Lunacy, religion and terrorism in a challenged nation

Ogunsakin Mustapha
9 Min Read
Owei Lakemfa

By Owei Lakemfa

AS the new Soun of Ogbomosho, Prince Afolabi Ghandhi Olaoye, emerged on Saturday, September 2, a major issue in the selection process caught my attention. The kingmakers extracted a pledge from the 23 claimants to the stool that whoever is crowned would embrace the three main religions in the ancient kingdom: the Traditional, Christianity and Islam. This pledge, a reflection of the time-tested tradition of the Yorubas who tolerate all religions, reminds me of my growing up in Lagos.

Lagos accommodated all religions and it was not uncommon to find adherents of the three main religions in a single family. The Yoruba saying that whoever is alive during a festival should rejoice and participate in the festivities (Eniti odun ba ba laye, ko yo) was observed in spirit and practice. They also add that only God knows who worships Him in truth. So the people, irrespective of their personal religious beliefs, participated in all festivals especially Sallah, Easter, Christmas, and the various traditional festivals, including Egungun, Eyo and Igunnu. If anybody tried to be sanctimonious, they respond by saying such a person is mixing lunacy with religion (O gba were mesin).

That was the Lagos I grew up in, and that shaped my attitude to religion. So, I was not prepared for the event in Ilorin when 15 clerics led by one Sala Ayodeji invaded the shop of a couple, the Tajudeens, selling television sets and accused the lady of being an adherent of traditional religion. They threatened to destroy the shop and the television sets unless the lady vacated the city within seven days. The invaders ruled that the lady as a believer in traditional religion can only be allowed to trade and live outside the city. Ayodeji also instructed the shop’s landlord, the Alaran Family, to refund the couple’s rent and evict them within seven days otherwise their property will be invaded.

Ayodeji who appeared possessed or under the influence of substances, claimed the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Ebunoluwa Rotimi Adelesi, was aware of the group’s visit to the couple, reiterated: “The Commissioner of Police is aware of our visit…so leave our town.” The video went viral and an incensed the police commissioner in whose name the suspects invaded the shop. He declared Ayodeji wanted for terrorism. The prime suspect went on the run. On Monday, August 28, 2023, the police commissioner visited the couple and the family of Ayodeji where she gave his family three days within which to produce him. She described his behaviour as criminal and cable of causing a breakdown of law and order. The police boss also lashed out at the Alaran family for evicting the couple from the shop and refunding their rent.

The next day, the police smoked Ayodeji out of his hideout in Ilorin. The suspect confessed that he lied about the police commissioner endorsing his invasion of the shop. He also claimed not to have known that his actions were criminal. Well, what he may also not know is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. If the accusation of terrorism by the commissioner of police were to be sustained, Ayodeji and his fellow invaders might be eyeing life imprisonment. Terrorism under Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is defined as “the use or threat of actions where the action involves violence against the person, damage to property, endangers a person’s life, creates risk to public health or safety or interferes with an electronic system.”

The law further states that: “Any person who engages in any conduct in preparation to commit acts of terrorism or assisting another person to commit an act of terrorism commits an offence and is liable on conviction to life imprisonment.” Ayodeji might simply have been trying to project himself as a defender of faith as a way of promoting the Islamic schools he runs in Ilorin and Ogbomosho. This raises the question whether such a man is a fit and proper person to run a school. He might also be an example of a person the Yoruba say, mixes religion and lunacy in which case, the police would need to send him for psychiatric evaluation.

Another person I am worried about is my old friend, Professor Ishaq Akintola, who runs the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC. He is a person I had over the decades shared ideas with, especially on the emancipation of Nigeria. To find such a man begin to starve his thoughts and comments of any form of intellectualism is quite disturbing. Last Wednesday, there was a palace coup in Gabon. In his reaction to the coup, rather than a straight forward condemnation of any attempt to truncate our hard fought Civilian Rule in Nigeria, he wrote: “A military coup against the current Muslim-Muslim ticket will be interpreted as a direct attack on Muslims in the country in view of the deep religious sentiment which pervaded the controversy surrounding the Muslim-Muslim ticket.” What? Is it the religious belief of the President and Vice President that is the issue or that Nigerians should stoutly resist any attempt to truncate the constitutional order in the country?

As a new monarch is crowned in Ogbomoso with a warning that he must be a father to all and be tolerant of all religions, one monarch that exhibits worse traits than the Ilorin fanatic, is Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, the Oluwo of Iwo, who has pronounced traditional religion a criminal enterprise whose adherents should be punished, if necessary by jungle justice. Akanbi, known popularly as ‘Oba tin yin banga’ (The king that throws fire crackers) is a ruler that neither respects tradition nor is commonly associated with good conduct. For instance, traditionally, the crown is regarded as sacred and only the king wears it. But when he got to the throne, he duplicated his crown and gave one to his then wife, Chanel Chin, a Jamaican, to wear in public. He also pronounced himself an Emir, not an Oba as is the tradition in Yorubaland.

On February 14, 2020, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 11, Bashir Makama, called some traditional rulers in Osun State to a peace meeting following a dispute amongst them. During the meeting Oba Akanbi allegedly attacked the Agbowu of Ogbaagba, Oba Dhirulahi, physically, leading to the latter’s hospitalisation. Consequently, the Council of traditional kings, suspended Akanbi for misconduct. Last month, he illegally and unconstitutionally banned traditional worship, scrapped the annual Oro festival and ordered that whoever is found observing the festival should be seized and brought to him. He claimed traditional religion adherents worship gods and deities, not God. As in Ilorin, unless as a powerful elite, he is above the law, the police should charge Oba Akanbi with terrorism.

Dear readers, we really need your support to keep on serving you with authoritative, truthful, and juicy stories everyday. For your support, please reach out to the editor

Share This Article