Shortly after the video of a Muslim group identified as Majlisu Shabab li Ulamahu Society, in Ilorin asking a priestess to leave the Ilorin Emirate if she intended to organize any festival to venerate the ‘River Osun diety’ went viral, what happened between these Alfas and the priestess still astounds me after watching the video. As a nation of intolerance, have we truly fallen to this level?
With the exception of a few human rights lawyers who were outraged by the circumstances, I saw that the video only received moderate public response despite being viral. There were no “pious and righteous” men present, either, who regularly stand up to denounce the abuse of rights as patriots. They remained silent because the “concerned” not only belong to a separate umbrella organization but also support a common opponent. They took part in the rhetorical maneuvers of “my enemy is also my enemy.”
After the video went viral, I anticipated the typical responses from groups like the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), and the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN). The leadership of these groups is made up of intelligent men and women who are fully aware of the rights of every citizen, even those who practice a particular religion.
Every time the rights of one of its members are violated, these organizations have cited the right to freedom of association or the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. They were not let down. They remained silent and showed no reaction to the footage, clearly abusing their right to freedom of association.
The video showing a priestess who was harassed and had her rights violated by a bunch of fanatics and intimidators, who were requesting that a Nigerian by birth should not freely interact with other members of the same faith and adore their divinity, would likely provoke a strong response from organizations like that.
I was interested to read the Ilorin Emirate leadership’s perspective, which was undoubtedly a defense of the acts of their guys, when I learned that they had responded to the viral video. I was not let down. The Emirate concurred with it.
The association claimed that they supported these Alfas’ choice and added that because Muslims predominate in the Emirate, it was necessary to follow their lead. They said that because Muslims make up the majority in the Emirate and other Muslim groups, as well as certain individuals, support the Emirate’s viewpoint, there would be bloodshed or civil upheaval if such a move were made.
I giggled as I read the remark and questioned why Nigeria hadn’t been called a country of many paradoxes. While you want Muslim girls to wear the hijab in missionary-founded public schools, you do not want an Osun priestess to worship her deity in the Muslim-majority Ilorin Emirate. I think it would have been more beneficial for the Emirate to ignore the video and let it die naturally like many others because the justification is weak, disagreeable, and rather annoying.
The conclusion of the story would have been more horrific, lethal, and violent-driven if traditionalists had forbade Muslims from participating in solat or Eid prayers. However, I also notice that despite being a lone ranger and a supporter of a religion with fewer adherents, these Alfas perceive the woman’s religion as a threat.
Let me conclude by stating explicitly that the problem here is not which religion is good or wrong, but rather the egregious disregard for human rights displayed by adherents of a faith that teaches justice, deference to the law, and reverence for those in positions of power.
In terms of public holidays, pilgrimage, and other perks, Muslims and Christians have historically and continue to have more advantages than adherents of African culture. The shame and attacks are legitimately organized as a strategy under evangelism and jihad, but both cast and bound “Esu,” one of the cherished deities of their religion.
Contrary to what Christians and Muslims expected, adherents of African religions have endured years of conflict without resorting to recruitment tactics like evangelism or jihad. They don’t criticize other religions in order to promote their own. They do not denigrate or malign prophets of other faiths in order to promote their own. They simply go about their daily lives, yet they continue to be despised, watched, and imprisoned.
Simply put, I urge Muslims and Christians to concentrate more on methods to stop their adherents from following traditions rather than restricting or infringing on the rights of traditionalists to peacefully transmit, associate, or venerate their gods. You cannot demand of traditional worshippers in Ilorin that they stop honoring their gods in places that suit them better. Only other Muslims may be asked to refrain from joining. Give African religious believers some breathing room, please. Nigeria is not Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Iran.