Religious and community leaders have been urged to preach and promote ethno-religious tolerance and accommodate opposing views, as parts of the mechanisms of deepening peaceful co-existence and harmony in the country.
The head of the Oyo Mesi and Regent, High Chief Yusuf Akinade Ayoola, gave the admonition to mark the end of seven-day Oro festival in Oyo town.
The Oyo Regent said in Nigeria, intolerance of opposing views by adherents of the major world’s religions has heated the polity and caused tension
According to him, “instigation of hatred in the name of religious practice in religious organisations is a negative attitude. While it is true that both Christianity and Islam profess the slogan
“Love your neighbour as yourself,” this is however observed more in the breach. This is a bad wind that blows no one any good. It is high time religious leaders
preach the genuine gospel of friendship and sincere love. This is the vehicle that will take mankind to the abode of peace and security”.
The Oyo Regent pointed out that all religious communities must understand that there is no alternative to inter-faith dialogue, as there can never be a universal religion or an exclusive society for adherents of a particular religion.
Admonishing Nigerians not to perceive religious diversity as a barrier to human relations and development, but rather a tool or resource for national development, the Oyo Regent noted that religious faithfuls in the country should, therefore, realise the fact that religious tolerance and harmony are both legally sanctioned and socially inevitable, as the world can never be composed of one religion or culture.
Accordingly, he stated that, “whereas every religious group has the right to uninhibited religious practice, this must be done with commensurate or reciprocal respect for the rights of other faithful to practise their own religious traditions; provided that such does not constitute any derogation to the right of others to observe their own rituals.
‘’This desirable scenario of religious harmony can be achieved in Nigeria only through the establishment and sustenance of a neo-religious educational praxis that would generate a culture and orientation of multi-religiosity in our children and youth, as well as a commensurate programme of re-orientation of the adult population.
“Hitherto, the dominant model of religious education in Nigeria has been faith-oriented and overwhelmed by religious indoctrination and dogma’’.
The Oyo Regent went further, ‘’religious education is used to get people to embrace Christianity or Islam, rather than as a process or formation for religious tolerance and dialogue. Consequently, most children and youths are educated within this framework and are thus inclined to adopting a blind faith. This religious pedagogic gives little room for inter-faith understanding and harmony; hence religious intolerance is rife even among school children’’.
He counseled all religious communities to educate their leaders or preachers on the need for religious harmony and the toleration of other faiths.
‘’While also educating their leaders on the need to keep their sermons within the realm of moderation and modesty, there is also need to strengthen inter-faith dialogue at the national, state and local levels in order to prevent future manifestations of religious violence’’, the Oyo Regent asserted.
The Oro Festival is a festival celebrated in South-West Nigeria by the Yorubas. It is an event celebrated by towns and settlements of Yoruba origin.
It is an annual traditional festival that is of patriarchal nature, as it is only celebrated by male descendants who are paternal natives to the specific locations where the particular event is taking place.
During the festival, females and non-natives stay indoors as oral history has it that Oro must not be seen by women and non-indigenes.
The festival lasts seven days and throughout its duration, women and other non-participants are expected to stay indoors.
Apart from that, Oro does not come to town unless it is its celebration. During the festival, Oro makes itself known by a whirring, roaring sound which can be heard in the neighbourhood.
It is said that Oro is clothed in a robe with shells and wears a white wooden mask with blood smeared on the lips. It passes alongside its followers. Its followers announce their presence by chanting incantations in loud voices.
There is a sacred instrument used to invite Oro and announce his coming.
Legend has it that women who see Oro do not survive. This is because they are visited by painful death. (Awo gelede l’obinrin l’emo. Ti obinrin b’a f’oju kan Oro, Oro agbe lo.)
However, it is claimed the main aim of Oro festival is to maintain peace , order and cleanse the society.
Ayoola also called on Minister of Information, Alhaja Lai Mohammed, and the United Nations Educational and Social Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) not to accept and endorse the candidature of Sangowale Ubuowo, as the new Elegin Sango in Oyo town.
Ayoola lambasted the Cultural Ambassador to the late Alaafin, Dr. Paula Gomes, for what he described as her ” mischief making in misinforming and misleading him into signing a letter with content contrary to its theme”.
In a statement through the Director of Media and Publicity to the Alaafin of Oyo, Bode Durojaiye, the Regent stated that Dr . Paula, a Portugese, came into his house with a letter and urgently requested for his signature as the Regent in order for the letter to be accorded due recognition.
According to the Basorun of Oyo, ” when she (Paula) came into my house, he saw me attending to a cross section of large group of people on matters of importance. But the Cultural Ambassador forced me to leave the people and attended to her with the letter she brought.
“I ceded to her request and we moved to my sitting room. She told me that the letter in her hand would be sent to the Minister of Information and Culture in Abuja that day but would require my signature as the Regent for approval for the forthcoming World Sango Festival.
“I told the Cultural Ambassador to leave the letter and come back the next day to be collected, so that I can go through it before my signature. But she (Paula) insisted that the letter must not be delayed as the Minister has been waiting for the letter.
” Since the Cultural Ambassador had been with my late Royal Boss for years, I have reason to doubt or have ill feeling towards, but to have confidence in her. I took the letter from her and signed it , after which she (Paula) collected it back and left my residence.
“I was surprised when the next day, the letter which Paula brought that I signed became a subject of ridicule in the social media .
“It was one of my children that later informed me that in the letter which I signed, though on the forthcoming World Sango Festival, there is a paragraph contained in the letter in which the endorsement of one Sangowale Ubuowo was mischievously tucked in it”.
“I found it unbelievable that the Cultural Ambassador to my late Royal Father could be so untrustworthy and deceitful to have tricked me into signing a content in the letter that is not within my purview.
Ayoola further explained that as a Regent, his responsibilty is to maintain the status quo by ensuring peace and orderliness in the town, maintenance of security in the Palace and not to choose or select a new Elegun Sango.
Said he, ” I am neither a Sango priest, head of the Sango family at Koso, nor the Alaafin who has the sole authority of endorsing the candidature of a new Elegun Sango.
“I am, therefore, telling the media to please let the world and the Minister of Information and Culture know that I did endorse the candidature of Sangowale Ubuowo as the new Elegun Sango Koso Oyo, while the purported picture of the so-called new Elegun Sango should be rejected with immediate effect”, the Regent asserted.