New Telegraph

African Traditionalists Demand Parity With Christianity, Islam

ICIR celebrates 10th World Ifa/Orisa Festival

Call for recognition

Practitioners of African Tradition Religion and beliefs have called on government and relevant authorities in the country to accord the African Traditional Religion and beliefs the same recognition that they give to Christianity and Islamic faithful. They lamented the various opportunities that Nigerians are missing for abandoning their own religion beliefs for foreign religions. They revealed that there are many opportunities in the African beliefs which can shape the society if the traditional religion is rightfully placed.

This call formed part of the submissions recently made by the adherence of religion at the celebration of the 10th edition of the World Ifa Orisa Festival, with the theme; Our Culture, Our Life, held recently in Ado Ekiti, capital city of Ekiti State. Prominent members of the International Congress for Ifa and Orisa Spirituality (ICIR) expressed discontentment over the way African Tradition Religion and beliefs are being handled by the government and relevant stakeholders in the country.

Missed opportunities

They specifically lamented the preference given to the foreign religion, Christianity and Islam, over traditional beliefs. They signalled that unknown to government there are viable and vast opportunities to be reaped especially for economic development through religious tourism and overcoming security challenges. The stakeholders, however, declared that they will continue to intensify efforts in creating more awareness and understanding about the religion for the benefit of the Black race and humanity.

Speaking during the Press Conference held at the Secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ekiti State Council, Ado-Ekiti, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of World Ifa/Orisa Festival and Pilgrimage, Oke-Igeti 2024, the General Secretary, International Congress for Ifa and Orisa Spirituality, Mr. Akomolafe Wande Olomi, who was a former Assistant Pastor in Deeper Life Church, said they came to Ekiti to know the source of all the Orisas according to their beliefs.

Religious tourism

He stated that a lot of nations such Saudi Arabia, Israel, and India derive their revenue through religious tourism. “Why can’t we develop our own? There’s nothing we are looking for in other countries that we don’t have here. We have everything but the only problem is that we don’t value what we have, maybe because we are so used to it because it’s my father’s house,’’ noted Olomi. Stressing, “That small stone in my father’s house, what can it do?

But that same stone is in another place that you have to pay for before you can worship it. But the one in your father’s house, you don’t appreciate it. That’s our problem. “We heard it recently that the federal government of Nigeria is subsidising Hajj by N90 billion. If just 10 per cent of that amount is given to us, we would transform this nation and people from other countries will be coming here.’’

Commenting on the 10th edition of the Ifa/Orisa congress, he said, “this year alone, we have over 60 foreigners from different countries that are in Nigeria now to see what we have in Ekiti State. But with the support of government and the pressmen, we can make it happen and bigger. We can do more than what Saudi is doing. “Look at what Saudi is making as revenue every year to the extent that they are even telling us that they cannot issue more visas to foreigners because they have had enough.

From Nigeria, this is the number allotted to you, don’t bring more than these people because they have enough.” Olomi said based on the misconception about the African tradition which is giving the religion a setback, they are appealing to government for recognition and acceptability to increase acceptability from the people. He said if government can do just 10 per cent of what they do to other faiths, they would see what they would generate in terms of religious tourism.

Quest for holidays
Speaking on the need for the government to accord recognition to African Traditional Religion, he disclosed that one of the sure ways of ensuring that the people are aware of and embrace the practice, is for the government to consider declaring public holidays during the celebration of festivals related to them. They commended Lagos, Ogun and Osun states for doing that while urging other states in the South west to emulate same.

Also, a convert, Mrs Funmilayo Fakankun, who was a Christian for over 30 years of her life before converting to African Tradition Religion and now a tutor in Ifa and Orisa, said, there are something she met in Ifa religion which she never thought existed. Claiming that Ifa spirituality has one of the most advanced technology. She lamented that, “the way we have been so wired to embrace foreign things, neglecting our own is quite painful.

If I say I cannot promote tradition, it means I am saying that I cannot promote my identity as a Yoruba person. If Ifa can be well explored, it will really boost the economy of the nation.’’ She said they just need a listening ears and encouragement of the government. “Let them sit down and hear what we have to offer and see whether it is worth it or not.’’

Ifa studies

Another point identified by the stakeholders is the introduction of Ifa in primary and secondary curriculum, as this will help to create awareness and for the people to embrace the teaching from their early days. This was disclosed by the Araba Awo of Oke-Agbe Akoko, Ondo State, Chief Ayobami Ogedengbe, who noted that embracing African traditional beliefs would help put an end to various problems and challenges confronting Nigeria as a country.

