By Jubril Bada,Samuel Edu & Adedotun Aderoboye
Combining Yoruba traditional institution, kingship with Christianity or Islamic religions by traditional rulers has been described as a scam and an attempt to make a mockery of the Yoruba kingship institution.
Scholars, traditional and religious leaders who expressed this position in exclusive interviews with The Hope, insisted that kingship in any society in the world is deeply rooted in the tradition of the people.
They contended that Yoruba traditional religion and Christianity or Islam are like water and palm oil or two parallel lines that can never meet.
Those who spoke with The Hope are: the Olisa of Eleyowo Community, in Akure, Ondo State, Eso Ojo, Chief Imam of Akure land, Alhaji AbdulHakeem Yayi-Akorede, a Professor from the Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife; Professor Mathew Ojo, his counterpart from the same department, Professor David Ogungbile and Pastor Deji Adepoyigi of Deeper Life Bible Church.
Chief Eso Ojo of Eleyowo Community noted that the Yoruba kingship stool is not devoid of traditional worship and practices, depending on the customs and beliefs of the people in relation with their ancestors.
“I will not like to attack any personality here but as for me, I strongly believe that Obas cannot jettison the traditions of the land over which they rule.
“As against the general belief, please, understand that Obas are not idol worshippers. The fact that they bow down to an image or statue does not implies idol worship.
“Christianity is nothing but an imposition of the western culture. In our tradition here, for instance if you want to assume the position of an Oba, you may be asked to swear an oath with Kolanut that you will always ensure that peace reigns in the community, these are traditions that we cannot do away with and it is not a big deal, it happens everywhere in the world.
“When it was time to install King Charles of England after the demise of Queen Elizabeth, the due process was followed in accordance with the traditions of England.
“My candid advice for any Oba that feels he cannot abide by the customs and traditions of the land is to step aside from the throne and allow those who are willing to abide by the traditions take over, all these imposition of western culture in the name of christianity is not allowed.
“As for me, when it is time to worship the god of iron, I participate, I worship ‘Oya’. When the time comes and if you also invite me to church, I will be there, afterall, the Bible says give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what belongs to God.”
Professor Mathew Ojo of the Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said traditional systems in Africa and Christianity are two parallel lines which can never meet.
“Chieftaincy or kingship in Africa is rooted in two related issues. It is rooted in African Culture and also in African religion and there are certain requirements that those who claim to be committed christians might not be able to perform.
“Any christian that takes kingship position should be readily aware of these, so an Oba who goes in there with the intention of being an evangelist or a pastor will only be creating conflict because traditional religious system and Christianity are not compatible.
“Some Obas have misled themselves claiming that they are trying to bring reforms, yes they could try to reform but this must be with the agreement of kingmakers and the approvals of adherents of traditional religion, without this, trying to make reform to age long traditions will only amount to commiting sacrilege, it will not work and such a king will experience conflict.
Commenting on the position of the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale on Idol worshipping by Obas, the Don said Oba Abdulrasheed seems not to have full understanding of the peculiarities of his seat as the Oluwo of Iwo.
“Oba Abdulrasheed is my very good friend and I can say he has very good idea on how to bring a progressive change into the society, particularly Iwo, but I think he is mixing up two different issues.
“As I said earlier, traditional kingship position is rooted in the Yoruba culture and the Yoruba traditional religion but he has not been able to separate the two.
“Though he has good intention but his knowledge about Yoruba tradition and culture seems to be a little bit shallow and that is why he continues to mix up the two and unless he gets a deeper understanding, he will continue to have conflicts either with the traditional worshippers or even his friends.
“Sometimes, not everything about traditional religion is wrong but he most often portrays them all as evil and that is where he runs into conflict. If there is anything at all he feels is wrong, he should point them out and not generalize that everything about traditional religion is wrong.”
His counterpart from the same department, Professor David Ogungbile said there is no religion is static, noting that every tradition changes with time depending on prevailing socio-ecomomic realities, political realities among others.
“There is a way one can moderate traditions with contemporary realities. I am sorry to say that what Oluwo is doing is a total desecration. You need to understand that the intension behind some actions is as essential as the action itself.
“We understand the complexity and the plurality of our system in Africa and that is why we have been able to co-exist from time immemorial.”
Pastor Deji Adepoyigi was of the opinion that no genuine Christian will take up any kingship position, citing Jesus as an example.
The clergy man noted that it is impossible to serve God and mammon and that whoever wants to please God, will definitely be an enemy of the world.
“Any christian that says he wants to have any traditional title and still remain as a Christian is only deceiving himself.
Secretary General Reformed Ondo Ekimogun Traditional Religion And Herbal Medicine Association (ROETRAHMAON), Akinyomade Gbemiga Ogundaatorise, strongly emphasized that the throne of an Oba in Yoruba land must be occupied by individuals who understands that a king is a traditional ruler and act accordingly.
His words: “A king is a traditional ruler and anybody appointed as a king should be a traditional believer. Whether you are a Christian or Muslim, so far you are a Yoruba king, you are a traditional worshipper. If anyone who is a Christian or Muslim choose to become an Ọba because he is from a royal family, he should be ready to abide with what the tradition says because the traditional religion is headed by a king.”
“Our king, the Osemawe of Ondo kingdom is a Christian. He goes to church, mosque and participates in tradition. He controls everything without any clash of interests. A king should be a father to all the religions and not only one. A king will do everything to support the community and not support only one religion to destroy the others. If this is done properly, there will no problem in the community.”
In his own view, the Chief Imam of Akure Kingdom, Alhaji AbdulHakeem Yayi-Akorede berated those who missed up tradition with idol practices by Obas in Yorubaland.
He said Obas being referred to as traditional rulers does not make them idol worshippers, stressing that tradition only means the transmission of culture from generation to generation.
The cleric, who noted that some Obas in Yorubaland with their position believe in God and distance them from idol practices.
According to him ” It is our tradition for Obas to put on Agbada and beads as part of dresses in Yorubaland just as it’s the tradition of Saudi Arabians to wear Jalamia and lawani as their dress.
“There are some obas in Yorubaland that do not involve themselves in idol worship,”
Yayi-Akorede said the Oluwo of Iwo in Osun State, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, recently advised Yoruba monarchs to accept his stance against idol worship and submit to only God Almighty in running their domains.
“It is a great crime for Obas to say they don’t believe in any religion. Oba must identify with a particular religion either Christianity, Islam or traditional Idols worship.
“It is hypocracy for any Oba to say he has faith in all religions,” he insisted.