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Osun: Celebration As Ifa Worshippers Unveil N200m Temple

It was a momentous occasion in Osogbo, the Osun State capi- tal when recently Ile Ijuba Idin Ileke (Temple) was inaugurated in one of the rural communities. Located at Atelewo, Olugun area Osogbo, the temple witnessed pomp and celebration as it was filled to the brim, spilling over to the outside, with hundreds of Ifa priests and worshipers, who came from within and outside Nigeria. The edifice, which is to serve as a place of weekly worship and other ceremonies for the adherents of different deities, has a hall, with solar panels and designated places for placing atonemen.

Misconception

For these traditional worshipers, Western religion didn’t teach them how to worship. According to their narrative, the Yoruba people of South Western Nigeria adherents of the Orisa religion, where ‘Orisa’ refers to divine being with unique attributes and responsibilities. Unfortunately, the term ‘Orisa’ has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by Western culture and other imported religions’ adherents.

According to the followers and worshippers of Orisa, ‘‘in Yoruba tradition, Orisa are revered as a ministers of Olodumare (God), with each deity serving a specific role in cosmic order: Ogun, the Minister of Justice and Technology; Obatala, an arch divinity; Elegbara, the law enforcement agent; Orunmila, the one who ensures safety and bears witness to all fate known as ‘heaven knows who shall be saved’. For renowned Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, who is based in Osogbo, these deities have temples where weekly services, such as Ojo Ose, and larger events like Itadogun, are held. He further explained:

“Oti Orun, also known as Itadogun, is a congre- gation that assembles at the temple to offer prayers for the town and its members. They conduct their weekly prayers, and there’s an annual festival for each Orisa, which takes place every year (Aadorun Ojo 365 days). “It is quite evident that Africa religion plays important role is shaping the character of African society and culture today. Yet, this tradition continues to suffer from lack of acceptance, an inadequate understanding of its tenets and essence.

“The two monotheistic traditions common in our society today is Islam and Christianity to which most Africans have converted over the centuries, they developed a hostile attitude towards the traditional religion. “The term them as barbaric, while Christianity views them as pure paganism. However, it’s important to note that every religion has its icons and texts, whether written or unwritten.

‘‘In the world, there are many great religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, most of which have their sacred texts like the Bible and the Quran. Speaking further, the Ifa priest noted, “Yoruba traditional religion possesses the Odu Ifa corpus, although it has yet to be compiled into what we might consider a Yo- ruba Bible.’’

Advent of Christianity, Islam

To justify the altruistic nature of African traditional religion and its aged long nature, Elebuibon gave expository background of Western religion to Nigeria, disclosing that, ‘‘Christianity arrived in Nigeria approximately in the 15th century through Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. “The first Church of England mission was established in Badagry in 1842 by North Africans and Senegalese traders.

Islam, on the other hand, was introduced to what is now Nigeria during the 11th century by Malian traders, making it the first monotheistic, Abrahamic religion in the region. The Yoruba people referred to it as ‘ESIN MALI’ or ‘ESIN IMALE’.” The ese Ifa ‘OTURA MEJI’ prophesied the arrival of these religions and described their forms of worship. Gradually, these modern religions firmly established themselves among the Yoruba people.

They began propagating their beliefs, often disparaging African traditional worship through abuse, isolation, disrespect for elders, and conflicts with those who resisted their influence. Missionaries destroyed many artifacts, some of which are now housed in European museums, while Muslims waged war against Orisa worship in an attempt to convert people to their religion and abandon the worship of their ancestors. As a result, numerous shrines and temples dedicated to Orisa have been destroyed.

Prophesy

On this development, Elebuibon said, “Despite these indignities, our forefathers chose not to seek revenge; they endured it all. As one of our elders used to say, ‘Aja KII Ba Omo Re Ja-meaning, “A dog does not bite its own offspring. Baba Sango, is said to be the father of an Imam, demonstrating the interconnectedness of beliefs. “Sooner or later, those who had converted to Christianity and Islam eventually regained their freedom and liberated themselves from the bondage of modern religion.

“The ljo Orunmila Ato, also known as the Black Church of Orunmila, was founded in 1933 by Chief Olorunfunmi Osiga, with the aim of propagating indigenous Yoruba religion. Despite being of partly Muslim and partly Christian descent, Chief Osiga converted to Christianity during his school days at a Roman Catholic institution, which later gave rise to various lle ljuba (prayer houses) today. “The ljo Orunmila Adulawo took inspiration from the Christian way of worship, incorporating songs and sounds reminiscent of modern church services.

