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Still on the South-west and religious bigotry By Bola Bolawole

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A saying of the elders is that for as long as lice persist on the head, blood will be a common feature on one’s fingers. That is one reason why we are dwelling on the vexed issue of religious bigotry in the South-west again today. The protagonists of religious bigotry in the geo-political zone are not relenting – but many thanks for the firework that has clipped their wings and taken the wind off their sail. The other reason is that feedback is an integral part of communication; it is two-way affairs unlike the “Rediffusion” of old which our people called “asoro-ma-gbesi” lacking in feedback mechanism. The views expressed here today further throws light on South-West Muslim/Christian relations. Enjoy it!

“I am an admirer of Farooq Kperogi (but) his write-up is suspect. Looks like a bait to incite religious war in Yoruba land. We must be careful. Yes, extremists are all over the place but the generalization is suspect. It looks like a ploy and another effort to deal with us as we set up Amotekun to counter the Fulanization scheme. Growing up, I never knew the difference between myself and my Muslim friends. In fact, in Notre Dame Grammar School, a Roman Catholic school, our Muslim friends were given money to celebrate one of their Muslim festivals and we shared their food with them. Kperogi’s idea is strange and suspect. – Adeseko Aborisade Ayeni.

Whosoever would want to enslave the Yoruba will have a very serious fight to contend with. To use religion will fail. Northern Muslims call Yoruba Muslims “kaferi” (unbelievers). In the first place, is there any wrangling between Yoruba Muslims and Yoruba Christians? I have not heard of any! Fulani Muslim conquest of Yoruba land will forever remain in the imagination of its dreamers. It will be very difficult to sow any seed of discord between Yoruba Muslims and their Christian brothers in the South-west. Education has enlightened the majority of the populace. – Kola Oloye.

Religious tolerance manifests strongly in Yoruba land. For example, I am a Muslim but my wife and children are Christians on their own volition and we live together very, very happily and peacefully. Love is our religion! – Olumide Lawal.

This thing exists. I have numerous examples of where Muslims are denied jobs by their brothers on account of religion. I have also suffered from it. Instead of us denying the fact that it exists, it is better we talk to ourselves. I know there are Christians who do not do this but it exists for real and we should tell ourselves the truth. There are media houses in this country that Muslims cannot be appointed as deputy editors because of vilification, victimisation or both -0806 411 2555.

Yours is the best piece on peace initiative I ever read in Nigeria in recent years -Akin Hanson.

Religious tolerance: The Yoruba people of Nigeria as a case study: Nobody batted an eyelid when, in the 1950s, the Lagos Muslim Cricket Club was the darling of cricket fans. As for football, Christians versus Muslims was a major event in the sporting calendar. Indeed, on one occasion, the Gbajabiamila twins (Kehinde and Taiwo) played against each other in the cup final – one played for the Christians and the other was in the Muslim team. Neither was disowned by their family! It was no big deal when Mashood Akanbi, a devout Muslim, became House Prefect, and School Captain at Igbobi College, Yaba (a Christian school jointly owned by the Methodist Church and the Anglican Church). During Ramadan, special arrangements were made for him to perform his prayers and also break his fast in accordance with Muslim rites. At St. Gregory’s College, Obalende (a staunchly Catholic School), Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, a Muslim who is now His Majesty Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, was the undisputed boxing champion. Not many people know that the Alaafin of Oyo and Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, the former Archbishop of Lagos, are first cousins. Chief Adebowale Durosaiye Akande, SAN, was also at St. Gregory’s College. He enrolled as Yahaya Akande but changed his name and converted to Catholicism of his own free will. His wife, Professor Jadesola Akande, SAN, was a Christian. Also at St. Gregory’s College, Kayode Erogbogbo became the Senior Prefect regardless of his religion. He was a staunch Muslim. As for Chief Akin Disu, who is still very much a Muslim, he lived as a student at the C.M.S. (Church Missionary Society) Grammar School in Lagos in the residence of the School Principal/Headmaster, Bishop Kale. He shared the same room (and bed) with a Christian, Chief Ernest Adegunle O. Shonekan, former Head of State.