Ayobami, who is a graduate of Microbiology, regretted that he had graduated from the university before he learnt that Ifa is a knowledge system that contains philosophy and Yoruba history, saying that research into Ifa Metaphysics, which he described as the words that can be used to activate and deactivate any element of nature, could form a special weapon for the military and develop new technology. He said, “We represent the religion but there are other areas where economic activities can be stimulated if the government pays attention to it.

The government needs to do something on Ifa research because the entire knowledge is rich and should be extracted into its different components.’’ The Mayegun of Ifa Priests in Egba land and Secretary of Ifa Spiritualists in Ogun State, Chief Oluwo Ifaniyi Awoyemi, speaking on this year’s congress disclosed the reason for converging on Ekiti, saying; “Historically, we were told that if anyone wants to know where Ifa resides, the person should go to Ijeti in Ado-Ekiti.

That’s why we have come. We have been researching this for several years. When we heard that Ifa is in Oke-Ijeti in Ado-Ekiti, some deities (Orisas) that couldn’t stay away from Orunmila, came to Ado-Ekiti with him. “When they came, they went their different ways and got themselves established. Esu resides in Ijelu-Ekiti, Ogun resides in Ire-Ekiti, Osun is in Igede-Ekiti, Orisenire is in Erijinyan, Osanyin is in Isaba-Ekiti and many of them like that, that couldn’t distant themselves from Orunmila. To confirm the authenticity of what we have been hearing that all of them are in Ekiti, that’s why we are in Ekiti.”

Insecurity

Delivering symposium lecture on the themed: Our Culture, Our Life, His Royal Majesty, Oba Samuel Adebayo Fatoba, the Alara of Ara Ekiti, Ikole Local Government Area of the State, identified insecurity as one of the major factors affecting the peace of the country, advocated the reintroduction of the traditional legal system as a panacea. The monarch was among the victims of unknown gunmen attacks when the assailants accosted some traditional rulers in the state on January 29 this year and claimed the lives of two of the monarchs.

Oba Fatoba, who escaped the attack, said disclosed that he survived the incident because he upholds the African tradition. Noting, “I would not be here to- day if I did not uphold the tradition. We are where we are today in Africa and Nigeria in particular because we were bamboozled and hypnotised by the colonial masters to see our culture as being inferior to theirs through the introduction of their own religion as a means to subtly sniff life out of African culture.

”They suppressed African culture and civilisation knowing fully well that if culture is taken from the people, they will be far away from civilization, development, progress and modernisation” The monarch commended the giant strides of the state Governor Biodun Oyebanji in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sector, while also appealing to the state’s helmsman to, “create an enabling environment to harness the socio-economic value of Annual Ifa Festival so that Ekiti will be like Mecca and Jerusalem.”

Liberty

On his part, Oba Jagunmolu of Somolu Bariga III, Lagos State, Gbolahan Akanbi Timpson, appealed to Nigerians to strive for liberty from the shackles and secrecy of foreign religion. He added that the biblical Satan is not ‘Esu’, as it is simply a deity that paves the way and upholds truth for its worshipers. According to him, “Nothing has been ever as solid as this in terms of traditional cultures.

This is something that you can take back home and say they are returning to the glorious days. “We were brainwashed to believe in Christianity and Islam. The founders of this religion are not in any way a Black man or an African man. “Esu is not Satan, we need to change our mind, Black coloured people are not representatives of bad things.’’

Ifa and Orisa devotee

While the outgoing President of ICIR, Dr Solagbade Popoola, disclosed that as at November 2014 there were about 130 million Ifa and Orisa devotees from around the world, he, however, declared that those who spread Ifa and Orisa were not the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The credit, he said goes to the Brazilians and the Cubans,’’ saying: “Anywhere they travelled to, they managed to replicate Ifa and Orisa as they were being practiced in their respective homelands.

Ifa and Orisa spread across the world in the form of Lucumi, Santeria, Candomble, Umbanda, Abaqua Orisa Baptist, Sango Baptist and others. “We realised, unlike other bodies of faith like Christianity and Islam, that Ifa and Orisa are more of spirituality than religion. Religion is a story of the great leaders of old while spiritually is what each individual was born with and how the stories of the leaders of old resonate with each and every one.’’

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