“They also integrated readings from chapters of Odu Ifa such as Akomona or Itaniji to honour the efforts of our ancestors and those who contributed to activities at Ile ljuba. “However, there was a growing realisation that the modern worship of African religion needed to break free from Christian influence and embrace a wholly African approach.

For example, the adaptation of a Bible verse ‘BABA WA TI NBE LORUN KA BOWO FUN ORUKO RE’ (‘Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name’) had to reconsidered and replaced with authentic African expressions, such as ‘KI O MA SO BABA WA KI O MA SO IYA WA. This shift was seen as essential to preserve the integrity and authenticity of African religious practices. “Instead, let us invoke the sixteenth Odu to join us and mark our departure from Ile ljuba with a song and verse from Odu Ifa. This will give us a strong Yoruba and African identity.

Conception

Another prominent figure in this movement is the patriarch Atanda Orisasona, a powerful Ifa priest, who hails from Oyekomi compound in Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria. His missionary work was inspired by the intervention of the water spirit; Osun. Osun appeared to him in visions, directing him to deliver messages to the Ifa community. Osun instructed him to rally traditional worshippers to build a fitting temple for Orunmila, her husband. According to Elebuibon, “In the early 1950s, Baba Orisasona, realising he couldn’t undertake this task alone, called upon assistance from colleagues from various towns and villages in Yorubaland.

‘‘Notable figures such as Pa Ade from Egba land, Pa Olawale (father of the late Sakara; music icon S. Aka), Araba Agbeja from Sagamu, Awotunde Ajanaku Árábà of Lagos, Pa Ogunjobi Abéré Ifa from Ode Omu, and others agreed to support Baba Orisasona. Together, they formed a team to construct a fitting temple for Ifa at Oke Itase in Ile Ife, where it all began. “The team included Dosunmu Agee from Ibadan as General Secretary, Gabriel Odunade from Osogbo as Assistant Secretary, and Chief Faniyi Ajani (late Agbongbon awo of Osogbo) as Treasurer.

The contractor tasked with the construction was Egbaa Ibon. As they travelled from town to town, they held meetings and pooled resources to facilitate the successful construction of the temple at Oke Itase in Ile Ife. “The original location of Ile ljuba Idin-lleke was situated at the king’s market (Oja Oba), where Ogun Olutimeyin resided. Unfortunately, a mosque stands there today. During the reign of Araba Awoyemi Kehinde of Amubiorogun compound in Osogbo, his tenure was long and due to his blessed long life ‘Emi gigunj Aku kangir’ before he passed away.

Araba Ovelade of Awekooko succeeded him. He donated a parcel of land to the Ifa community to build a new ile juba; close to his house. He explained that he didn’t have time to go to the ile ijuba at the king’s market due to his tight schedule, and the Ifa community agreed to build another one on the land he donated. All members of the Ifa community contributed to building the second lle juba which was later demolished to make way for a larger, modern structure to accommodate larger crowds.

In 2014, the house was refurbished to meet modern standards. All thanks to Olodumare, today our youths have executed a magnificent building with their unwavering dedication. Behold the new, and beautiful structure. The once humble ‘lie Olobiripo’ has transformed into the impressive ‘lle Awosifila.’ Elated and over joyous Elebuibon noted, ‘‘today marks a momentous occasion in our community’s history as we gather to inaugurate the new le juba idin ileke. It is with great joy and pride.’’

Demand for recognition

The Osogbo-based Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, had demanded recognition for African Traditional Religion, saying such official recognition from the government has been long overdue. Elebuibon spoke in Osogbo at the official unveiling of the N200 million Idin Ileke Temple, a place of worship by traditionalists in the Atelewo Area of Osogbo. Elebuibon said ATR remains the most enduring, a uniting cord binding Africans together long before the advent of other religion on other continents of the world.

According to him, “The federal government must recognise that the African Traditional Religion is our only means of cultural identity. Besides, if it is properly recognised, it can generate revenue in billions of dollars for the country’s economy. “This building is the first of its kind in the country. It is our moderate contribution to traditional religion with a view to enriching our heritage as a people.”

Fund raising

Speaking on behalf of the building committee, Ogundeji Elebuibon, said funds were raised for the project through voluntary donations by the traditionalists in the state and some of their apprentices across the globe. Elebuibon, who served as the Treasurer of the committee further said, “We raised funds for this project through donations by adherents of traditional religion in the state and beyond. We have godchildren all over the globe and they all contributed money and send to us.

“We spent about N200m on this project and the construction work was completed within 22 months.” While speaking on the temple’s significance, he said, “This project is significant. With this kind of place of worship, we won’t lose more members to Western religion. It is important for us to have a place where we can worship Olodumare. It will keep our members together. We have our worship on Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm.”

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