Over at Baptist Academy, Lagos, the late Molade Okoya-Thomas was actually a Muslim but there was no doubt about his sporting prowess on the football pitch or the athletics field. Indeed, the school’s formidable 4×100 yards relay quartet was made up of Okoya-Thomas, S.D. Shittu and two others who were also Muslims! No problem whatsoever. It was long after he had left school that Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas converted to Catholicism with uncommon passion. He was captain of industry in addition to being the Asoju Oba of Lagos. Also, Alhaji Musiliu Anibaba, a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and the late Alhaji Kafaru Tinubu, a former Commissioner of Police and later Minister of Health, were classmates at Methodist Boys High School, Broad Street, Lagos. They were not obliged to convert from being Muslims to Christians. It was the same story with the girls. Alhaja Lateefa Okunnu (nee Oyekan and a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State), a Muslim, attended Methodist Girls’ High School and Queen’s College, Yaba. She was not under any obligation to convert to Christianity. Time and space will not permit us to dwell on the vast number of “mixed” marriages – Christians married to Muslims. However, one of the most remarkable was that of the late Chief Gaffar K. Animashaun (“Lucky GK”) who died a little over a year ago. His father, a Muslim, was the head of the Ansar-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria while his wife, Chief (Mrs.) Yetunde Animashaun, was the daughter of the Vicar of St. Patrick Church, Lafiaji. He later became a Bishop. The take-away is that the marriage was blissful and flourished for over 40 years. As for their children, they are free to choose between Islam and Christianity” – Excerpts from J.K. Randle’s “Tribute to the Chief (but not the last) Imam (1)” article.

We are not going to allow fundamentalist Christians and pseudo-Mujahideen wannabe Muslims destroy the value of tolerance among the Yoruba people. We urge other Nigerians to emulate this value! – Wale Ajao.

All this nonsense emanates and manifests from the home. Yoruba spirituality is beautiful and definitive and yields tangible results. In our envisaged new Nation, religion will be a completely personal affair. By the grace of our ancestors, Alales and Irunmoles, religious bigotry will fail in Yoruba land – Otunba Shade Olukoya.

Among my grandmother’s children are two Muslims and four Christians. Till tomorrow, my cousins celebrate Christmas with me while I celebrate Ileya with them. My cousin is the Baba Ijo of Christ Apostolic Church, Odo Owa, Kwara State and my other cousin is the Chief Imam of the Central Mosque, Odo Owa – 0803 966 8748.

When I was just seven years old, I was the “troublesome” supplier of local canes with which the Arabic teacher at a nearby mosque walloped his students. From there, I picked some Arabic verses which, till today, I can recite off the top of my head. My mother also hailed from Oba Laoye (the talking-drummer King) royal family of Ede. In fact, I used to be the only boy (Christian at heart) who rode in the King’s posh car to the Yidi (prayer ground) during Ileya festival. Baba Oba (King’s father: Baba Malaoye) was my maternal great grandfather and it was customary to send the royal car to pick him from our large compound. I was Baba’s pet and had a reserved corner right in the car where we all rode to the praying ground amid pomp and pageantry. This did not make me renounce my faith while my mother who had already become a Christian lived and died a Christian. During her burial at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Ibadan, the reigning Timi of Ede was represented as his royal staff of office was brought by his chiefs to pay their last respect to a Princess. This is to confirm (from our own small corner) how deep interfaith understanding in Yoruba land has been legendary and such peaceful coexistence would never be allowed to be polluted. No wonder why, in assigning value to my collective experience as a journalist, I organised the first interfaith workshop for practising journalists in 2001/2002. It was on the platform of Movement of Non-violence in Africa, MENVIA, which I initiated with the support of former Gov. Lam Adesina of Oyo state – Olalere Fagbola.
Need we say more!

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