare Ayinla expressed his displeasure, calling the act an obvious injustice.

He said: “I am reacting with displeasure as I can see injustice, obvious injustice. It was an effrontery to do that. But I am happy Prof Wole Soyinka spoke on it in his letter. It’s unfortunate that the monarch involved is a judge who understands the constitution of this country. We can’t call that ignorance. It’s a deliberate dehumanization and denial of people’s rights,” he said. 

He also warned that if the situation is not properly managed, it is an invitation to violence “because that’s how violence is triggered.”

He enjoined the state governor to mediate on the matter by ensuring that the issue is resolved, while justice is served.

“Look at the issue of Hijab in Christian schools. Are they not forcing people to be wearing it? Are they not promoting an alien culture in the state? I think it’s hypocrisy which is beyond religion. Ilorin is a Yoruba town, there’s no controversy about that,” he said. 

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